RACY RACING: Churchill Downs plays the field - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report

RACY RACING: Churchill Downs plays the field

By Ray Paulick

Ed DeRosa, an editor on the all-male writing staff at Thoroughbred Times, got in touch with his inner feminine self to complain about an advertising campaign undertaken by Churchill Downs that shows, among other things, a young man looking through a pair of binoculars and seeing horses in one lens and a pair of attractive, laughing women in another.

The tagline on the ad is: “Play the Field.”

DeRosa writes in a blog that his first impression led him to think Churchill Downs thinks women at the track “are not active participants in the event but rather there for men's entertainment” and that the use of binoculars added a certain “creepiness” to the ad, created by the Richards Group and part of a print and billboard campaign for the Louisville, Ky., track that is home to the Kentucky Derby and is hosting the 2010-11 Breeders' Cup championships.

The ad falls flat, DeRosa wrote, because it makes him “think of peeping toms and swingers playing the field.” Makes me wonder…if beauty is in the eye of the beholder, what are peeping toms?

To validate his criticism of the creepy ads, DeRosa wanted a second opinion, so he asked Teresa Genaro, a New York high school English teacher who writes a horse racing blog, what she thought. She's a smart dame, and I wouldn't kick her out of my binocular lens, either.

Genaro agreed with DeRosa. “Women,” she said of the ad, “are not active at the track; they are passive—there to be observed, hit on, part of the scenery—not active participants in the gambling or the life of the track—[As if to say], 'Come look at us;' that's what we want. 'We'll pose for you.'

“Oh yeah,” Genaro continued, “let's make it really creepy: spy on us with binoculars, so that we don't even really know that you're looking.”

Can I just say one thing to both Ed and Teresa? Get a room.


Wonder if they would approve of another Churchill advertisement that says “One Thrill Leads to Another”?

Or how would they feel about this very provocative ad for an Australia horse racing and sports wagering company?

Or this one promoting California horse racing, suggesting bad things that happen in Vegas can come back to haunt you?

DeRosa insists he isn't against using sex to sell something, just so long as it isn't creepy sex.

Wonder how he felt about this ad by former Breeders' Cup Classic sponsor Dodge for a Dodge Durango that supposedly was pulled after just one airing? Here's more bathroom humor, this time from a Sam Houston Race Park ad.

There's always the safe route in horse racing advertising. This old advertisement from New York OTB, might very well be an indication of why that institution went into bankruptcy. Better than that ad, maybe Churchill Downs should be reaching out to young people and telling him that, “Hey, we've got the lowest exacta takeouts in the country. Come out to Churchill Downs.” There's a message that will grow the business beyond its core constituency which the Churchill Downs ad is clearly trying to do.

Women have been used as objects in successful advertising campaigns for years, and it's about time horse racing figured out how to get on board. I hope Churchill Downs continues down this path and even get a little racier in their efforts to make night racing cool and fun, something that younger people might enjoy, and turn the racetrack into a place where you can play the field and try to make one thrill lead to another.

C'mon Ed, lighten up. Or maybe I should say “man up.”

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