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Horse Racing Marketing: Del Mar's success

Horse Racing Marketing: Del Mar's successFolks at the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club could see where their sport was headed, and it wasn’t the winner’s circle.

Attendance had dropped 14 percent from 1990 to 2000, echoing what was happening at racetracks all across the country. Average daily betting revenue was down 21 percent. The patrons were mostly older male gamblers, not the best demographic for long-term survival.

So like a skittish colt being led into the starting gate for a race it couldn’t win, Del Mar bolted in another direction.

n marketing campaigns, the track de-emphasized the horses and the betting and re-branded itself as a social scene — a place to go and have fun, hang out with friends, bring a date.

It went after a younger, more female audience, adding concerts, beer festivals and other events to race days. It conjured memories of its hip origins, when Bing Crosby greeted the customers and Hollywood celebrities decorated the grandstands.

“Cool As Ever” became the new motto. And from all appearances, it’s worked — worked so well that the transformation has been a case study at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. It’s also caught the attention of the Breeders’ Cup, one of the sport’s signature events, which will be held at Del Mar for the first time in 2017.

Attendance is up about 16 percent since 2000. Gambling revenue has been steady, but more money is being spent on drinks, seats. food and other items, boosting overall revenue. And the crowds are different: 70 percent are between the ages of 18 and 49, and 45 percent are female.

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