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E-Newsletter Gets Horse Racing Association on Track

Horse racing fans apparently are avid e-mail fans as well.

The National Thoroughbred Racing Association two months ago instituted an e-mail newsletter campaign to boost track visits. It quickly increased its database from 30,000 names to more than 78,000 by getting newsletter subscribers to sign up at individual racetrack Web sites. In June, the organization's efforts began to pay off, resulting in nearly 93,000 subscribers.

The association, based in Lexington, KY, represents 74 racetracks, of which 20 offer the newsletters to local fans.

The newsletters feature local news from participating racetracks, along with NTRA-produced news and information on nationally televised races, consumer promotions, upcoming events, racing statistics and links to horse racing-related Web sites. The newsletter is available in HTML, text and AOL formats, the NTRA said, and includes a viral component that encourages subscribers to forward the e-mail to friends.

The association said that since the first newsletter went out in May, Churchill Downs in Kentucky has increased its database by nearly 14 percent, Belmont Park in New York by 29 percent, Turfway Park in Kentucky by 58 percent and Prairie Meadows in Iowa by 150 percent.

The NTRA worked with e-Dialog, an e-mail marketing services provider, on the campaign. Keith Chamblin, vice president of marketing and industry relations at the NTRA, said e-mail proved better suited to this campaign than direct mail.

“The first set of mailings have had significantly higher response rates in comparison to traditional direct mail, averaging over 15 percent click-through rates and a low unsubscribe rate of less than 1 percent,” he said.

Chamblin also said the NTRA was pleased with response to the campaign and to the growth in its database.

He said that the NTRA is negotiating with additional tracks, which are considering offering newsletters to coincide with the start of their racing seasons. He would not identify the tracks but said the organization hopes to add five to 10 more to its roster shortly.

The recent campaign is not the NTRA's first foray into e-mail. In November 2000 it launched a campaign to combat declining attendance at member tracks. The association earlier in the year ran two test campaigns at Arlington International Race Course in Chicago and at Del Mar in San Diego. The Arlington campaign went to 100,000, culled from two purchased lists and the NTRA's 3,500-person house file. The purchased lists netted the organization a 5.6 percent click-through rate, and its house file saw a 28 percent click-through.

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