Branch Rickey had a Hall of Fame career as an innovator in the sport of baseball, but will probably known best for his work bringing Jackie Robinson to the Major Leagues and forever changing the racial makeup of the game. A voracious reader and deep thinker, Rickey also left the business world of sport with a wide ranging blueprint for success, not just on the field and in the boardroom, but in life itself, and his credos for success are legendary. One of the best is: “Luck is the residue of design.”
While it is true that maybe in sports more than any other area, a little luck can either help or hurt the best laid plans, being ready for that shining moment takes all the right planning and foresight to bring success forward. A great example of luck, timing and shrewd positioning is playing out now in the ever lucky world of thoroughbred racing, where some very entrepreneurial investors are looking to ride the arm and the cult-like success of one of the fall’s biggest stories…Tim Tebow…to a sports business success of their own.
The company is Little Red Feather Racing, and they are trying to apply what they call “Moneyball” economics to the high stakes game of horse sales by combining traditional breeding skills with a higher level of marketing and enterprising thought to help drive interest in dollars on one of their prime recent purchases. The horse in question comes from prime stock… Fusiachi Pegasaus and Eyes Aglow…and she was well regarded with lots of potential when she was sold recently at the Keeneland Sales. However what has set apart interest in the unproven filly? Maybe some breeding, maybe some planning in her training, but the key interest has been in her name…Tebowing.
LRF had the foresight not just to see the tizzy being created around the popular, underdog Denver Broncos QB, but to put their quick thought and assets to work. The marketing in their syndication sale was not just to those with a passion for racing, but to a larger audience who would like to take a small chance on a horse that could have great popular culture appeal before she even steps on the track to race. The syndication price and the unique buzz generated have resulted in almost unprecedented interest in an unproven filly by a group that is not among the most well known syndicators in the sport. However what they have done is seize the opportunity in popular culture and social media to created an opportunity for a casual sport fan who may aspire to be involved in something larger, and other than owning part of a professional sports team there is little else that could be more aspirational than standing in the winner’s circle with a thoroughbred.
Of course it is still an elite sales proposition with a great amount of uncertainty, and to date only half of the horse has been sold (start the jokes about whether it is the front or the back half that people have purchased). However what Tebowing…the horse…has done is to bring more attention to the sport by the casual fan at a time of year when racing is not top of mind, and that little pop is certainly a win, regardless of how the filly ends up doing in her career. A little luck and some great design would make Mr. Rickey proud of Little Red Feather Racing.