Kentucky is synonymous with horses but in recent years the state has made some significant strides in burnishing that image worldwide and protecting its equine industry (and its image) on the legislative and PR front.
The Bluegrass State is fortunate to have one of the largest branding opportunities every year in May with the Kentucky Derby run at its fabled racetrack Churchill Downs, the Wrigley and Fenway (combined) of horse racing. So it's no surprise that the state's two largest universities are tapping Derby week to further its push for the state to be the "horse capital of the world." And there's a PR opportunity here, too.
The University of Louisville is looking to hire PR support with two RFPs ahead of the first-ever Kentucky International Equine Summit set for April 2008. The event should be both a significant PR challenge and an opportunity as it is taking place in Lexington during the week of the Derby, a unique time of crowded hotels and restaurants, many distractions, and a few people like the late Hunter Thompson roaming around. UofL, which is sponsoring the two-day event with the Univ. of Kentucky, has issued the two RFPs – one for advertising and PR, while a second covers PR and media relations. The RFPs can be downloaded here.
Lexington firm Preston-Osborn won a Silver Anvil last year for its work with the Kentucky Equine Education Project, a statewide effort to organize and brand the Bluegrass State as the "horse capital of the world." Campaigns like that are vital to Kentucky especially as the industry globalizes and major events are popping up around the world, particularly in the Middle East.
Competitive horse racing has a unique niche in American culture, although the sport has had difficulty connecting to a younger audience. But the ongoing media and public saga over the injured and later euthanized thoroughbred Barbaro this year shows that a broad public interest is there to be tapped.