'Get Your Preak On': From 'sport of kings' to royal embarrassment

Campaign should be scuttled next year

May 10, 2010|By Kevin Cowherd

Baltimore, you must be proud.

Here it is, the start of Preakness Week, all eyes in the world of horse racing riveted on our city, thousands of visitors pouring in for Saturday's big race, the fabled second jewel of the Triple Crown.

And everywhere you go, there are signs urging folks to "Get Your Preak On."

And radio commercials talking about "Getting Your Preak On."

Nice. Just what the city needs.

Just what horse racing needs, too.

Here's a sport that's already on life support, enjoyed by about two dozen people under the age of 70 across the entire country.

Have you been to the track lately?

It's a bunch of old guys sipping beer and chomping on cigars while they study the Daily Racing Form as if it were Scripture.

So what better way to revive the sport than with a sleazy ad campaign that plays on a sexually suggestive hip-hop song?

Preakness visitors to Baltimore might especially enjoy the big highway billboard that shows a pasty-faced guy with shades, a headband, a tank top and a walrus mustache — he looks like a cross between Richard Simmons and a 1970s porn star — saying, "I Get My Preak on for Eight Straight Hours."

Hey, Mom and Dad, try explaining that one to the kiddies as you drive to Chuck E. Cheese's.

And if you miss the billboard, you can always turn on the radio and hear the commercial about the young guy volunteering at a retirement village who talks about getting his "Preak on" with one of the elderly residents.

"How could I resist, especially considering this might be her last chance," he says at one point. "I was a little concerned with how her hip would hold up, knowing we'd be at it all day long."

Oh, that's classy, isn't it?

That's got to make you hold your head high and puff out your chest if you live around here.

Seriously, the whole "Get Your Preak On" campaign has to be one of the most pathetic marketing ploys ever devised.

And it shows you how desperate the Maryland Jockey Club is to restore the party atmosphere to the infield after the big drop-off in attendance at last year's Preakness.

When infield patrons were banned from bringing in beer, attendance at Pimlico Race Course dropped to 77,000, 35,000 less than the previous year.

MJC officials said the ban was instituted in order to cut down on rowdy behavior such as the charming "Running of the Urinals," where drunks ran across the tops of the portable potties while other drunks on the ground fired full cans of beer at them.

A bikini contest, simulated sumo wrestling and pro beach volleyball matches were even introduced to last year's infield. And rock geezers ZZ Top were brought in to perform.

Didn't work.

The place was so empty you could have grazed buffalo out there.

Which is when MJC officials started to panic.

Uh-oh, they probably thought. We might have gone a tad overboard.

So in order to lure the party crowd back this year, they came up with a couple of gimmicks.

First, they knocked $10 off the price of admission.

Then, they introduced their own beer deal: $20 for all you can drink, served in 16-ounce mugs.

In effect, they were saying: Hey, infield people! Why go through the hassle of bringing in all those heavy cases of beer just to get loaded? Now you can get loaded on our beer!

And just like that, Baltimore's springtime Sodom and Gomorrah was back.

But just in case the message didn't get through to everyone, the MJC bigwigs also signed off on the cringe-inducing "Get Your Preak On" ad campaign.

And maybe this is the saddest thing of all: The new campaign appears to be working, at least according to the MJC.

It says ticket sales are up as much as 25 percent over previous years. And the

GetYourPreakOn.com website is getting more than 32,000 hits per week.

If a big crowd doesn't show up in the infield Saturday, you shudder to think what next year's Preakness ad campaign will look like.

I keep envisioning something like the Hells Angels on the set of "Girls Gone Wild."

But maybe it can't be any worse than this year's campaign.

Because this one isn't just in poor taste.

It shows no taste at all.

kevin.cowherd@baltsun.com

Listen to Kevin Cowherd on Tuesdays from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. with Jerry Coleman on Fox 1370 AM Sports.

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