An article on TheHorse.com reports that Zenyatta has become the first horse to win the William H. May award, which recognizes ‘meritorious service’ to the racing industry. The mare received the 2011 title from the Association of Racing Commissioners International (RCI) in recognition of her ability to ‘capture the hearts and spirits of racing fans’ despite the troubles that racing is currently up against.
I think Zenyatta is a fascinating case study when it comes to branding and marketing.
In marketing, it’s essential to begin with the best product or service you can, in this case a world-class equine athlete, but how you tell the story, and whether people can ‘make it their own’ and help you re-tell that story to a wider audience, makes all the difference in your ability to grow that brand.
Zenyatta’s quirk of paddock-dancing made her both ‘real’ and accessible to a wider, non-racing audience. She stood out from the pack not only for her winning record, but also because her handlers allowed her that quirk, not demanding that she walk straight and square with a snap of the lead shank, but letting her walk her own unique path. The media, and fans, picked up on that walk and told the story again and again, and over time that walk became an endearing signature and part of the Zenyatta ‘brand.’
In branding, it’s often our quirks that make us unique, our special talents that no one else has that can help us attract followers who love us and what we do. In workshops I’ve taught on ‘personal branding’ I’d often compare a brand to a personality; a brand includes the sum of who we are, what we do, and how we do it.
Zenyatta’s brand is ‘dancing racehorse that can close the deal against the boys.’