Ask anyone from outside of the immediate Louisville, KY area what they associate with the name “Churchill Downs” and the answer is invariably “The Kentucky Derby”. Considered the Indianapolis 500 of horse racing, Churchill Downs is synonymous with the “most exciting two minutes in sports”.
Which is great, except when you need to fill the venue outside of those two minutes, too. And that, that was precisely the issue we were tasked with solving.
The client brief was, well... brief. Job one: Create a campaign for the venue’s “Downs After Dark” monthly weekend event, featuring not only horse racing but live music and DJ performances. Job two: Market to Louisville’s burgeoning millennial and college-age demographic (without losing appeal to their existing customer base, of course).
The second point proved tricky as, despite Churchill Down’s close proximity to Louisville’s college and bar scene, our research showed they were considered “a horse track in a bad neighborhood”, when they were considered at all. Undaunted, we wanted to create a 360o campaign that tapped deep into the younger crowd’s inescapable #FOMO itch.
HIP TRANSPLANT, STEP ONE: Make a killer sizzle video. Of course, we had no money to shoot anything new and practically broke my copy of AfterEffects trying to stylize their existing footage (I did have a friend lens some really cool timelapse with a drone though). The music? I did that myself, calling in a rapper friend of mine to help.
HIP TRANSPLANT, STEP TWO: Create mobile website that integrates social media profiles, pinpoint geolocation and numerous pre- and in-event incentives. Encourage guests to keep the site in their hip pocket to find friends and post experiences for freebies and bonuses.
HIP TRANSPLANT, STEP THREE: Integrate augmented reality marker into print and promotional flyers, letting anyone who can understand “place phone here” (the latest browser helps, too) see the ad come to life.
HIP TRANSPLANT, STEP FOUR: Write additional custom music for different radio markets. While we loved the track we used in the original video, it was important to remember that not every listener was a big dubstep or hip hop fan. We carefully chose our media mix for stations within a 50-mile radius for the pop and nu-country versions.
Churchill Downs enjoyed not only increased attendance and ticket sales through the mobile site, but heavy repeat trial of the ticket, beverage and social media incentives.
And though Churchill Downs would ultimately take all of their advertising and marketing in house a year later, the Downs After Dark campaign was a high water mark for the brand’s visibility.