New sponsor is betting on the Kentucky Derby's appeal

The 2006 Kentucky Derby, scheduled for May 6 as the first leg of thoroughbred racing's Triple Crown, will now be referred to as "The Kentucky Derby presented by YUM! Brands." The YUM! logo will be on a sign appearing between the legendary Twin Spires, as well as on the starting gate.

The 2006 Kentucky Derby, scheduled for May 6 as the first leg of thoroughbred racing's Triple Crown, will now be referred to as "The Kentucky Derby presented by YUM! Brands." The YUM! logo will be on a sign appearing between the legendary Twin Spires, as well as on the starting gate.

According to Julie Koening, director of communications and IR at Churchill Downs, the legendary track in Louisville, KY, which hosts the race, YUM! name will not be mentioned on the second and third references of the race. "The race will be referred to in the traditional way," she said, "as the Kentucky Derby and the Run for the Roses." YUM! is the owner of restaurants such as KFC, Taco Bell, and Pizza Hut.

Why does it matter?

The Kentucky Derby is known as the most exciting two minutes in sports, but its PR reach far exceeds that.

"It stands alone as a throwback to a simpler day," says Jeff Graubard, president of The Graubard Group. While traditionally attracting a blue-blooded crowd, the event now caters to all demographics. The YUM! sponsorship is a reflection of how that audience has changed since the first race in 1875.

According to Graubard, the race offers a unique opportunity for YUM! to make its name more widely known as a brand, instead of being known for singular entities like KFC.

While the Derby has never been sponsored before, the YUM! sponsorship is not an entitlement sponsorship. It will not have much effect on the days leading up to the race, says Graubard, but it will be a large presence for the people who are there and those watching it on TV.


Five facts:

1 The Kentucky Derby, which has not had a presenting sponsor for the last 132 years, has partnered with YUM! Brands for a five-year agreement.

2 In 2005, Visa ended a decade-long sponsorship relationship with the Triple Crown, eliminating the $5 million bonus that Visa would award to anyone who won all three legs of the Triple Crown - a bonus it never had to pay out.

3 The Kentucky Derby is 1.25 miles and draws a live audience well in excess of 100,000 people. The second leg of the Triple Crown, the Preakness, will be held on May 20 at Pimlico Racetrack in Baltimore, and the final run, the Belmont Stakes, takes place on June 11 at Belmont Park in Elmont, NY.

4 NBC's TV contract with the Triple Crown expired in 2005. The Belmont Stakes is set to air on ABC this year, while The Kentucky Derby will still be shown on NBC.

5 The 2005 Kentucky Derby had an 8.2 overnight rating on NBC, the fourth-highest Kentucky Derby broadcast since 1992.

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