Thanks to a recent ruling of the British Horse Racing Board (BHRB), for the first time in British horse racing history advertisers can buy ad space on silks, the shirts jockeys wear during races, usually bearing the race horse owners' special colors. The horses' blankets and jackets worn by stable attendants are also available now for branding.
"This is a multimillion [dollar] business," said Lucy Weaver, marketing assistant at the BHRB. The group regulates horse racing and the 10,000 race horse owners in England, Scotland and Wales.
Since horse owners will negotiate their own rates with advertisers, Ms. Weaver said it will be impossible to gauge exactly how much ad money will be generated from the new medium. The BHRB is sending owners and trainers media kits explaining how to sell ad space to prospective clients. The owner pockets all the ad money.
The first advertising-backed horse to gallop its way to extra money was Takenhall, owned by U.K. media consultant Craig Pearman, at the U.K.'s Haydock Park race course June 30. Unfortunately, he lost.
The horse was sponsored by Langan's Restaurant, a London hangout co-owned by actor Michael Caine and chef Richard Shepherd.
Not all ad executives are convinced the concept will make it to the winner's circle.
"I think it is a rotten idea," said Sandra Leamon, deputy creative director at J. Walter Thompson and owner of a stake in a race horse called Imperial Brush. "I think horse racing is the sport of kings. It is very traditional and silks are very personal to the horse owners. ... I just don't see this as an advertising medium."