09/22/2003 12:00AM

NTRA unveils new TV ads

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The horse racing industry's 2004 television ad campaign was unveiled Monday at the NTRA Annual Meeting & Marketing Summit at The Mirage in Las Vegas.

The three new spots are heavy on music and fast-edited video footage of racing and of fans having fun at the track. The first spot, set to a country-rock song and called "Runaway," includes the words, "Escape the daily grind. Escape the ordinary. Escape your inhibitions." The second spot, set to Steppenwolf's "Magic Carpet Ride," says, "Some share a favorite song. Some share a favorite movie. Some just share a favorite." The third spot, featuring the Pointer Sisters' "Jump," is still in production.

The three ads will be shown nationally with branding from the NTRA, and individual member tracks will have the option of reformatting them for local TV or in-house telecasts.

Keith Chamblin, NTRA senior vice president of marketing and industry relations, said the move from celebrity-driven advertising (featuring such actors as Rip Torn and Lori Petty) to music-based was intentional.

"We were trying to find the right vehicle to cut across all the demographics we're trying to reach," Chamblin said. "We did focus groups and found that the best way to achieve that was through the medium of music."

The NTRA's fifth annual meeting was being held Monday and Tuesday at The Mirage for the second straight year, along with the Marketing Summit, which gathered public relations and marketing team members from 80 racing organizations to discuss ideas for marketing the sport to the general public while also serving the needs of core fans.

NTRA commissioner Tim Smith opened the two-day event by saying that horse racing is not a sport on the decline, pointing to increases in handle, purses, mainstream media coverage, TV ratings, and attendance on big days as proof. Smith also said the movie "Seabiscuit" and the popularity of Funny Cide benefited racing. He cited an increase of 2.9 percent in national handle in July over last July, and a 5.5 percent spike in handle in August, just after "Seabiscuit" was released.