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Racing Spots on Different Track

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New $30 Mil. Push for NTRA From MNH Showcases Fan Appeal
NEW YORK--The National Thoroughbred Racing Association, targeting a more mainstream crowd, has retired the acerbic character played by actor Rip Torn and replaced him with 30-something fans who scream, wince and jump at the action on the track. To underscore those emotions, the spots use everything from opera to R&B music.
The new $30 million campaign, which continues to use the "Go baby go" tagline, breaks this week. It is the third effort from Merkley Newman Harty in three years, but this one may be built to last, according to the client.
"This lends itself to maybe [producing] one to two new spots a year," said Tim Smith, NTRA commissioner.
One spot shows a man alternately cringing and cheering to the wail of a tenor singing the "Vesti la Giubba" aria from the opera Pagliacci. Screen copy explains: "There's a fine line between pleasure and pain" before concluding, "We call it a nose."
Another spot, set to "Love Is a Many Splendored Thing," depicts a short, shaggy-haired guy, who, after his horse wins, hugs a tall, burly man and kisses him on the cheek. "When was the last time you kissed a stranger?" screen copy asks. Based on the stony expression on the big guy's face, this appears to be the last.
Other spots contain dance music, a generic R&B number and the party anthem "Shout." Each leaves room at the end for a local racetrack to promote upcoming events.
Print ads feature such headlines as "Whips, leather & screaming. Trust us, you'll love it," against a backdrop of jockey "silks." Radio spots contrast the mundanity of everyday life with the excitement of racing.
"This campaign is a little bit more mass-orientated," said agency executive creative director Marty Orzio, citing "Kiss" and "Shout" as his favorites. "What we wanted to do is appeal to all fans and begin to mass-market the sport."
The budget represents the most NTRA, which includes racetracks, breeders and jockeys, has dedicated to advertising in any given year.
Last year, the New York client spent about $5 million on media, per Competitive Media Reporting. K