Jockey Club's Kegasus campaign a sorry message for Preakness

March 30, 2011|By Kevin Cowherd

Let me get this straight: this year's Preakness infield ad campaign centers on a flabby centaur named Kegasus?

A "party manimal" with a nipple ring and biker hair who urges infield-goers to "Be Legendary," presumably by getting knee-walking drunk?

Tell me this is some kind of joke.

And you thought last year's "Get Your Preak On" campaign was tasteless?

Are you kidding?

Kegasus makes "Get Your Preak On" look like Shakespeare in the park.

This is the best the Maryland Jockey Club could do to sell the fabled middle jewel of racing's Triple Crown?

A half-man, half-horse who — if you can get past the colorful blanket on his rump — looks like every bleary-eyed low-life who's ever been led out of the infield in handcuffs by the cops?

Or every beered-up dude who gets punched out in a bar at 1 in the morning for groping someone's girlfriend?

With all due respect to Tom Chuckas and the rest of the MJC officials: What were you guys thinking?

Chuckas, the Jockey Club president, told The Baltimore Sun that the campaign speaks to the infield demographic.

"It talks their language," he said. "We have never hidden the fact that we want people to come to the infield and party."

Hey, I like Chuckas, and he's probably right about the infield demographic.

But do we really want a hard-partying knucklehead named Kegasus to be the image of this wonderful day of thoroughbred racing?

A day that focuses the attention of much of the sports world on this great city and its surroundings?

I don't think so.

Look, if you read this column on a regular basis, you know I've criticized Preakness officials for their infield policy before.

I thought they made the right decision two years ago when they banned infield-goers from bringing in their own beer.

The debauchery back then was reaching Charlie Sheen levels. People were lugging in enough beer to stay hammered until the next century. And the rowdiness was out of control.

Remember the charming "Running of the Urinals?" Drunks running across the top of portable potties while their buddies pelted them with full cans of beer? Oh, look at me. I'm starting to tear up at the memory.

But the BYOB ban turned the infield into a ghost town in 2009. Attendance for the Preakness dropped by 35,000. Even with a bikini contest, pro beach volleyball and rock geezers ZZ Top, the infield was so empty they could have run the Baltimore Grand Prix out there.

Which is when Preakness officials panicked.

Instead of waiting a year or two to see if infield patrons would come back, they came up with that sleazy "Get Your Preak On" ad campaign last year.

They also knocked $10 off the price of admission. And introduced their own beer deal: all you could drink for 20 bucks.

Me, I was so appalled that my fat little fingers were practically smoking as I wrote a column ripping the MJC for caving in to the drunks.

And guess what happened? Right, the crowds came back. Oh, did they ever. An estimated 33,000 jammed the infield on a perfect Saturday afternoon in May.

So while I was still waxing indignant, Preakness officials were high-fiving each other and reveling in the ka-ching! sounds echoing all over the infield.

Fine. As I wrote after the race, that's why I didn't go into marketing.

But I was still mortified at the low-brow tone of the "Get Your Preak On" campaign. And the pandering to the drink-til-you-hurl crowd.

And I'm just as embarrassed for this city that Preakness officials are doing the same thing now with this Kegasus abomination.

Sorry, you can't tell me there isn't a classier way to advertise the Preakness, a way that makes Baltimore and its citizens proud.

And you can't tell me the only way to get young people to come out and have a good time is by offering all-you-can-drink beer deals and glamorizing the idea of getting loaded.

I see that Kegasus will be making promotional appearances all over town leading up to the big race. And he'll be posting web videos. And tweeting.

Great.

At a time when we have enough alcohol-related problems in this country, here's the message Kegasus is sending: Hey, young people! Grab that 16-oz. cup and party! Don't hold back! Be Legendary!

But if you end up in the back of a police cruiser or in the ER, don't call me.

kevin.cowherd@baltsun.com

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

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