“Kegasus,” a half-man, half-horse creature, is the new mascot for the Preakness marketing campaign to draw larger crowds to the infield during the middle-jewel of the Triple Crown. With his pierced nipple and beer gut, Kegasus was recently unveiled with the goal to “promote a party” at the infield festivities on Preakness day.
Kegasus’ party is intended to reach a demographic between the ages of “21 and 35 or 40,” according to Tom Chuckas of the Maryland Jockey Club (MJC). And, in order to conjure up a “Party Pro” like Kegusas in the first place, the MJC paid Elevation, a marketing firm, $400,000 to dream up this creature for the infield crowd.
Sadly, I find myself in the age demographic that has now become “Kegasus Territory.” And, being a younger fan, I feel like “Kegasus” denigrates the sport of horse racing to a drunk fest that insults the accomplishments of all of the equine athletes that will race around the oval surrounding “Kegasus Land” on Preakness Day.
In my view, the “Kegasus Campaign,” like “Kegasus himself, is marketing mythology. The idea that these alcohol-laden infield campaigns will allure intoxicated young people to throw money down during the races, and ultimately, become lifelong fans of the sport, isn’t a long-term strategy to bring newcomers, or young people, in the sport.
Let me dispel that rumor so that we can kick “Kegasus” out of the park and ask for our $400,000 back to do something worthwhile for horse racing.
Of my friends who have been to the infield parties, I hear a common reporting of their experience. Here are a few direct quotes from my friends and acquaintances who visited the infield during their twenties:
“I didn’t see a horse that whole time I was there.”
“I saw a band play and they were really good.”
“I had so many shots of Jager that morning, that I was too drunk to hit on a girl and wound up sleeping all day on a blanket.”
It has been a few years since the above-quoted individuals have been to an infield party. And, in the meantime, they have never showed a spark of interest in horse racing. In their mind, the event was about pounding down as many drinks as possible, and, if they ever feel like revisiting that experience in the future, they can go to any local bar of their choice to get “too drunk to hit on a girl” or to listen to a band play some music they might enjoy.
In contrast, as a young person that truly loves the equine athletes in this sport, “Kegasus” is a mockery of what I find beautiful about horse racing. He distracts newcomers from the horses and the stories of their connections. They become mere landscape to a liquor-slamming contest that has nothing to do with the sport.
And, for the young people who are regularly involved in this sport, “Kegasus” is an insult. If the industry wants true fans who marvel over the athletes and bet on races, they need to target young people who aren’t there for a cheap drink promotion. They need to accommodate the young people who have jobs and enjoy horses.
As a young professional and racing enthusiast, I don’t want to drunk kids falling around me while I am trying to watch the races in a sundress and heels. And, as a woman, I don’t want slobbery drunk guys hitting on me after countless shots of Jagermeister when I am trying to see if I won my trifecta. Finally, I don’t want my equine heroes to be relegated to a mere sideshow while “Kegasus” parades around the infield for drunken enjoyment.
For me, there is a wealth of beauty in this sport that can allure young people. The power of equine athletes. The human interest stories. The pageantry of the major races. The quiet triumphs in the minor races. The glamour of women in their best dresses and beautiful hats. The raw beauty of the horses as they parade past the crowd. The idea that your fortune can be changed in a single winning ticket. And, the sacred principle that an equine athlete can deliver what you previously believed to be impossible.
“Kegasus” is the opposite of all that I find beautiful in racing. And, the crowd that he will attract won’t marvel over these things. They are will come and go as soon as the cheap alcohol promotions run their course. And, when they go, “Kegasus” will be a part of how they remember their day at the race track. A beer-gutted, nipple-pierced, shirtless guy who wore a centaur-suit and glorified the idea of becoming a drunken “legend.”
If I ran the MJC, I’d want my $400,000 back and a written apology from the marketing firm that felt “Kegasus” best defined our sport for the young demographic.
And, I would start asking young people with jobs, who may actually bet or own a horse someday, about the things they find alluring and worthwhile in their world.
At the end of that dialogue, I’d put my $400,000 toward accommodating the young people who would actually return to the track with a true interest in horse racing.