A new marketing campaign unveiled Monday aims to replace the tweeting centaur Kegasus as mascot of the Preakness Infield.
The campaign seems to be the latest component of the Infield marketing roll-out, but the Maryland Jockey Club is not taking credit for it.
While the anonymous campaign could be the Jockey Club's ham-fisted attempt at going viral, stoking excitement for the campaign's eventual official unveiling, for now, club president Tom Chuckas says it is not associated with the Infield.
The conveniently-timed announcement, complete with several Facebook profiles and promotional videos, imagines Kegasus has disappeared and other mythical creatures, a leprechaun and the Easter bunny, are now lobbying to take his place as Infield mascots. It does not have any listed authors or credits, beyond a phone number for a fictional brotherhood of mythical creatures.
It does, however, bear a professional imprimatur - the fake brotherhood has a logo, its own dedicated hotline, and a publicist writing its press releases. (The social media campaign can be found here; the brotherhood's listed phone number goes straight to a fake voicemail.)
With similar promotional videos to last year's Kegasus campaign, and coming two weeks after the music headliners, Maroon 5 and Wiz Khalifa, were announced, the campaign is line with the Infield's expected marketing blitz, already underway.
It also continues the fictional narrative that Kegasus has disappeared, which Chuckas alluded to in a conference call two weeks ago.
But Chuckas said Monday it did not come from his office or Elevation Ltd., the Washington D.C.-based ad firm that has again been retained to handle the Infield's marketing.
The official campaign has not been finalized. "We're scrambling to see what [the campaign is]," Chuckas said. Elevation has not responded to requests for comment.
It has not been decided if Kegasus will return as the Infield's mascot, though Chuckas said he's in favor of the bawdy, tweeting, beer-swilling centaur returning.
Kegasus had been created by Elevation to appeal to young people and attract controversy and was highly successful for Preakness, helping sales and its media profile.
Whatever shape it eventually takes, the advertising campaign is an increasingly important tool for the Jockey Club to sell tickets to the Infield, which hasn't reached record attendance numbers since 2008, the last year of the BYOB campus.
Chuckas credited the provocative "Get Your Preak On" and Kegasus campaigns with bringing necessary excitement and higher attendance to the events in the past two years.
Beyond bold marketing, organizers have already signaled they want to court attention by selecting Wiz Khalifa, the stoner laureate of the moment, to headline the Infield alongside Maroon 5.
"I know his music is a little edgy," Chuckas said during a conference call following the headliner announcement. "But I can't play Lawrence Welk. I need to play music [young people] will come and listen to."