Fortuitously for UPS, Big Brown was named after the shipping company by its original owner, Paul Pompa, a New York trucking agent, before Mr. Pompa sold a 75% interest in the horse to IEAH Stables. Knowing a good bet when it sees one, UPS signed on to sponsor Big Brown's jockey, Kent Desormeaux, and IEAH right before last month's Kentucky Derby. (As part of the deal, UPS's logo was featured on a patch on Mr. Desormeaux's pants, which the National Thoroughbred Racing Association says has been a frequent practice for the past 10 years among jockeys in high-profile races.)
Since Big Brown's May 3 Derby victory, UPS's publicity payoff has been a handsome $4 million in media coverage, according to Eric Wright, VP-research and development, Joyce Julius & Associates, a firm specializing in measuring the impact of corporate sponsorships. He said this takes into account exposure from NBC telecasts, and TV, print and online news articles.
And UPS has a perfect storm of factors coming together to help maintain this level of exposure: Big Brown's highly probable victory, interest from people other than OTB regulars and the fact that he can become the first Triple Crown winner in three decades, which almost guarantees that it won't just be sports journalists and sports networks requesting media credentials to cover the race.
"If he wins, you're conservatively looking at doubling, if not more, the amount of exposure [UPS] has already gotten," Mr. Wright said. "But it gets a little unpredictable in that this is all new and we're not sure what's going to transpire after a victory if it even gets that far."
Laura Kouns, sponsorship manager, UPS, said while the company has yet to do its own evaluation, it is confidently deeming the sponsorship a success on all levels. Ms. Kouns would not discuss the cost of the sponsorship but said the media coverage and publicity generated has already "exceeded" its cost.
"And it has been an overwhelming success with customers and employees," she said.
Ms. Kouns said UPS will be doing hospitality for 200 customers and 100 employees at Belmont, up from "about" 20 at the Derby and the Preakness. It is also exploring new-media initiatives that will allow customers to become more interactive and involved with the sponsorship.
Print advertising is a possibility but there will be no TV spots. "Because of the time frame and budget constraints we have to deal with, it's just not feasible," she said.
UPS already has developed a landing page on its website where consumers can get information and photos of the horse, and is also posting video and stories about the horse on its internal site, upsers.com.
UPS is working with sponsorship marketing agency AIM Marketing Solutions and the Martin Agency on this effort. It is handling all PR efforts internally.