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How Visit Lex’s Horse-Filmed Commercials Became their Most Successful to Date

Horse walking down open road in Lex, Kentucky

From the grass growing beneath their feet to the flags flying above their head, everything in Lexington, Kentucky is dedicated to its horses.

It all relates back to the limestone shelf that sits under the state of Kentucky, which is credited for giving the grass its blue tinge and for helping its horse population develop strong bones. Located smack dab in the middle of bluegrass country sits a city that’s home to 450 horse farms, a statue of a famous horse that bears the city’s name, as well as about 80% of all history’s Kentucky Derby winners.

Lexington Kentucky, the Horse Capital of the World

Lexington Kentucky is so devoted to its horses that they’ve even put one on its flag, colored blue in a nod to the unique land they graze on.

“The city has totally adopted it,” says Gathan Borden, the Vice President of Marketing for Visit Lex. “We have a total love affair with horses.”

While Lexington is also home to a burgeoning craft beer and foodie culture, as well as just a short drive from just about every bourbon distillery in America, the “Horse Capital of the World” naturally tries to find ways to promote its own unique X factor.

Sharing the city’s love for its horses with outsiders — who may only have a casual relationship with horse racing — has always been a challenge, but Borden and his team recently devised a way to put audiences right in the saddle, and the result has been a clear winner.

“One of the trends that we’re trying to follow along with in tourism marketing across the board is how to get more personal with the end user of the video.”

He continued, “For us, right now, we’re into this content game where we’re using locals and influencers to tell the story of Lexington from a first-person point of view.”

This past February, however, Borden and his team decided to look to its city’s most famous influencers.

Turning the cameras over to Lexington’s thoroughbred horses

“We wanted people to know that horse farms are actually fun. Horses are really fun animals, so wouldn’t it be cool to see what a horse sees on its daily journey?” he said. “We thought it was a unique perspective you couldn’t get anywhere else in the world.”

After coming up with the concept Borden and his agency partners, Cornett, strapped GoPros to the horses at a local farm using harnesses originally designed for dogs, though he says they fit the horses surprisingly well. What resulted is a series of videos, published to their Facebook page in June, filmed entirely by horses.

The videos include some regular horse activities, like grazing and running through an open field, but one of the series’ four videos stands out to Borden the most. In it a young horse is seen jumping and running in circles around a horse-pen.  

“That foal is actually being filmed by its mother. It might be a stretch, but travel is all about creating memories, and when families come they’re always filming their kids enjoying the destination, so having a mother horse film their offspring is pretty exciting for us.”

After publishing the videos to YouTube as well as Facebook, and promoting them with a modest social media campaign, they soon became one of Visit Lex’s most successful and least expensive projects to date.

Creating a big impact out of a smart spend

Borden says filming and editing totaled less than $9,000, plus an additional $5,000 spent promoting it through Facebook. When the first video was published it received over 167,000 views alone, with the entire campaign totaling more than 280,000 to date. As a point of comparison, Borden says a previous campaign of four videos cost over $32,000, and wasn’t nearly as successful.

The campaign also attracted the attention of local newspapers, including the Lexington Herald Leader, equestrian publications like and advertising industry publications like AdWeek.

“To me that shows that money is the last thing you should worry about. As long as you’ve got a good idea, that’s all you should worry about.”

Visit Lex’s next equestrian marketing ventures

Borden is hoping to follow up the latest campaign with something similarly simple and direct, again putting the viewer in the subject’s horseshoes, but hasn’t yet settled on exactly what that will look like.

“Maybe we film them in the fall and the winter time, the same horses, like we’re creating a trilogy of movies,” said Borden. The team has also considered 3D video, though the cameras are more difficult to stabilize on horseback than the GoPros.

Whatever which way Visit Lex decides to follow up their latest campaign, expect it to put the viewer in an immersive environment, riding along with the city’s most beloved residents.

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