REMEMBERING ON MEMORIAL DAY 2010

Sergeant Ronald Neldon is retired from the U. S. Air Force. After departing, he returned to college at the University of Akron in Ohio, where he graduated three weeks ago. His life story includes an important segment described in the following vignette that originally appeared on the University of Akron website. Memorial Day commemorates the American men and women who died while in military service, like the 19 Airmen described in the vignette. May their souls and those of all veterans who died in service to the USA rest in peace. Had it not been for Ronald Neldon, more may have perished.

On June 25, 1996, Ronald W. Neldon was a security policeman in the U.S. Air Force on a temporary duty assignment in Saudi Arabia when a terrorist truck bomb attack on Khobar Towers killed nineteen American Airmen. 

Neldon, who was approximately 300 yards away from the blast site, survived the blast.  He immediately evacuated the building he was in, ensuring all personnel exited to a safe area.  He then proceeded to the bomb site where he provided first aid to several Air Force members, some of whom were critically injured, and spearheaded the establishment of a physical barrier.

As a result of Neldon’s leadership efforts, a safe, recognizable perimeter was established in minimal time.  After the physical barrier was established, he disregarded his own safety by initiating a sweep of the Security Police barracks that had been devastated by the force of the blast and verified that all personnel were evacuated. 

In recognition of his meritorious services, Neldon was awarded the Air Force Commendation Medal (with valor device).  He was officially inducted into the Military Hall of Fame for Valor on May 7, 2010 at the Ohio State Building in Columbus, OH.

May 7 was also the day Neldon, a marketing management major, graduated from UA with his B.B.A. degree.

Postscript:  I am honored to have had Ronald Neldon as a student in a class I taught at the University of Akron during his last semester at the University.

RACING’S BID FOR THE YOUNGER GENERATIONS

(This article is a longer version of “Racing Must Consider Younger ‘Worldviews,’ which appeared in the Blood-Horse, April 17, 2010. Reproduced by permission.)

The racing industry, particularly its racetracks, has struggled for years with making the sport more appealing to the younger generations. Like casinos, the over-50 demographic is where the main support comes from in terms of wagering.

The average age of CEOs in Fortune 500 companies is about 56 and the vast majority of executives in upper management are at least in their late forties. This means that top executives manage employees who are much younger than themselves. They also formulate marketing strategies for customers who are a generation or more removed. The resulting cultural divide can cause plenty of problems, even if, say, there is in-depth market research depicting the behavioral tendencies and preferences of teenage customers or patrons in their twenties. Reading about lifestyles in a report is not the same as understanding sufficiently to be able to craft appropriate corporate responses.

Fortune magazine recently wrote about the “generation gap” between older executives and their chronologically junior employees: “Texting, socializing, and working. Just how do they do it? It’s a question that confounds managers as they watch twentysomethings listening to music, checking Facebook, snacking, and working on 14 projects at once.” Patrizio Bertelli, the 63-year-old chief executive of Prada, the Italian fashion house, remarked to the Wall Street Journal about remaining cutting edge: “You have to watch young people—if you’re not updated with the world of today, then you may as well get the hell out of fashion.”

For the past 12 years, Beloit College in Wisconsin has published what it calls “the Mindset List.” The purpose is to depict the worldview of 18 year-olds as they start their post-secondary education. If you go online to Beloit.edu/mindset (or click here), you will be able to access a lengthy list that captures the worldview of the college class of 2013, who were typically born in 1991 (you can select any graduating class from 2002-2013). For instance, members of the class of 2013 “will have never used a card catalog to find a book” and “have never had to ‘shake down’ an oral thermometer.” For them, “rap music has always been mainstream; Margaret Thatcher has always been a former prime minister; Martha Graham, Pan American Airways, Michael Landon, Dr. Seuss, Miles Davis, The Dallas Times Herald, Gene Rodenberry, and Freddie Mercury have always been dead.”

Whether you manage a farm, a bloodstock agency, a racetrack, a training stable, a veterinarian clinic, an equine law practice, or whatever, you have employees/associates and customers/clients. Their worldview is critical to your success. Grow out of touch and your enterprise will suffer accordingly. The difficulty with this caveat is that by the time people usually reach the upper-echelon of their organizations, their worldview is far more comprehensive and historic than that of the majority of employees and customers and thus they are apt to forget that their reality is not the only reality.

