Audible, the Amazon-owned audio book maker, has partnered with the ownership group of Audible, the horse, to do some joint advertising.
The Kentucky Derby is no book festival. But at the most famous of American horse races, a pair of audio book marketers will be on the sidelines in Louisville, cheering for an animal they didn’t know existed a few months ago.
The story starts in February, when John Harrobin stumbled upon something strange in his daily news alerts.
The word “Audible” almost always came up in reference to stories about Audible, the audio book maker.
Harrobin, the marketing chief for the Amazon-owned company, noticed a new competitor for America’s attention: Audible, a horse on a winning streak. A couple of news articles made clear the three-year-old colt had an outside shot at making much bigger headlines in the Kentucky Derby.
So Harrobin did what any savvy marketer would do and ordered up some synergy.
“At the end of the day, I called down to a horse farm,” he said. “I said ‘Hey, I’m just calling from this company called Audible. No, I’m serious.'”
Elliott Walden, chief executive of WinStar Farm, one of Audible’s co-owners, hadn’t heard of the audio book company. The horse’s other three co-owners had, he said.
WinStar, Walden says, tries to avoid puns or folksy names for its horses, preferring strong sounding, single words. “We don’t name them ‘Jim Bob’s Cousin,'” he said. “We ask, is this a name that we would be proud of if he won the Kentucky Derby?”
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The horse’s name, he said, was meant as a reference to the American football term for switching a play on the fly. Still, Walden was happy at the interest from Audible, a company not typically associated with horse racing.
Audible the company wound up partnering with the horse’s ownership group to do joint advertising and social media marketing around the horse. After Audible won the Florida Derby — securing a spot in the Kentucky Derby — the company donated $15,000 to a nonprofit group that works to care for horses after their racing careers. The horse was also photographed wearing an Audible-branded blanket.
More is coming in the runup to the May 5 race, including more ads, a web-based video game, and, Harrobin says, a surprise he’s not ready to reveal.
The company stopped short of financially backing the horse. (Though, as an April Fools joke, Harrobin sent his finance chief an invoice for a stake in the animal.)
Odds from U.S. Racing peg Audible as a top-three finisher, with 4-to-1 odds to win. Harrobin and a colleague will be watching in person.
“We’ve got a big chance,” Walden said.