Ten Questions with Mark Beal, Horse Owner and 'Decoding Gen Z' Author

The Life
Beal and his wife, Michele, in the Saratoga paddock before Grandma Gertie's race. (Courtesy Mark Beal)

Mark Beal is a public relations professional, adjunct college professor, and author who also owns racehorses. In addition to being a managing partner of Taylor, a sports PR firm, he has written books utilizing his experiences as a professor including his latest, “Decoding Gen Z: 101 Lessons Generation Z Will Teach Corporate America, Marketers & Media.”

Get his insights on Generation Z, horse racing, and racehorse ownership in the 10 questions below.

1. How long have you been a Thoroughbred owner?

We got to know Bob Hutt after Uptowncharlybrown raced in the Belmont Stakes in 2010 and then became partners in Fantasy Lane Stables, now Uptowncharlybrown Stud LLC.

Beal and his grandson at Monmouth Park.
Beal and his grandson at Monmouth Park. (Courtesy Mark Beal)

2. What’s your greatest achievement as a Thoroughbred owner?

Uptowncharlybrown Stud has had many winners, but this year brought some magical moments – Dixie Serenade winning the Grade III $150,000 Victory Ride Stakes at Belmont in July as a 47-1 longshot. It was also great this summer to rub elbows in the paddock at Saratoga and watch Grandma Gertie in the Grade 2 Adirondack and most recently, watch Dixie Serenade in the $1 million Grade 1 Cotillion Stakes on the same day as the Pennsylvania Derby. It is moments like these why you become a partner in a great group like Uptowncharlybrown Stud.

3. What makes owning racehorses special?

There are very few professional sports where you can go from being an avid fan and a spectator to being an owner or a partner in a partnership so to be on the inside of the paddock as your horse is preparing to take to the track and standing alongside trainers like Todd Pletcher and Chad Brown or owners such as Mike Repole, that is special … and then to stand in the winner’s circle, there is no better feeling in sports.

4. How did you decide to write this new book?

I teach marketing and public relations at Rutgers University and Montclair State University and so I collaborate every day with students who comprise Generation Z. Gen Z includes anyone born between 1995 and 2010 so I spend a lot of time with Gen Zers who are the oldest member of this cohort. They teach me every day about the social media preferences, their media consumption habits, how they want to be marketed to and what they are looking for in internships and their future careers. Since the oldest members of Gen Z graduated this past May, I thought now was the perfect time to write “Decoding Gen Z: 101 Lessons Generation Z Will Teach Corporate America, Marketers & Media” and prepare them for the arrival of a generation like no other.

5. What were you most surprised to learn from Gen Z? 

As I write in the book, Gen Z reinforced that they are digital natives, tech-smart, entrepreneurial-spirited, community-minded, socially conscious, and purpose-driven, and they prioritize speed, immediacy, and efficiency. If you combine all those characteristics, you have a generation that will challenge the status quo, change the rules when it comes to the workplace, go against everything media and marketers have done with it comes to advertising and brand marketing. As I write in the last lesson of the book, they will change the world over the next 10-20 years. 

6. There’s a chapter on Gen Z taking to Horse Racing. Very cool. Can you elaborate how this became a chapter in your book?

Lesson 59 is titled, “Horse Racing Is Happening.” I heard from more than one Gen Zer about the appeal of horse racing. Gen Z craves Instagrammable experiences and horse racing delivers that. Saratoga, Del Mar, Keeneland, and may other tracks offer exactly what Gen Z is craving – a unique venue to socialize with friends, a picture-perfect backdrop to photograph and share with their social media followers and an experience that is not something they come across every day in their work or school life. A student from Rutgers University commented, “Horse racing is one of those unique experiences where you can gather with a large group of friends, and get dressed up and socialize in a highly Instagrammable setting.” That is a powerful testimonial for horse racing and its future with this generation. 

7. Do you now speak Gen Z?

As I conducted my interviews with Gen Zers, they were using terminology that I just didn’t know what they were saying so I decided to develop an extensive Gen Z Glossary in the book. Their Gen Z language includes such terms as “spill the tea,” “drop a pin,” “peep my tweet,” “salty,” “snap strike,” “thirsty,” “trill,” and so many others that I have become fluent in Gen Z and I do get a laugh out of my students when I drop a Gen Z term into a conversation. 

8. What can horse racing do to better connect and engage with Gen Z? 

First, similar to what I just did, I would go out and listen to Gen Zers. I would survey Gen Zers nationwide on what the sport could do that would engage them even more. Secondly, I would create an army of Gen Z social media influencers who already claim to love horse racing and its Instagrammable setting and formally bring them on board to attend more tracks and more races and share their content and their experience with their Gen Z peers. I would have at least one designated Gen Zer be the social media influencer for every track and offer them access and experiences at least once a week that they would share via Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube. If horse racing did just those two things, there would be some powerful horse racing storytelling being distributed and shared by Gen Z nation. 

9. Where can people find and buy your book?

“Decoding Gen Z: 101 Lessons Generation Z Will Teach Corporate America, Marketers & Media” is available exclusively on Amazon in paperback and a Kindle version. 

10. Who will win the 2018 Breeders’ Cup Classic? 

This is the most difficult question of the interview. With Justify retired, there are a number of contenders. Accelerate, with the dominant win by more than 12 lengths at the Pacific Classic, is the horse to beat. I just saw McKinzie win the Pennsylvania Derby at Parx looking strong after coming back from the ankle injury. However, my wife played Catholic Boy big at the Travers Stakes at Saratoga while we were actually sitting in Del Mar so I will stick Catholic Boy and see if the horse can overcome a long layoff to win the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

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