Kentucky Derby: A Great Incentive Trip?

Posted by Brian Learst, C.E.O. on Fri, Jun 28, 2013 @ 15:27 PM

The Kentucky Derby
is clearly one of the top 5 sporting events in America and is clearly the biggest horse race in the world. 

On the first Saturday in May 2014, Churchill Downs will hold the 140th running of the Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby. Although everyone at the event wants to get lucky and pick the winning horse, no event has a run of 140 years based solely on luck. It has endured and risen over 140 years to the best event in horse racing because it is a great event that people from all walks of life enjoy attending.

The Derby is not only a great event – it is also a great incentive event! Why, you ask? I believe it meets all of the criteria that most incentive planners have for selecting an incentive reward for their top customers or employees.

Top 7 Reasons Why the Kentucky Derby is a Great Incentive Trip

1. Is it motivational? Will it motivate all of the intended audience?

The Derby is a “bucket list” event for almost everyone. It is in the same class as the Super Bowl, The Masters, The Olympics, The World Cup and Formula One.

The Derby, however, appeals to women and men equally while many of the other great events still tend to appeal more to men than women. I have been to the Derby for 7-8 years and every year it is 50-51% women in attendance.

2. Will the incentive travel program promote stronger relationships between the top performers and the company?

I am a very experienced event and incentive travel expert with about 25 years under my belt. I can unequivocally state that the Derby is the most social event I have ever attended.

All you need to do is some simple math to determine why. The Kentucky Oaks (Friday) and Kentucky Derby (Saturday) race days start at 10:30 am and go through 7:30 pm both days. This is 18 hours of time spent at the event. There are about 12 races each day and they are all 2 minutes or less in duration for a total of 48 minutes of racing time. This leaves your top performers 17 hours and 12 minutes of time at the best cocktail party in the world to get to know one another.

This brings back to memory the second year I attended the Oaks and Derby with a client of mine who was a senior executive of a major bank and his wife. After the Derby was over his wife whispered in my ear and said “Thank You!” I asked why she was thanking me. She replied that she had talked to her husband more in the 2 days of the Derby weekend than she had in the last 10 years.

3. Can I theme the incentive program and communicate it easily to the incentive participants?

What could be better than the greatest race in the world as a theme?

It is called the “Run for the Roses!”

The Derby also has a Road to the Derby that can be used as milestones for the incentive program throughout the year. The road is comprised of key races that lead up to the Kentucky Derby. These races provide key communication points to keep the program top of mind.

In addition, your organization will benefit from the millions of dollars of TV coverage of the event and advertising leading up to the event.

Get More Info on Kentucky Derby Packages

4. Can the program be tiered as needed?

Churchill Downs has created a program called Derby Experiences ( or 1-866-384-7088) in partnership with QuintEvents. The program has thousands of seats, hospitality, accommodations, etc., and it is already tiered for you based on the quality of the seats, hospitality, and hotels.

The Derby Experiences program also has large blocks of seats together so your group can sit together and have access to one of the five different exclusive hospitality counters throughout Churchill Downs.

They also pre-purchase millions of dollars of hotel rooms throughout Louisville enabling your group to stay in the same property.

5. Is there anything also else to do in the area that can be added to the program?

Louisville has some truly great things to do. Horse farm tours, Bourbon distillery tours, wineries, fine dining, Valhalla Golf Club, the Louisville Slugger Museum, and Muhammad Ali Center are just some of the options that make the area a fantastic destination.

6. Is there are a “corporate responsibility” or charity component that can be a part of the program?

Kentucky Oaks Day, which is the day that the fillies run, is Cancer Awareness day at the event. In fact, 140 breast cancer survivors will be selected to walk the track on Oaks day and everyone wears pink. It is an amazing spectacle to see 165,000 people and the entire track clothed in pink!

In addition, two of the big parties…Taste of the Derby and Barnstable Brown benefit wiping out hunger and diabetes research each year.

7. Can we provide a better experience at the Derby than the average ticket buyer will experience?

This again is where the Derby Experience program excels! Churchill Downs via the partnership with QuintEvents allows you to buy the tickets and hospitality direct from Churchill Downs so you don’t have to get the tickets in the risky secondary market.

In addition paddock tours (the area the horses are saddled pre-race), backstretch tours (the stable areas), celebrity jockey meet and greets, trainer meet and greets, Winner’s Party tickets and many other unique experiences can be included exclusively through this program.

Every year 155,000-165,000 people attend The Kentucky Derby. Don’t you think it is time that your best customers and top performing employees get the opportunity to take this event off their “Bucket List” and put it on their “Memory List?” I am certain they will be forever grateful!

Reward Employees with The Derby

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Kristen Doolan

Kristen Doolan was born and raised a Florida State Seminole. Making her way from Florida to North Carolina, Kristen achieved her B.S. in Business Administration, Marketing at The University of North Carolina Wilmington. She is an avid traveler, college football addict, beach bum and loves spending time with her family and friends. 


Jazzy Morgan

Jazzy Morgan is originally from London, England and a die-hard Manchester United Fan. She grew up in Connecticut and made the move down south in 2011 where she attended Winthrop University and received her B.S. in Family & Consumer Sciences and a minor in Marketing. Jazzy enjoys traveling, working out, reading her monthly Vogue & Cosmo and keeping up with fashion trends.


Evan Chronis

Evan Chronis was born in Omaha, Nebraska but has made his home in south Charlotte for almost two decades. A Tar Heel born and bred, Evan received his B.A in Media and Journalism from UNC-Chapel Hill. He is an avid Boston sports fan thanks to his family’s New England roots, and a fanboy of Wes Anderson films.