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Panel: Promoting racing's human stars key to luring new fans _ TB Times 12. oct. 2003

Thoroughbred racing needs to promote and market its top jockeys, owners, and trainers more aggressively in order to strengthen its position in the battle against other professional sports and casino gaming for entertainment dollars, a panel concluded on Wednesday during the 30th annual Symposium on Racing in Tucson, Arizona.
"The NBA has been held up as a shining example of how to promote players and make stars," said Dan Leary, director of communications at Arlington Park, during a session sponsored by the Turf Publicists of America entitled "Helping Human Stars to Shine."
"Look at the way NASCAR has grown. It marketed the heck out of its product and made stars out of its drivers. Racing needs to find what it can take from those two examples to better promote its top names."
The session began with a humorous video montage of commercials, television appearances, and sports highlight-show footage featuring high-profile and not-so-high-profile jockeys, trainers, and owners. Panelists agreed that although many times it is easier to promote the horses that excel on the track, there are few long-term benefits to that marketing strategy.
"If you're lucky, a top horse might have two, three, maybe four years in the spotlight," said moderator Eric Wing, senior director of media relations for the National Thoroughbred Racing Association. "Jockeys, trainers, and owners, on the other hand, often have a span of 20 years or more. It seems like a no-brainer that these are the people we need to promote more and have out there in the public eye."
Keith Marder, director of network communications for the WB Television Network, said one key is to humanize your subjects, pointing out the fact that each is an individual with his own story and most likely faces many of the same trials and tribulations most people endure every day.
"I also think the fans are a huge, untapped market for promoting racing," Marder said. "Although many people can't picture themselves as a jockey or trainer, they can all picture themselves having an exciting day at the track.
"Focus on some of those people and tell their interesting stories. Everyone can imagine going out and placing a $2 bet and winning a pile of money, or going to the track every day for a month and not winning a dime. Those stories are out there waiting to be told."
Roger Haber, an attorney and president and chief operating officer of Artists Financial Management, said many celebrities are eager to appear at racing's most prestigious events or at charity functions and can be used to lure fans to the racetrack.

Haber has taken many of the cast members from HBO's hit television series "The Sopranos" to several racing events, including the Kentucky Derby (G1), which proved a marketing hit for both the actors and the racetracks.
Humor also is a key in celebrity appearances as well as marketing strategies centered on those in the industry, Haber said.
"Funny sells; it's easy and it always works," he said. "People relate to it. Everybody wants to laugh. It puts people at ease and makes them feel more comfortable. People simply want to be entertained."—Steve Bailey
Haber has taken many of the cast members from HBO's hit television series "The Sopranos" to several racing events, including the Kentucky Derby (G1), which proved a marketing hit for both the actors and the racetracks.
Humor also is a key in celebrity appearances as well as marketing strategies centered on those in the industry, Haber said.
"Funny sells; it's easy and it always works," he said. "People relate to it. Everybody wants to laugh. It puts people at ease and makes them feel more comfortable. People simply want to be entertained."—Steve Bailey