Long before it was announced on November 19 that Jimmy Freight was heading to stallion duty at Winbak Farm in Ontario, owner Adriano Sorella was formulating plans for new ways to market his asset and increase exposure for Harness Racing.
Perhaps you’ve seen his posts on Facebook and Twitter offering up gift cards ranging in value from $25 to $250 along with information about the newly retired Jimmy Freight. The promotion is simple, retweet, share and like in order to have the opportunity to win.
“It is not really a marketing thing. It is more of a promotional thing,” said Sorella. “We do things a little differently in harness racing. Everything is pretty much cookie-cutter, so it is magazines, articles and that’s about it. There is nothing that really goes out to people outside of the industry, so this is an effort to not only showcase the stallion but also showcase harness racing.
“We’ve found with our company that sharing through social media you can hit two different things at the same time. You can target a certain audience and a certain product. That is what we are doing. You can take an ad out in a publication for $1,000 or $1,500 or you can give away 75 gift cards. Either way you are going to do both, but in one aspect you are targeting a different audience through sharing and that’s what we are doing.”
From his experience with trade shows, Sorella said that stuff like hats and T-Shirts don’t work anymore as a way to lure an audience. People want things with tangible value. That is where his $25 gift cards to Dunkin Donuts and Tim Hortons fill the bill perfectly. Not only are they an attractive lure because people love to get something free, but they also promote the Jimmy Freight brand and the sport. Each gift card from the coffee and donut giants has a picture of Jimmy Freight with the Winbak Farm logo so it can become a talking point in the stores and perhaps spike the interest of someone new in harness racing.
“We’ve noticed that we are getting more than just horse people interested because it is being shared through social media to friends of friends of friends that have no involvement in the sport,” said Sorella, who admitted this promotion isn’t going to convince someone with a mare to breed to Jimmy Freight. “Let’s be real, breeders are not going to care about a $25 gift card. Breeders know what they want. They know where their mares will cross well and they are going to breed accordingly. But breeders have seen it and I’ve gotten feedback from some of them who have told me it is really creative. I told them it is just the start of what will come down the pipeline of what we are going to do.”
As a way to give back to the breeders, Sorella came up with another interesting promotion. While he was initially thinking of giving away a pick-up truck or a trip, after a meeting with the Winbak crew, the consensus was that a John Deere Gator would make a great prize. Now one lucky syndicate shareholder will walk away with the all-terrain utility vehicle, and since there will be a maximum of 40 shares sold in Jimmy Freight, the chances of winning will be at least 1 in 40.
“There are some big farms that would certainly use it,” said Sorella about the Gator. “If the smaller farms don’t want it, we can give them the cash value, which could be like getting their syndicate share for free.
“From day one I’ve said this is the way we should be marketing. We’ve always done the same things, so let’s change it up and I’ll be the one to try it.”
Sorella gives away the majority of his prizes via a random spinning wheel that has all of the names of people who participated in the promotion. People can tune in at their leisure and watch the replay of the wheel spinning to see if they won. The idea has caught the attention of many, including Chris Gooden and Dawnelle Mock at The Meadows, who used it for a promotion of their own.
“It’s fun. People like instant gratification,” said Sorella about the slot machine-like function of the wheel.
Sorella even had Jon Taffer from the cable show Bar Rescue record a message about Jimmy Freight to help promote the sport. “There are a lot of influencers that you can pay for to record something or get them to your event,” said Sorella. “The Meadowlands does that with having sports players come to the track. That is targeting a whole new audience. If people don’t know anything about racing but the track announces that Mike Tyson is going to show up, then they will show up at the track.”
According to Sorella, Jimmy Freight, who earned C$1,450,911 on the track and won the O’Brien award as best 3-year-old pacing colt in 2018, is garnering plenty of interest in an Ontario market that also recently added 2018 Horse of the Year McWicked and Stag Party to others like the ageless Bettor’s Delight.
“I’ve been pretty happy so far with the response. On the weekend I was picking up shareholder agreements and scanning them over to Winbak,” said Sorella, who is thrilled with the team at Winbak. “Joe (Thompson, owner) is the nicest guy to deal with. He was straightforward and very confident, and I like that. Garrett Bell and Pat Woods are great to deal with and they are always in contact. I’m pretty happy with the whole arrangement right now and I think there are a lot of people out there who believe they should be breeding to Jimmy Freight.”
Sorella will of course support Jimmy Freight with a few mares of his own. He said he has about five right now but would like to breed between 10 and 20 when all is said and done. Since in Ontario stallions aren’t limited to 140 mares like in the United States, he could in theory add a mare to breed at any time if the deal made sense.
For those interested in the son of Sportswriter, Jimmy Freight is standing for C$5,000 at Winbak Farm in Ontario.