What’s the Value of the Kentucky Derby?

Posted on: Oct 17, 2014

Sports is a big business and the top sports teams and properties are worth a ton of money. The Superbowl’s ‘market value’ is worth $500 million. So what is the Kentucky Derby worth?

It’s a question better suited to financial analysts than horsemen. Forbes Magazine took up the task again this year in their annual review of the 40 most valuable sports brand. So what is a sports brand? Forbes examines four categories: athletes, teams, businesses and events. The Kentucky Derby falls under the ‘events’ category.

At the top of the ‘events’ list–to no surprise whatsoever–is the Super Bowl worth $440 million dollars. Next on the list is the Summer Olympics ($338 million). The Kentucky Derby fares well on the list coming in at #10 behind the Winter Olympics, the FIFA World Cup, the NCAA Men’s Final Four, the UEFA Champions League, the baseball World Series, WWE Wrestlemania and the Daytona 500.

Now let’s look at the numbers–the Kentucky Derby’s brand value experienced a slight uptick from 2013 to 2014. In 2013, the Derby was worth $97 million but rose to $99 million in 2014. This is likely due to the popularity of Kentucky Derby betting favorite California Chrome who captured the imagination of the public during his unsuccessful run at the Triple Crown. 15.4 million tuned in to the race–the fourth time in six years the Derby exceeded the 15 million figure.

Although the usual media refrain is a death knell for the ‘Sport of Kings’, the Kentucky Derby has defied this trend. From 1991 to 2008, the Kentucky Derby viewership was below 15 million. The increased viewership also runs counter to some broader television trends–the overall TV audience is shrinking in the face of a glut of entertainment options. Factor in a growing number of ‘cord cutters’ (people who don’t watch television at all but get their entertainment online) and the growth of Derby viewership is an even more positive sign and a credit to the marketing of the race during the past decade. The bad news for the sport is that it hasn’t had much impact on the day to day racing product but is nonetheless a welcome bit of good news in an industry that needs all they can get.