Racy Churchill Ad Received Female Stamp of Approval - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report
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Racy Churchill Ad Received Female Stamp of Approval

By Ray Paulick

About those Churchill Downs ads that Thoroughbred Times writer Ed DeRosa and high school English teacher and part-timer blogger Teresa Genaro found “creepy” because of the way they represented women at the racetrack? They were created and approved by women.


In fact, the all-female marketing staff at Churchill Downs heralded in this 2009 article (click here) is credited with coming up with some very non-traditional (and in my view creative and successful) promotions surrounding the Kentucky Derby and Oaks, along with the balance of the live meeting at the Louisville track. Among their ideas: Derby Barbie, the Derby “red carpet experiences,” and the inaugural Oaks Day Pink Out in partnership with Susan G. Komen for the Cure to focus attention and raise money for the serious issue of breast cancer.


Until a recent organizational restructuring of the department, Jill Reading was the director of marketing for Churchill Downs racetrack. It was under her watch that the “Play the Field” ads were developed to continue the increased focus on the social aspects of Churchill Downs, where special Friday night racing promotions have been so successful because of the atmosphere and buzz created. Another woman, Casey Cook, was named vice president of brand and product development earlier this month, and she is now overseeing licensing, marketing and brand development divisions for the track.


Getting a younger, more female demographic to the track has long been one of racing's biggest challenges—not just here in the United States but around the world. The Japan Racing Association moved the demographics needle through a series of different ads that portrayed the track as a social place. Australia's major race meetings in Sydney and Melbourne are all about fashion and glamour.


I've taken heat for defending the ads and for using satire to call out DeRosa and Genaro for their sanctimonious derision of the campaign (for example, Genaro said the message was: “Women 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.'”).


In suggesting DeRosa “got in touch with his inner feminine self,” I was pointing out the irony of a man expressing what the ads must have felt like to a woman. When that “dame” Genaro (has anyone since Humphrey Bogart actually used that phrase seriously) agreed, almost word for word with DeRosa, that the ads were creepy and voyeuristic, I suggested in jest they “get a room.” Methinks they take themselves too seriously.


Some have demanded that I apologize.


But I think it's DeRosa and Genaro who owe apologies to the women behind the ads. They are trying to make this game more popular, not rip it apart.

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