Making Horse Sense

Richards’ Talking Thoroughbreds Return
DALLAS–With attendance up and the national spotlight on the thoroughbred racing circuit growing, Lone Star Park in Grand Prairie (Texas) is not about to overhaul its regional marketing message.
The facility, however, is checking in for an imaging tune-up while the horses are being led to the starting gate to open the racetrack’s third season on April 15.
The park is ready to launch several new television spots and print ads via The Richards Group here that continue the “talking horses” campaign from a year ago. The series also incorporates various Lone Star attributes that fell short in awareness surveys conducted last fall by the agency.
Of the track’s 1999 marketing program, “I’d call it status quo, with a few tweaks,” said G.W. Hail, Lone Star Park’s director of marketing and sales.
Lone Star Park drew 1.3 million visitors last year, both for live racing and its year-round simulcast betting pavilion. But “our business is about trial,” said Hail, and the numbers for first-time visitors (age 25-54) were down to 36 percent from 41 percent in 1997. Officials were asking, ” ‘Why did two-thirds of our target group not come out to the track last year?’ ” said Hail.
Surveys showed few nonvisitors knew about the comparably low $2 admission price ($2.50 for 1999) and the available children’s activities. Many parents did not think a child was welcome at a wagering facility, according to Hail.
“We’ll be incorporating this information in most advertising,” he said. In fact, the park plans to have Richards shoot scenes on opening day to showcase families and kids’ activities for future ads.
In one 30-second spot, a horse’s thoughts are voiced over the racing action: “You can’t go to a movie for $2.50. You can’t go out to a game for $2.50. You can’t go to dinner for $2.50. But it only costs $2.50 to come out to Lone Star Park and watch me race. Man, I gotta get a new agent.”
The campaign themeline remains, “The horses are ready. Are you?”
Media spending and bartered promotional buys (valued at $3.2 million last year, per Hail) will remain at ’98 levels. Also unchanged is Lone Star’s shop roster. Besides Richards, Dallas firms The Beaird Agency (direct mail), MDVC Creative (collateral) and Third Stone Productions (Internet design) remain on board. The incumbent handles creative, media, research, strategic planning, plus direct marketing via its Richards/Russo unit.