Copyright © 2010 The Blood-Horse

REVIEW OF THE PREAKNESS BUSINESS PERFORMANCE

The 2009 Preakness had the headline attraction of the Kentucky Derby winner, Mine That Bird, running against the popular filly Rachel Alexandra. As a result, it was the most watched Preakness in five years and the second most watched in 20 years. The television rating was 7.9 and the share of audience was 18%.

While the 2010 edition of the Preakness did not have this kind of marquee girl vs. the boys matchup to promote, it nonetheless did reasonably well by comparison. It had a 6.4 rating (-19% from 2009), which equates to about 7.4 million of the 114.9 million television households in the United States with their sets tuned to the 2010 Preakness. It had a share of audience of 15% (-16.7% from 2009), meaning that about 49.024 million television households had their sets turned on during the 2010 Preakness telecast (7.4 million/49.024 million = 15.1%.)

Another performance benchmark for the 2010 Preakness: The NBA playoff Game 6 between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Boston Celtics on Thursday, May 13, in primetime at 8 PM, was ESPN’s second most viewed college or professional basketball game in the network’s history, with a 6.6 rating, and the third most watched ESPN program so far in 2010. The Cavs-Celtics Game 6 garnered an average of 7.6 million households and 8.9 million viewers. Although the Preakness was on network TV and the NBA game on cable TV, the Preakness was not run during prime time. Overall, the Preakness came off very well when compared to playoff Game 6 between the Cavs and Celtics.

Preakness betting handle on the 13-race card at Pimlico was $79,209,170, the sixth highest figure in Preakness-day history. Still, this was down by 8.6% from the $86,684,470 wagered in 2009 on the Rachel Alexandra/Mine That Bird showdown.

Not surprisingly, on-track attendance at Pimlico in 2010 (95,760) was up by 22.9% over 2009 (77,850). In 2009, many people boycotted the Pimlico infield after the racetrack instituted a restrictive alcohol policy, which the track largely reversed in 2010. Temperatures in the 70s with no rain also contributed to the turnout.

Super Saver, the Kentucky Derby winner, did not create a lot of pre-race fan enthusiasm about his possibly winning the Triple Crown, nor was there a particularly alluring storyline about him or his connections. His owners are extremely wealthy people doing business on a large Bluegrass farm and his trainer is an unflappable, buttoned-down conditioner of blueblood racing stock; a winning combination but not colorful.

In contrast, in 2009, Mine That Bird and his owners and trainer were made-for-TV characters out of the Southwest. They were prototypical underdogs who grabbed people’s attention. The longshot gelding–previously fourth in the Sunland Derby–traveled from New Mexico to Louisville in a two-horse trailer driven by his laconic cowboy trainer, who most racing fans had never heard of and who was on a crutch to support a leg he broke in a motorcycle accident.

Two weeks after the Kentucky Derby, there was plenty of interest leading up to the Preakness in seeing how Mine That Bird would do against the billionaire-owned Rachel Alexandra. The media picked up on the story and the publicity boosted handle and TV ratings.

Irrespective of jockey Calvin Borel’s vow in the excitement immediately following Super Saver’s win in the 2010 Kentucky Derby that the colt would take the Triple Crown, Super Saver does not have the profile for the arduous task. He is of small physical stature and is not manifestly any better, if as good, as a handful of his peers. Thus he did not generate the anticipatory buzz that would drive up betting handle, TV ratings, and attendance. As it turned out, the colt briefly contended and then faded into the pack.

Lacking a compelling fan interest, the Preakness did surprisingly well.

With Super Saver and Preakness winner Lookin at Lucky bypassing the Belmont Stakes, coupled with NYRA’s precarious financial situation and restricted marketing budget, the prospects for a Belmont Stakes with robust betting handle, strong on-track attendance, and good television ratings are slim. No doubt a small spotlight will be on Ice Box, a fast-closing second from far back in the field in the Kentucky Derby, but he does not have the requisite name recognition or a well-known rival. In addition, with this week’s decision not to run Dublin in the Belmont, the field will not  include any colt that has competed in all three Triple Crown races.

Copyright © 2010 Horse Racing Business