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NASCAR With Ponies

Polo hits ESPN.

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Can polo, that sport of aristocrats, become as popular as Billfishing Xtreme Release League is on ESPN2? Sports-branding vet David McLane is counting on it. He’s put roller hockey on TV already, and now he wants to create “the NASCAR of polo.” Rather than attempting to televise the big-time tournaments sanctioned by the U.S. Polo Association, he found it logistically easier to create a new series—the Triple Crown. Hosted by second-tier polo clubs in Santa Barbara, Sarasota, and Dallas (not Palm Beach, Bridgehampton, or Greenwich), it won’t have the best players, for the most part. “I recognized the sport needs a brand” to attract sponsors, McLane says (Tiffany & Co. has already signed on). An untelevised trial run last year showed that it was important to keep things moving by interspersing match highlights with footage of the “wonderful world surrounding polo,” (golf outings, tailgate parties, clambakes). Leighton Jordan, director of the Bridgehampton Polo Club, is pleased about the sport’s getting publicity, but notes, “It’s good polo, but you’re not going to have the superstars.” As for ESPN, a spokesperson notes that “polo traditionally attracts affluent sports fans—and that would be of interest to the ad-sales department.”


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