There’s nothing wrong with Kegasus…it’s just marketing

April 06, 2011 | Drew Forrester

Lots of folks around town think Kegasus, the new marketing theme surrounding the fun and frolic associated with the Preakness infield, is bad for Baltimore.

Those folks are wrong.

I hear and read people opining that such an open invitation for drinking and revelry gives the Preakness and the state of Maryland a black eye.

Once again, those people are wrong.

And I keep seeing and hearing stuff like, “If some kid gets s**t faced in the infield and dies from alcohol poisoning, it’s all on the hands of the Maryland Jockey Club and the ad agency that came up with that foolish ‘Kegasus’ concept…or…”They’re setting themselves up for one hell of a lawsuit if a couple of kids from Goucher show up, get ‘Legendary’ and then get in a 4-car pile up on the JFX on the way home.”

Lord…puh-leeeese.  We already have one lawsuit floating around town that has zero merit, let’s not got ahead of ourselves and start attaching legal obligations to a marketing program designed to generate ticket sales for the Preakness.

I completely understand that I’m in the minority on this Kegasus thing.  I’m not sure I’ve heard or read anyone else in town actually endorsing it.  I’ve come across a lot of people who think it’s horrible and a bad representation for Baltimore, Maryland and the human race in general.

Oddly enough, I wrote about this at length a year ago when “Get your Preak on” was unveiled as the 2010 theme for the 2nd running of the Triple Crown at Old Hilltop.  As you might remember, I wasn’t actually a fan of the concept, per se, but I completely understand that our country uses sex to sell just about everything these days.  If you don’t believe me, watch TV for about 30 minutes tonight or read any magazine relating to a subject of interest for men or women. Nearly every advertisement somehow involves sex or tawdry thoughts associated with the opposite sex.

And that brings us to “Kegasus”.

Kegasus is designed to bring people to the Pimlico infield.

They’re not interested in playing checkers once they get there.

It’s a lot like ads for bars and nightclubs.  None of those ever feature a couple of guys sitting around playing marbles or knitting a sweater for their godson.

Most advertisements for beer that I see on TV usually have a fit looking guy in tight jeans and perfect hair chasing after at least two (after all, when you drink THAT beer, you can get two girls, not one) attractive females who just happen to wink at him as he walks past their table carrying a couple of bottles of XXXX.

And even though most beer ads these days remind you (quickly, at the end, in a rushed voice) to “drink responsibly”, none of those ads spend 20 seconds or so urging you “not to drink too much and act like a complete idiot and take a swing at someone in the bar or get behind the wheel of a vehicle and drive through a red light on Main Street.”

In other words, beer manufacturers want you to enjoy their product and they want you to enjoy it responsibly and they don’t have to spend a whole lot of time urging you to do that because…well…they assume one of two things:  1) You’re old enough to understand that alcohol has inherent dangers if you consume too much of it, or, 2) You’re going to do what you want to do anyway.

The whole Kegasus concept fits in with that thought process.

The Maryland Jockey Club wants you to come out to the Preakness and they’d like you to take part in InfieldFest if that’s your thing and they are willing to provide you with the things that most 20-somethings like:  members of the opposite sex, music, alcohol and other entertainment/promotional activities to keep you occupied.

They don’t want you to drink so much that you get alcohol poisoining.  They don’t want you to get in fistfights.  They don’t want you to have sex in a tent somewhere on the infield.

They want you to have fun.

They don’t want you to die.

And if Kegasus wasn’t part of the InfieldFest promotion, you’d still go to the infield and drink beer, soak up the sun and chase girls.

The notion from folks that Kegasus and the promotion of the revelry in the infield is a “civic embarrassment” are way off.  People gather at Seacrets in Ocean City every Friday, Saturday and Sunday and drink a lot and chase members of the opposite sex and I don’t hear whining about how that hotspot is a “civic embarrassment” to Ocean City and its effort to generate tourism dollars.

The Preakness is a one-time event that is meant to help fuel Maryland’s horse racing industry and keep the Maryland Jockey Club afloat for the other 364 days of the year.  The Preakness is an event.  Nothing more, nothing less.  It doesn’t “represent” Marylanders or Baltimoreans and it shouldn’t be used to connect the community’s interest in horse racing as a whole, because I’d guess that 90% of the folks who attend the Preakness don’t get back to the track again until next May.

The Preakness is an event that happens to have a horse race connected to it.  The Preakness is not about horse racing.  If the powers-that-be marketed it ONLY as a horse race, 11,000 people would show up and it would be a complete failure.

It’s an event designed to bring people together for one day of common enjoyment and, just like a bar or a nightclub or the Inner Harbor or the Power Plant, it uses alcohol and young adults congregating as its central promotional theme.  Throw in some music and some beach volleyball and other activities and you have yourself a party.  For one day.

Promoting the event using Kegasus and encouraging folks to come out and “Be Legendary” is nothing different than advertising scantily clad women at bars who drink XXXX beer and just happen to have a nice smile and a shapely body.

The ads don’t say “drink a lot of beer, hit on the girls at the bar, mistreat her and then give her a fake phone number the next morning.”

The folks doing the beer ads assume from the beginning you’ll handle yourself appropriately if, in fact, you just happen to meet that girl in the bar while you’re drinking their product.

That’s how the Maryland Jockey Club thinks about Kegasus, the Preakness and the infield activities.  For years, some idiots violated their basic trust by doing stupid stuff like throwing full cans of beer at people.  So the Jockey Club basically shut down the revelry in 2009 by no longer allowing folks to bring in unlimited quantities of alcohol.  They tweaked their policy a year ago, introduced “Get your Preak on” and the crowds – and behavior – improved dramatically.

If “Kegasus” works and more people go to the Preakness this year, it’s a win.  Really, it’s that simple.

If the attendance doesn’t improve and fewer people show up, it didn’t yield the expected results.  That, too, is simple.

It’s all about attendance .

It’s NOT about behavior.

Some guy in a half-horse, half-man costume shouldn’t be responsible for you deciding to act like an idiot at the race track.

You’re going to do that because…well…because you’re an idiot.

Kegasus isn’t going to do that to you.

Go out to the Preakness, enjoy yourself, “Be Legendary” and try not to embarrass yourself or get arrested.

How’s that for a marketing theme?

It’s not as good as Kegasus, that’s for sure.

At least if you ask me.