Calif. Horse Racing Lures Would-Be Vegas-Goers In First Ads

California's thoroughbred horse racing industry is hoping to boost attendance among younger men with its first-ever, state-wide TV campaign aimed at luring guys away from Las Vegas as a gambling destination. The effort features three TV spots that poke fun at Sin City by playing on its tag line, "What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas."

The campaign, which also promotes horse racing as a great spectator sport, is also an effort to boost track attendance and create a single brand image for a sport whose marketing tends to be more about the venue hosting it, versus the sport itself.

In one of the three spots by RPA, Los Angeles, a wild and gaudy fingernail presses a doorbell, and the camera pulls back to reveal a woman wearing a halter top and short shorts with luggage at her feet. A guy answers the door, shocked to see the lady, who leaps into his arms, kissing him again and again and exclaiming how hard it was to find him. Just then, the man's wife appears in the background and asks, "Honey, who's that?" The woman asks him, "Is that your sister?" V/O: "Unfortunately, some things don't stay in Vegas. For more fun and less trouble, come to the track." That line is used in all three ads.



In another, a young woman uncovers an embarrassing tattoo on her boyfriend's backside and asks indignantly, "Who's Misty?"

In the third, a guy at work gets an instant message from a woman in another cubicle to the effect that she can't stop thinking about him and what they did together at the convention. He leans back, to peer across a line of cubicles at her, and she winks at him. He is mortified.

All three commercials end with the protagonists and friends living it up at the track over a tagline, "You're this close to winning."

The campaign kicks off in late April, tied to the simultaneous spring meet openings at Hollywood Park in Southern California and Golden Gate Fields in the Bay Area, and will be used by other California tracks as they open later in the year, per the agency.

Alan Landsburg, chairman of the Thoroughbred Owners of California, who just retired from the board of the TOC's marketing committee, says the sport needs branding and awareness efforts aimed at younger consumers because the current demographic "looks like God's waiting room." He says the effort is meant to unite under one brand all of California racing which hitherto has been done track by track, meet by meet. Landsburg, who says California is the third-biggest market for thoroughbred horse racing, with races occur year-round, 352 days per year, says the target, 20-to-40-year-old men, have disposable entertainment income, are more likely to seek gambling opportunities -- mostly in Las Vegas, and more likely to attend racing venues on weekends and at night, schedules that are being developed.

He says the message is, horse racing is better entertainment than going off to Vegas. "We feel it will amuse, that it will make water cooler talk because it is fun and meant intrigue that audience. And, really, racing is now a national sport, with betting nationwide, partly because of the Internet," he says.

"The sport has not been regenerating itself. The question has been, where are we going to get a new audience? RPA's research showed us the audience is just sitting there, and they showed us we should go with a light message and try to reach them."

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