Oh, How Appropriate

Advertising and sports have gone hand-in-hand for many many years. In fact, because of the importance of the almighty dollar, professional sports may not exist today if it weren't for corporate sponsorship. Oh, sure, a few die-hard folks would try to keep various sports alive. Those would be the one's that play the game, or run the race simply because they enjoy it. But face it. Even drivers and other athletes have bills to pay. So without sponsorship, and the money that comes from them, the sports would definitely be a lot smaller in scale.

But along with sponsorship comes the question of "appropriateness". Well, that may not be an actual word, but it's certainly an idea that gets thrown around. It especially gets thrown around when the activity involved is watched by families with children, and the sponsor is not intended for use by those youngsters. NASCAR took a few hard knocks in the past simply because their top series was sponsored by a tobacco company.

There have been times in the past when tobacco companies, and hard liquor manufacturers couldn't even advertise on television. Those days are gone, but there are still some people and special interest groups that keep a wary eye on product advertisement.

NASCAR may have removed some of its stigma from those groups when Winston was replaced as the series sponsor by Nextel. But a lot of that focus on sponsors then shifted to the cars whose primary sponsors are hard liquor companies. Jack Daniels, Crown Royal, Jim Beam. Is having those names and logos splashed across the sides and hoods of the cars "appropriate" for a sport that is becoming more and more of a family event?

This week, NASCAR will again be a focus of some of those over-zealous special interest groups, when Crown Royal takes the step forward from car sponsorship to race sponsorship. Having the liquor's logo on one car would be "bad enough" in the eyes of some of these "sponsor-police". But now it will be prominently displayed in the infield, around the track, and most likely, shown repeatedly during commercial breaks. With that being the case, will it stir up any trouble for NASCAR?

I for one, certainly hope these over-achieving special interest groups can take it for what it is: a corporation sponsoring a sporting event. There's no intent to try and sell liquor to the youngsters in the viewing audience. (That would be illegal, anyway!) There's no attempt to destroy America's youth with the temptations of alcohol. No one is trying to say that drinking hard liquor and driving fast go hand-in-hand. It's simply a business deal based on advertising.

And besides, if you want to look at the "appropriateness" of a liquor company sponsoring a race, just look at the history of the sport. Auto racing was started by the drivers who used to run moonshine during prohibition. That sounds like a pretty big endorsement for liquor ads in NASCAR to me.

Published on May 6, 2006 in