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Title sponsorship of harness racing's biggest event, the Hambletonian, is providing Cadillac a chance to get up close and personal with the horse-loving set.

The General Motors Corp. luxury division is leveraging its sponsorship of the Aug. 6 race at the Meadowlands Racetrack in East Rutherford, N.J., with a full-blown integrated marketing effort.

The support involves national and local dealer activity that includes advertising, direct marketing, promotions tied to test drives, and on-site product displays, hospitality and signage.

It's a big step, too, for the Hambletonian Society, which owns and runs the $1.2 million, 1-mile race, the sport's richest event. A three-year deal makes Cadillac the first title sponsor of the race that dates back to 1926, said Gordon Sulcer, executive director of the society.

Cadillac tested the waters last October by sponsoring the Breeders Crown, harness racing's end-of-season championship series.

"The event gave us tremendous PR with horse owners and fans," said Frank Liebgott, Cadillac's director of dealer marketing.

Mr. Liebgott said the sport's devotees tend to be traditional luxury car buyers who are so involved with horse racing that it's difficult to reach them with marketing programs involving other lifestyle activities like golf.

Cadillac will be the exclusive automotive sponsor of CBS' race telecast. The carmaker has six 30-second commercial units and also will get opening and closing billboards.

The Tri-State Cadillac Dealers Association, consisting of 64 dealers in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, is tying in with a direct mail campaign to 200,000 area prospects.

The list includes current and former Cadillac owners as well as harness racing breeders, owners and fans derived from the Hambletonian Society, U.S. Trotting Association and Meadowlands.

The dealer promotion, handled by Biederman, Kelly & Shaffer, New York, is offering two tickets to the race, including parking and admission to a Cadillac hospitality area, in return for a test drive.

Cadillac agency D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles, Bloomfield Hills, Mich., will provide on-site assistance at the track.

The test drive also involves a sweepstakes for tickets from Continental Airlines, which is the co-sponsor of the hospitality area.

At the Meadowlands, Cadillac will have two product displays and distribute gift bags at the Pegasus Club, the exclusive digs where 1,500 fans will gather. The bags will include Godiva chocolates and other tokens, as well as a Cadillac brochure and discount coupons for Continental.

The Cadillac dealer ad group and Continental also have ads in an insert produced by the Hambletonian Society, running in local newspapers and New Jersey Monthly. Continental is distributing the insert at its terminal at the airport in Newark.

About 2 million copies of the insert, in 8- and 10-page versions, will be distributed. Times in Harness, a weekly tabloid devoted to harness racing, designed the inserts.

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