While the Kentucky Derby is one of the most tradition laden sporting events in the world it does have some modern components. One of these is corporate sponsorship where Yum! Brands will continue as the race’s ‘presenting sponsor’.
Yum! Brands worked out a deal with Churchill Downs, Inc. that will secure the ‘presenting sponsorship’ of the race for another five years, through 2020. The Kentucky Derby no doubt benefited from the high profile run of California Chrome as he challenged for the Triple Crown this summer and that very likely helped them get the best deal possible.
While many sporting events with a perceived affluent audience are sponsored by luxury goods like Rolex the Kentucky Derby’s presenting sponsor is decidedly downscale. The company owns several high profile fast food brands including Kentucky Fried Chicken, Pizza Hut, and Taco Bell and runs approximately 40,000 restaurants worldwide. Yum! Brand has presented the Kentucky Derby since 2005. Yum! Brands clearly realizes that times are changing and fast food restaurants are on the way out; they’ve just opened the first branch of a ‘Vietnamese fast casual’ concept restaurant called the Banh Shop. The idea is to reach a younger, more affluent demographic and based on initial head counts at the Dallas Banh Shop location they could be on to something–70% of customers in the first week were between 18 and 33 years old.
According to Yum! Brands Senior Vice President Jonathan Blum the Kentucky Derby sponsorship is helpful in exposing the corporate name behind a number of famous brands: “While millions of people know and love our leading restaurant brands, they may not know Yum! Brands. The sponsorship of the Kentucky Derby allows us to build awareness of Yum!, the world’s largest restaurant company.”
That makes the official name of the race the “Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands” which might not roll off the tongue but nevertheless is great exposure for the corporation. Perhaps it won’t be long until Banh Shop emerges as a title sponsor of the Kentucky Derby or otherwise gets involved in the sport of horse racing. The ‘Sport of Kings’ could definitely use an influx of young blood.