May 30, 2012 / By Mark Beal
It has been 34 years since the world witnessed a Triple Crown winner when Steve Cauthen atop Affirmed beat Alydar by a nose at the Belmont Stakes on June 1, 1978. We have not had another since, but my money is on I’ll Have Another to deliver not only a Triple Crown on June 9 at this year’s Belmont but also a compelling story and historic moment in time we will all rally around.
Sports fans were spoiled back in the ’70s with three Triple Crown winners in a span of five years with Secretariat in 1973 and Seattle Slew in 1977 along with Affirmed in ’78. It’s hard to believe that in 1978 when Affirmed and Alydar battled neck and neck at the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont it captivated the media and the nation and that was before anyone ever heard of ESPN which came around in 1979 and USA Today in 1982 let alone today’s endless number of sports blogs and web sites.
Imagine the advance media coverage and online water cooler buzz leading up to I’ll Have Another’s Triple Crown attempt on June 9 in today’s multimedia world and imagine the buzz a brand can generate by leveraging the opportunity.
Back in 2008 when Big Brown rolled through the first two legs of the Triple Crown, UPS aligned with the horse in a very smart and strategic way. Just two days before the Belmont that year, I enjoyed a quiet dinner with Big Brown’s jockey Kent Desormeaux after bringing together Wachovia, now Wells Fargo, in a very creative last minute alliance with the jockey that garnered major media coverage for the brand. He was so confident Big Brown was going to win the Triple Crown I was ready to leave dinner that night and bet the house on it. However, unlike the other races in the Triple Crown, the Belmont is the longest at 1.5 miles and typically a long shot comes from far behind to win the longest of horse races and that year Big Brown struggled to the finish line in the early summer New York heat.
For me, the Triple Crown countdown has begun and an I’ll Have Another movement is going to grow by leaps and bounds between now and June 9 across earned, paid and social media. Aside from looking and hoping for the first Triple Crown winner in more than three decades, I am really going to have my eyes on which brands are going to integrate themselves and steal share of media, share of conversation and share of sales, a true Triple Crown achievement.