A new advertisement that includes a sculpture of the blue horse on top of a busy “L” stop in Chicago was unveiled last week. In addition to the eye-catching blue horse, the ads in the Chicago subway system also tout Lexington’s horse country, bourbon, craft beer and restaurant scene.

The art installation/ad, which appears at both the entrance and exit of the Dearborn and Jackson stop of the Chicago Transit Authority subway line, has already popped up on Facebook and other social media sites. Chicago’s subway system is nicknamed the “L.”

It’s part of a much-larger marketing push to get more Chicagoans to come to Lexington and the Bluegrass, said Gathan Borden, the vice president of marketing for VisitLex, the area’s tourism group.

“We are always trying to look for ways to break through the clutter,” said Borden of the glut of advertisements that bombard people. “This was a way to get people’s attention. With a billboard, you only get seven words. That limits the story you want to tell. A lot of people that ride subways and trains, they are repeat customers. They work in the area. The installation is up for a month, they will see it more than 20 times.”

That’s a lot of time to read.

As riders go down into the subway, there are floor to ceiling advertisements about Lexington at both the entrance and the exit, Borden said.

VisitLex knows from research that people begin planning trips about 30 to 60 days prior to travel. April is a good time to start advertising for summer trips.

Why Chicago?

From internet searches and other research, VisitLex knows people visiting Lexington are coming from three major metropolitan areas: Chicago, Philadelphia and Washington D.C.

“Chicago is only an hour-flight or a four-hour drive away,” Borden said. “Chicago is also one of the top bourbon markets.”

Moreover, many alcohol, restaurant and hospitality professionals from Chicago have moved to Kentucky to work in Lexington and Louisville’s booming bar and restaurant markets, Borden said. “There’s some really good synergy.”

VisitLex is hosting an event with Garden and Gun magazine later this month in Chicago in addition to other marketing events, Borden said. The installation on the “L” will be up for a month, Borden said.

The non-traditional advertising costs about $170,000. VisitLex’s budget comes from a portion of a tax on Fayette County hotel rooms. That’s about the same price or cheaper than running a print advertisement in a major travel magazine for three months, he said. They hope Lexington’s blue horse is harder to ignore.

“Unlike a print ad, people can’t just turn the page and move on,” Borden said.