It’s surprising that absolutely no one expected that Kegasus, the tweeting centaur, would return as the official mascot of the Preakness Infield party for this year’s Preakness Stakes Betting event when the Maryland Jockey Club made the announcement. This decision was predicted as early as February when various media watchers noticed a new anonymous advertising campaign as the Jockey Club made a transparent bid to inject an element of mystery in the event. Back in February, the signaling horn for the kickoff part for the Preakness Stakes betting event started with an anonymous ad campaign that premises on the idea that the fictional character known as Kegasus had vanished, and two new characters—the Easter Bunny and the Leprechaun—have taken its place as the event’s mascot. The ad campaign consisted of billboards and a social media drive with impressive videos. It also had a professional imprimatur that seemed like a teaser for Kegasus’ inevitable return. However, both the Maryland Jockey Club and Elevation, Ltd., the company that handles all the marketing for the Preakness Stakes betting event, denied the idea for the ad campaign came from them. This happened despite the messy screw up in one Facebook profile that linked to Elevation’s official website. And just like clockwork, the last chapter of the story that no one was particularly interested in was unveiled: Kegasus has returned. The filthy centaur has made his grand appearance last March 30 at the Pimlico Race Track and then later on at the Orioles’ Opening Day on April 6. But this time, he has a sidekick: a half-man, half-unicorn creature named Uni-Carl. Without making any reference to the anonymous ad campaign, both the Maryland Jockey Club and Elevation are proud of what it sees as avant-garde marketing.
Bringing Kegasus back was a logical move. It gives the principals a good strategy that has already been proven to work. Tom Chuckas, president of the Jockey Club gives credit to Kegasus with boosting ticket sales last year. But if the objective of the stealth ad campaign was to stir excitement for the unveiling of this year’s mascot, it failed miserably. It only succeeded in bringing in a measly 191 likes on the Facebook fan page of one of the new characters. Launching a stealth campaign fits Elevation’s unorthodox marketing strategies, but it also has risks involved: While you might think you are pulling one over everybody, there is great risk that it’ll backfire and do damage, and people will revel in the thought of exposing you.