DILUTING THE BREEDERS’ CUP BRAND

The Breeders’ Cup World Championships was ambitiously fashioned to be the year-end global showcase for the finest in Thoroughbred racing. While the Breeders’ Cup brand has unquestionably been enhanced since its inaugural in 1984, a credible case can be made that the combination of lengthening the event to two days in 2007 and gradually more than doubling the number of races from seven in 1984 to 15 in 2012 has been detrimental to the brand.

Though the expanded format has its strengths, there are compelling business reasons for scaling back to the clarity and simplicity of the original model.

John Gaines’ founding concept of packaging seven keenly contested Grade I races allowed the Breeders’ Cup to offer a top-to-bottom talent-laden card and to intensely focus its promotional efforts. Now that the number of races has proliferated, it is virtually certain that only passionate fans attempt to sort out the various races and entries and devote a great deal of time to viewing over two days on television or the Internet.

Whereas some of the recently-added and highly specialized races on the present-day Breeders’ Cup World Championships programs are attractive to racing aficionados and insiders, they don’t hold the same appeal to the casual racing fan and even the best horses running in the races do not have much name recognition.

The distinctive image of the Breeders’ Cup World Championships has arguably been blurred by offering too many races, with considerable quality differences among them. Is the Breeders’ Cup still about presenting the crème de la crème of racing–or a watered-down mishmash, ranging from exceptional race quality to merely good race quality? If the latter is the general impression conveyed, the cachet of the Breeders’ Cup World Championships brand is being diluted.

Were the Breeders’ Cup World Championships to return to its one-day roots, the seven or eight races that do not make the cut for the streamlined Saturday card could be spread out over autumn meets at Belmont Park, Keeneland, and other venues. This change would provide marketing opportunities for the host racetracks to cultivate attendance and handle.

A further benefit is that the preliminary Breeders’ Cup races would encourage a fan following for at least a month leading up to the culminating showpiece and main event.

Copyright © 2012 The Blood-Horse. Used with permission.

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