KENTUCKY DERBY TITLE SPONSOR

The Kentucky Derby is no longer billed as Presented by Yum Brands.  The 2018 version is the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve.  The latter makes far more sense from a marketing and advertising perspective.

Yum Brands, Inc. is a global fast-food restaurant franchisor whose brands are known worldwide: KFC, Pizza Hut, and Taco Bell.  However, most people do not associate these names with Yum Brands.  Thus, the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum Brands does not connect.  More likely the reaction is: “What is Yum Brands?”  Yum Brands would have been better served by choosing one of its brand names to be the title sponsor for the Kentucky Derby, such as the Kentucky Derby Presented by KFC.  Not only is there a rationale for pairing the Kentucky Derby with KFC (Kentucky Fried Chicken), but the vast majority of television viewers recognize the KFC brand.

Brown-Forman, the new Kentucky Derby title sponsor, has avoided the mistake made by Yum Brands.  Brown-Forman (traded on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbols BF-A and BF-B) is a Louisville, Kentucky-headquartered company with brand offerings in whiskey, scotch, tequila, vodka, liquer, and wine.  Brown-Forman did not choose to have the Kentucky Derby Presented by Brown-Forman, but rather, selected one of its brands to be the title sponsor:  the Kentucky Derby presented by Woodford Reserve.  People may not know of Brown-Forman, but many recognize Woodford Reserve.  Or can be educated to recognize it via the Derby sponsorship.

One might ask why Brown-Forman did not go with its leading brand, Jack Daniels.  The answer is likely that the company wanted a Kentucky-distilled bourbon like Woodford Reserve (located in the heart of Bluegrass country near Lexington) rather than Tennessee-made Jack Daniels.

Woodford Reserve’s association with the Kentucky Derby goes like hand in glove.  According to the Kentucky Distillers’ Association, 95% of the global supply of bourbon originates in Kentucky and the state promotes to tourists the Kentucky Bourbon Trail.  Moreover, bourbon consumption has been booming the past several years in the United States and globally…and the top three importers are all significant horse-racing nations—the UK, Japan, and Australia.

Woodford Reserve’s affiliation with the Kentucky Derby—and therefore the mint julep—is a marketing natural.  So would have been the Kentucky Derby Presented by KFC and the most famous Kentucky Colonel, the white-suit-clad icon still appearing in television commercials.

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