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MarketInk: San Diego Native’s National Career in Horse Racing Marketing Began at Del Mar

John Hernandez
John Hernandez

Starting at age 8, John Hernandez’s parents would take him every summer to the thoroughbred races at the Del Mar track.

“Mom and dad were big horse racing fans and I got hooked at an early age,” Hernandez told Times of San Diego.

“As a kid, I would bring a big brown shopping bag and collect discarded wager tickets lying on the clubhouse floor. Then, at our home in La Jolla, we would spread-out the tickets on the kitchen table and check the results in the newspaper looking for winners. We never found any, but it was a fun thing to do.”

Today, Hernandez, a resident of Slater, Iowa (his wife’s hometown), is in his fourth decade of working in the horse racing industry in a variety of marketing and promotional roles.

Since 2010, the San Diego native has worked at Prairie Meadows Racetrack in Altoona, Iowa, as TV host for the in-house and simulcast video feeds. He also has worked in marketing, social media, publicity and in promotional videos at the track, which is owned by Polk County.

Prairie Meadows features 84 days of racing from May to October, generally four days a week, with crowds ranging from 2,000 to 10,000 people a day.

During other months of the year, Hernandez has worked as a freelance consultant at various U.S. tracks, including Hialeah Park in Florida, Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, and Churchill Downs in Louisville. He has also worked with the American Quarter Horse Association and has helped in publicity and marketing roles at several quarter horse tracks, including Los Alamitos Race Course in California. He also has hosted radio talk shows on horse racing.

“Growing up in San Diego, I always expected to work in the racing field,” said Hernandez, who worked on two different occasions in marketing and media roles at the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club (1989-2005 and 2000-2008). He also worked at Hollywood Park, Santa Anita, and Del Mar (1981-1984) announcing race result on Los Angeles KNX 1070-AM and other radio stations.

After graduating from San Diego State University in 1977, where he served as sports director for KCR, the college radio station, Hernandez worked as a TV sports anchor at California stations in Bakersfield and Monterey and in Anchorage, Alaska (1984-1988).

“At the station in Alaska, I hired a very ambitious young lady as an intern named Sarah Heath,” said Hernandez. “She later became Sarah Palin, Alaska governor and vice presidential candidate. I saw her about a year ago and we laughed about our life experiences since that time.”

In recent years, while working at Prairie Meadows, Hernandez also has appeared on-camera in TV commercials that have aired primarily in the Midwest. “I’ve acted as a bank customer, a customer in a liquor store, and as fisherman who recovered from a heart attack thanks to an Iowa hospital,” he said.

In the past five years, Hernandez also has added the role of tennis coach and instructor for high schools and tennis clubs in Iowa.

He also has been undergoing immunotherapy treatments for two carcinomas in his lymph glands, which eventually will require removal by surgery.

“I feel great, like I’m 30 years old, even while being on the `you-have-cancer-risk’ list,” said Hernandez, 67. “I have no retirement plans. There’s no reason to stop what I love doing.

“For the most part, I’ve never had to work a day in my life. I’m not rich, but I’ve had a lot of fun. I’ve visited a lot of different places and crossed paths with a variety of fascinating people, which has made my life interesting beyond belief.”

Advertising Generates $7.1 Trillion In U.S. Sales

A stunning $7.1 trillion in sales activity in the U.S. was generated by advertising in 2021, according to a recent study commissioned by The Advertising Coalition and conducted by IHS Markit.

The study found advertising supported 28.5 million U.S. jobs – roughly one in five jobs last year. Also, the total impact of advertising and its multiplier effects represents 18.5 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product.

Bob Liodice, CEO of the Association of National Advertisers, an advertising trade group, said in a statement, “This important study proves what we’ve known all along. The advertising industry is an engine of growth for the American economy and holds an unparalleled role across the country in sparking, sustaining and stimulating economic activity that keeps our communities vital and dynamic.”

The study examined advertising spending in the U.S. and contributions to the economy, such as advertising to stimulate sales, purchases of goods and services throughout the supply chain and then re-spending of wages by employees in the advertising industry.

“Advertising is not a luxury, but an absolute necessity,” said Steve Pacheco, president/CEO, American Advertising Federation, a trade group of local advertising clubs, college chapters and national advertisers. “Businesses large and small, national and local depend on advertising to communicate with consumers, drive sales and growth. The IHS study demonstrates what we have long known, that as businesses succeed and grow, so does the vibrant American economy.” 

