Lewis Lazare: In the increasingly suffocating world of corporate sponsorship, it’s been a dangerous and dirty little secret for sometime now: Just about anything can be had for a few lousy dollars. On Wednesday, that truism was reaffirmed in a heart-rending way in what may well be the most repellent sponsorship deal so far in marketing history.
Desperate for funds to prop up a sagging horse racing industry, Louisville’s Churchill Downs has sold — for what amounts to a pittance — the dignity of the Kentucky Derby, one of Churchill Downs’ and the world’s most historic horse races, to a Louisville-based conglomerate called Yum! Brands, that peddles, among other things, fried chicken, pizza and tacos. The publicly traded Yum! (don’t forget that exclamation point!) was formed in 1997, when KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell were spun off from PepsiCo.
In his remarks Wednesday, Churchill Downs CEO Thomas Meeker tried to make much of the fact the Kentucky Derby was smartly teaming up with a company that includes among its holdings another famous Kentucky-focused brand, namely KFC. Meeker never mentioned, however, that Yum! several years ago yanked the “Kentucky” out of the chicken chain’s name and rebranded it as the horrendously bland KFC.



About David Burn

I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. Today—after working for seven agencies in five states—I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.