TRIPLE CROWN TOWN: Fans watch from the grandstands at last year’s Kentucky Derby. Capacity was reduced to 60% due to the pandemic. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)


Churchill Downs heads into the 148th Kentucky Derby on Saturday with several new sponsors and activations spanning the 175-acre zenith of thoroughbred racing in Louisville, Kentucky.

With that much turf, it’s easy to create activations that meet client needs and offer added value for race fans, according to Casey Ramage, Churchill Downs vice president of marketing and partnerships.

“The venue size is one of the many things that makes Churchill Downs unique,” Ramage said. “We are different from a stadium where signage opportunities are limited to logos and digital signs. We truly customize all partnerships with the brands’ objectives and goals in mind.”

The demographic is diverse from the party-hearty infield to high-end suites on Millionaire’s Row.

“Once we understand what demographic they are trying to reach, we can identify the best place for them whether it is the infield or the brick front side, or maybe both,” Ramage said.

The live crowd is significant with 60,000 filling the center of the 1 1/4-mile oval dirt track and another 100,000 watching from the grandstands, clubhouse and premium spaces under the Twin Spires.

The last time the track was allowed to operate at full capacity was in 2019 due to the pandemic,. The Derby was delayed in 2020 to September, limited to general admission with no infield fans permitted. In 2021, the event took place in May with restricted attendance.

This year, Red Bull will sponsor an infield DJ booth, bringing an energy boost to the already raucous crowd while liquor brand Woodford Reserve offers $1,000 mint juleps with a charity component in the Turf Club.

Other new 2022 sponsors and activations include BMW of North America, which will be displaying their fully electric i7; FTD, which will have a floral photo wall for social sharing; appliance brand Monogram, which has engaged Chef Marcus Samuelsson to create a dish featured by NBC; and AIR, creators of a personal aircraft and who will host the AIR ONE kickoff in the VIP Green Room.

Other partners include handbag brand Radley London, streetwear fashion brand Homme+Femme, HOMAGE offering vintage inspired t-shirts, and clothing brand Tiny Turnip, with Derby-inspired apparel for moms and kids.

The sponsor list extends to Ford, Longines, Jackson Family Wines, White Claw, Vineyard Vines and Woodford Reserve, presenting sponsor of the Derby. It will host the longest bar in the Commonwealth of Kentucky at 95 feet in the Homestretch Club.

Ramage would not disclose the range in costs for event sponsorships.

Since the first Kentucky Derby was held on May 17, 1875, it has become the longest, continually held major sporting event in the U.S. and the first leg of horse racing’s Triple Crown. Known as “The Run for the Roses,” it has a resilient history surviving the depression, multiple wars and more than one pandemic.

A major shift this year taken COVID was offering an all-inclusive ticket with food and beverage starting at $80 for the infield and up to $10,000 which includes access to the Millionaire’s Row, Turf Club.

“We wanted to make it a better customer experience that is cashless and saves time so they are not crowded and waiting in lines,” Ramage explained.

“We stand for resilience,” she said. “No matter how crazy life gets, the Kentucky Derby will happen.”