By Beth Kormanik Posted May 25, 2012, 12:55 PM EDT
No one would confuse the Preakness Stakes with the Kentucky Derby. Where Churchill Downs has mint juleps, ornate hats, and Stephen Foster's “My Old Kentucky Home,” Pimlico Race Course has the Kegasus beer mascot, a bikini contest, and concerts with Maroon 5 and Wiz Khalifa.
The contrasting styles mean that sponsorships took on a different feel at the 137th Preakness, which ran Saturday in front of a record crowd of more than 120,000 fans.
The party's epicenter was the Preakness InfieldFest, an all-day festival with entertainment including concerts, a professional beach volleyball tournament, beer garden and the bikini contest. The fest's mascot, Kegasus, had a new sidekick this year: UniCarl (half man, half unicorn). The area also is home to many of the sponsor activations. Jägermeister sponsored one of the stages as well as the Jägermeister V.I.P. dome where it served drinks.
Sponsor Finlandia Vodka built a 24-foot Crush Bar in the infield featuring its Grapefruit Crush drink, which was started in Maryland. Finlandia had four additional crush bars throughout the grandstands and offered Finlandia Classic at each location for non-crush drinks. Promotional specialists offered tastings and handed out T-shirts promoting the Grapefruit crush.
For a different perspective on the event, the Preakness Village, also known as the corporate village, had a larger footprint this year and offered hospitality tents from the likes of Dell and Kaiser Permanente and this year's International Pavilion, which featured Denmark. The village had more of a global perspective this year, according to Jimmy Learned, president of Elevation, the advertising and marketing firm for the Maryland Jockey Club. The United Arab Emirates and Qatar had a presence this year.
“We look at Preakness as a global brand,” Learned said. “It does air in Europe, Japan, and South America. It does have a global perspective.”