Horse Racing in Advertising: Nice…or Vice?

by | 03.11.2014 | 2:30pm
Mechanical horses featured in a 2014 Acura commercial

While there is little to no national advertising for Thoroughbred racing these days, a couple of companies have recently incorporated horses or horse racing into their television commercials.

The first that was brought to my attention recently was Rosland Capital, the precious metals retailer that in the past used G. Gordon Liddy to pitch its product on cable channels. Liddy, of course, was the operative of the Plumbers group responsible for the 1972 Watergate break-in that led to the resignation of former President Richard Nixon.

The new Rosland Capital pitchman is actor William Devane, who is also connected to a U.S. president, John F. Kennedy. Devane portrayed Kennedy in the made-for-television movie Missiles of October, one of his better-known roles.

A polo player and horse enthusiast, Devane is shown in the Rosland ad standing in the crowd on a racetrack apron while a race is being run in the background. He cautions viewers “this is not the way” to invest your retirement funds, “this is….gold and silver.”

Of course, no one has ever suggested that anyone should take their retirement money (or their rent money, for that matter) and play the horses.  Still, the message seems to be that only a foolish risk-taker would consider gambling at the races.

“When it comes to my retirement, excitement like this I don't need,” Devane says.

Here is the Rosland Capital ad.

The other commercial, for the luxury automobile Acura, is far more creative and positive.

Filmed over three days at Barretts Sales and Racing in Southern California, the futuristic ad features a field of riderless, supercharged mechanical horses breaking from the starting gate and battling down the length of the stretch of a Meydan-like racetrack packed with upscale fans.

The mechanical horses are fighting and clawing at each other, when suddenly a real horse comes charging from behind, passing them all and then morphing into a sleek Acura.

The tagline of this visually stunning ad, called “Let the Race Begin,” is: Acura – performance that changes the game, a power that goes beyond the machine.

According to a press release from the Mullen creative agency that produced the ad, the racing scene was filmed at Barretts using real horses who were then converted into the metallic creatures by a post-production company.

Here is the Acura ad.

Which one do you think is more effective?

  • Cgriff

    Acura – without a doubt. Glad you liked it!

    • nu-fan

      I liked the excitement of the race that it showed. I thought the Acura ad was well done. Again, nothing realistic but the image was what they sold and that was pretty good. Now, perhaps, those who have never gone to a race but have always sort of wanted to–maybe, they’ll actually go to their nearest racetrack for a look-see. The other ad? Aimed for those who hide their money under their mattresses. Inconsequential. They wouldn’t dream of parting with their money for anything like a horserace or wagering. Maybe, they’ll cut loose and take their money for a night out of fine dining at Denny’s.

  • Dobeplayer

    Didn’t care for either one, actually. I did like the tag line Let the Race Begin in the Acura ad, but not the ad itself and the horse-to-car transformation was poorly done. Sure wouldn’t send me to the dealership to check out any new Acuras. I liked the video in the Rosland ad, but not the message. I’d say the ad agencies blew it with both of these.

  • Tinky

    While it’s obviously silly to have juxtaposed gambling at the track with ANY “investment”, the message that Devane was paid to deliver actually happens to be correct. Only a tiny fraction of Americans own precious metals (other than jewelry), and the huge numbers who don’t will regret the oversight in the not-too-distant future.

  • Ladyofthelake

    Well the demographics they were trying to reach with the Rosland ad is probably older people who are afraid of anything risky. But maybe instead of a horse race in the background they should’ve showed a chart of the stock market crashes of the last 12 years. I’d rather put my money betting on the races (in a smart way) than on stocks. It’s much more of an instant return if you actually win. If I had actually bet on the races I had picked out on Breeders Cup weekend 2013 I coulda made about $900 but didn’t bet anything. Kicking self.

  • MA

    I don’t get FAIRPLEX from the Acura ad, at all. There’s nothing in that, that resembles anything there. The dirt could’ve been anywhere.

    • nu-fan

      I agree. I don’t think most viewers–overwhelmingly–would have associated that track with this commercial.

  • Ah, if G.G.L. has been a trainer. Imagine what would have happened if he had lost a race to a horse that he later found out had been hopped…

    Thanks for asking, but passing on the which one? question. TV long ago worn out its welcome in these them thar parts..

  • salthebarber

    Devane and his gold message seemed seedy in contrast to the beauty of the Santa Anita setting and its majestic thoroughbreds. I think a rundown OTB or a trip to the first floor of Suffolk Downs would have served them better.

  • I love the Acura commercial–it’s sleek and creative, and shows the powerful beauty of horses and the excitement of the racetrack. I hope people see it and think, “Hey, I wonder if going to a real horse race is just as fun?”

    • nu-fan

      Heidi: That’s the way I saw it as well. It captured the feeling that I see in the crowds at my track, especially when the horses are heading into the home stretch. It’s exhilarating. Hope that some viewers might think that is the feeling they want as well and go to the race, maybe, for their first time—-ever!

  • Larry Ensor

    You can’t watch Fox News (cable) without catching a Rosland Capital commercial. They must be making a lot of money considering the amount of advertising they do.

    My first thought after seeing this commercial was, why would any racetrack, and I thought it was Santa Anita, allow their facility to be used for this type of commercial and the take away message it seems to imply?
    Didn’t anyone read the script before signing on the dotted line? Ludicrous in my opinion.

    Doesn’t racing already have enough negative connotations provided by Hollywood and the media? And this commercial takes jabs at a race tracks core product and business model.

    Another good reason the Industry is in desperate need for the oversight of a “League Office” to protect and defend the image of the sport and industry.
    Does any believe that the NFL would allow a commercial to be filmed at a Football stadium that portrays the sport in a negative way?

    I have been asked over the years and we have all read, why would a person throw away their money at the racetrack?

    My rebuttal has always been the same. For the same reason I “throw away” my money at a restaurant, hundreds of dollars for a concert, $150 for a football game ticket. Entertainment, please explain the difference.

    And one things for sure when I go to a restaurant, concert etc I have no possibility of walking out with more money then I walked in with.

    • circusticket

      Because if the racetrack declined, they’d go find another. So why not take the money, because you can’t stop the message.

    • nu-fan

      I agree with you. No amount of money should be worth it to cast a negative light onto this–or any–track. What was SA thinking to allow this? Poor decision and judgment on their part. And, while some people are interested in horseracing only for the purpose of wagering, I believe that most–like you (and I)–see horseracing and wagering as entertainment. The wagering is the price many people pay to add to the value of their entertainment; for them, it’s not for the purpose of investing for retirement, college funds, etc.

  • circusticket

    When will car companies stop selling cars by promoting illegal behavior, speeding?

  • gg

    Obviously the Acura ad is the best, especially in depicting horses in a good light. Mr. Devane must not have been thinking very clearly since as a horse lover his ad would sound otherwise. My favorite “horse” related commercials are the Budweiser commercials, which you don’t see very often anymore.

  • santacruzchuck

    William Devanes connection to Horse Racing is the fact that he is one of the leads in the movie 50-1, the story of Mine That Bird.

  • Davis

    To imply playing the horses is somewhat frivolous with dollars devoted to future stuff and IV’s and such is – in perhaps the most inane and overworked terms of the decard – what it is.

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