07/15/2014 2:10PM

NFL's Rolapp to speak at Round Table Conference


The head of the National Football League’s media division will be the keynote speaker at this year’s Round Table Conference on Matters Pertaining to Racing on Aug. 10 in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., the administrator of the conference, The Jockey Club, announced Tuesday.

Brian Rolapp, the executive vice president of NFL Media and the president and chief executive of NFL Network, will “share insights into the National Football League’s wide-ranging media strategies” during the address, The Jockey Club said in a release. Rolapp, who took over at NFL Network several months ago following the resignation of Steve Bornstein, has taken part in many of the league’s negotiations for broadcast rights with television, mobile, and Internet companies over the past several years, according to his biography.

Brian Rolapp is the son of R. Richards Rolapp, the former longtime president of the American Horse Council, horse racing’s federal lobbying arm. R. Richards Rolapp died in 1993.

The Jockey Club has begun taking a more active role in promoting racing over the past several years. In 2011, it commissioned a report from McKinsey & Associates on strategies to make the game more popular, and in the past two years, it has funded broad-based marketing efforts on social-media platforms while underwriting television broadcasts of live races. In all, The Jockey Club has said it will spend $10 million from 2012 through 2016 on horse-racing marketing efforts.

“On the marketing and branding front, the National Football League is widely viewed as the gold standard in professional sports, and we’re extremely fortunate to have Brian Rolapp share some of his experiences with us,” said Ogden Mills “Dinny” Phipps, The Jockey Club’s chairman.

If the NFL has a weakness in its brand, it is the stubborn perception that the sport has ignored the effects of concussions suffered by its players. Similarly, one of racing’s biggest problems over the past decade has been the perception that the sport’s equine participants are mistreated both during and after their racing careers, through the overuse of medication and a lack of funding for retirement care.

Fittingly then, this year’s Round Table lineup also includes several welfare-related speakers. Denis Egan, the chief executive of the Irish Turf Club, will talk about “jockey safety and welfare initiatives,” according to The Jockey Club release; Matt Iuliano will provide an overview of the July 8-9 Welfare and Safety of the Racehorse Summit; and Dr. Dionne Benson, the executive director of the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium, will “discuss new ways that data is now being used to enhance horse safety.”

Benson and Laura Barillaro, the executive vice president of The Jockey Club, who will report on the activities of The Jockey Club over the past year, are the first women to appear at the Round Table since 2009. Going back to 1990, only three women have given presentations at Round Table conferences, and the 2014 edition is believed to be the first to feature two women on a single program.

This year’s Round Table also will feature a presentation from Brad Kimbrell, the president of InCompass Solutions, a Jockey Club subsidiary, on horse inventory and racing trends at North American racetracks. Kimbrell’s talk is expected to focus on the expectation that the horse population will shrink by approximately 25 percent from the beginning of 2014 to the end of 2015, due to significant recent contractions in the foal crop, and the need for racetracks to pare their schedules to maintain field sizes that are attractive to bettors.