The study also said that every dollar of ad spending supports nearly $21 of sales, on average, and advertising helps generate $13.5 million of sales activity per minute. The study also found that for every million dollars spent on advertising, 83 American jobs are supported across a broad range of industries throughout the economy with the average salary for jobs supported by advertising at $73,000, which is 12 percent above the national average.

A previous analysis of the economic impact of advertising by HIS Markit on behalf of TAC was conducted seven years ago in 2014. It showed the ad industry driving $5.1 trillion in consumer sales and supporting 20 million U.S. jobs.

The economic impact of advertising is expected to grow to $9.5 trillion in sales activity by 2026. At that level, advertising would support 31.9 million domestic jobs or 12 percent of U.S. jobs.

Crowe PR’s Latest Client is Dental Tech Firm Sonendo

San Diego-based Crowe Public Relations has announced its new client is Sonendo, a dental technology company.

Crowe PR said its healthcare and technology teams will handle strategic communications, messaging refinement, media relations and thought leadership for Sonendo’s GentleWave system that saves teeth from tooth decay.

GentleWave treats tooth decay by cleaning and disinfecting the microscopic spaces between teeth without the need to remove tooth structure. The system, with more than 800,000 patient procedures, is an effective, less painful alternative to traditional root canal therapy.

“We are thrilled to welcome Sonendo, a true innovator in the dental technology space, to Crowe,” said CEO Anna Crowe. “As the company continues its impressive growth trajectory, we look forward to supporting both the brand and its executives through communications, media relations and thought leadership initiatives.”

“Sonendo is dedicated to saving teeth and stopping the progression of tooth decay. With millions of root canals performed in the U.S. each year, the GentleWave procedure is a much-needed improvement,” said Alma Salazar, associate vice president of consumer and professional marketing at Sonendo.

“As we continue expanding our reach, one of our primary goals is to increase brand recognition amongst endodontists and consumers and drive continued adoption of the GentleWave system. To help us accomplish this, we are thrilled to partner with the Crowe PR team and excited to see what’s in store for the future.”

Sonendo, founded in 2006, went public in October 2021. Crowe PR, with offices in San Diego and New York, specializes in consumer products, hospitality and healthcare technology with a focus on health and wellness, outdoor and sustainable brands.

Jim Buckalew in early TV days.

SDSU Journalism Professor Dr. Jim Buckalew Dead at 88

Beloved university journalism professor Dr. Jim Buckalew, who taught and mentored thousands of journalism students during his career at the University of Iowa (1963-1967) and San Diego State University (1967-1999), passed away on May 24 from Alzheimer’s disease complications. For the past three years, he had lived in Lincoln, Mass. He was 88.

James Kenneth Buckalew, born on Oct. 24, 1933 in Peru, Ind., was a championship debater in high school before joining the U.S. Army in 1954. He graduated in 1958 from Indiana State University with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and worked as a teaching assistant at the University of Hawaii (1958-1960). The topic for his master’s degree thesis in 1961 at Indiana State was about the potential of educational television in Hawaii. His doctoral dissertation in 1967 at the University of Iowa focused on the role of television news anchors as gatekeepers.

While serving as a college professor, Buckalew also worked as a reporter and anchor for TV and radio stations, including WBOW in Terre Haute, Ind., KGU in Honolulu, WSUI in Iowa City and KCBQ in San Diego. He also covered elections and sporting events and reviewed plays for local newspapers. He also was a public-address announcer at SDSU basketball games and co-hosted a TV show on thoroughbred racing on Prime Ticket.

Following SDSU, he continued teaching until age 80 at several colleges in Southern California, including Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut, Citrus College in Glendora and Pasadena City College in Pasadena.

His favorite hobby for most of his adult life was thoroughbred racing. He participated as a fan, handicapper and co-owner of horses named “Reason to Study” and “Study to Pass.” On several occasions, he selected the winning horses on a “Pick Six” wager.

Buckalew is survived by one sister, wife Margaret McLaughlin, two former spouses, five sons, a stepson, a stepdaughter, three grandchildren and three step-grandchildren.

Burial services with military honors will be held in June at the Massachusetts National Cemetery in Bourne, Mass. An online celebration of life also is expected to be scheduled.

Memorial donations can be made to the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication, 234 Outlet Point Blvd., Suite “A,” Columbia, South Carolina, 29210-5667.

I was among the thousands who benefited from Dr. Buckalew’s encouragement, inspiration and job leads. My first journalism job was from his referral. I will forever be grateful for Dr. Buckalew’s direction and guidance that came at pivotal points in my life and eventually pointed to my vocation.

Rick Griffin is a San Diego-based public relations and marketing consultant. His MarketInk column appears weekly on Mondays in Times of San Diego.


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