Social media drives younger appeal to racetrack

Del Mar Racetrack and long-time AOR Bailey Gardiner launched an intensive campaign during last summer's horse racing season to engage customers and drive attendance.

Client: Del Mar Racetrack (Del Mar, CA)

Agency: Bailey Gardiner (San Diego)

Campaign: Summer social media campaign

Duration: July 21, 2010 - September 8, 2010

Budget: $101,000

After establishing a social media presence in 2009, Del Mar Racetrack and long-time AOR Bailey Gardiner launched an intensive campaign during last summer's horse racing season to engage customers and drive attendance.

“Social media helps us gets to customers more efficiently, and it's a more flexible way to reach potential customers,” says Craig Dado, SVP of marketing at the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club, which operates the track.

Strategy

Carrie Shields, director of PR at Bailey Gardiner, explains that providing rich online content and incentives on Facebook, Twitter, and Foursquare drove engagement and attendance.

Media relations also raised awareness, and all audiences were driven to delmarscene.com, a lifestyle site that launched in 2008 to appeal to younger audiences and lifestyle media.

Dado explains that the traditional website primarily serves the track's core audience of older men, who want hardcore race information.

Tactics: 

The team shot several videos per week of content ranging from footage of opening day fashions to a music video featuring Zenyatta, the champion mare who ran at Del Mar last summer and retired this fall.

Videos were posted on the lifestyle site and linked through YouTube to Facebook and Twitter. The lifestyle site also includes user-generated videos, a blog, and an events calendar.

Photo and trivia contests were hosted on Facebook, and fans were encouraged to share information and race experiences. To increase business the last weekend of the season, a Facebook appreciation promotion offered fans free admission.

A “tweet up” event was hosted at the track on August 14 for influential people in San Diego, including bloggers, media, and business people, who all tweeted about their experiences from a seaside cabana.

Experiential rewards, such as free tickets and tables, were given as contest prizes, at the "tweet up" and via Foursquare.

Lifestyle and sports outlets were targeted and invited to visit the track. Shield notes that Zenyatta was a big media draw this year.

Results:

Dado reports total season attendance increased 4.2% to 662,374 in 2010, compared to 2009. “To be up anything is extraordinary in the racing industry,” he adds.

From May to September, Facebook fans increased 110% (more than 7,000 new fans), with an average of 12,000 active fans per month. More than 800 people attended the “tweet up” and 992 redeemed the Facebook appreciation tickets. Delmarscene.com traffic increased 33% from July to September. 

The agency reports 6.6 million total online impressions, which include ads, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Foursquare.

Outlets covering the track this year included CNN, E! Morning Show, Yahoo.com, and Sunset Magazine.  

Future:

The team is looking into additional location-based rewards programs and will continue to develop social media outreach.

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