NASCAR to approve hard liquor sponsorship

UPDATE #2 After conducting an extended review of its sponsorship policies and researching trends in consumer attitudes, NASCAR announced that distilled spirits products are now a new category for sponsorship in the sport beginning in the 2005 season. "We felt the time was right to allow distilled spirits companies into NASCAR," said Mike Helton, President of NASCAR. "Attitudes have changed, and spirits companies have a long record of responsible advertising. Any spirits company involved in NASCAR will have marketing campaigns strongly grounded in responsibility and will follow advertising and marketing guidelines set by NASCAR that are consistent with the Distilled Spirits Council's advertising code. Spirits companies are recognized as leaders in responsibility and are encouraging adults who choose to drink, to do so responsibly. We are confident that the spirits companies entering our sport will come to apply that same level of responsibility to their involvement in NASCAR, and will communicate the same responsible marketing and messages that beer companies have exhibited in the sport for the past 25 years," Helton said. "Additionally, this will provide numerous new sponsorship opportunities to our teams. While the NASCAR industry will benefit across the board, teams will be the primary beneficiaries of this decision in a way that promotes a responsible drinking message consistent with the practices in other motorsports." NASCAR's internal review included outreach to advocacy groups such as the National Commission Against Drunk Driving and other experts in the field of alcohol-related issues. Additionally, NASCAR reached out to industry groups such as the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS) and The Century Council. NASCAR based its guidelines on the input received from these groups. The distilled spirits companies participating in NASCAR must agree to comply with the Distilled Spirits Council's "Code of Responsible Practices for Beverage Alcohol Advertising and Marketing" and abide by the Code Review Board's decisions. Each company's marketing activities will be grounded in a responsible behavior message. A dedicated portion of advertising by spirits companies in NASCAR will be solely focused on encouraging responsible drinking decisions, with all remaining advertising including a responsible behavior tag. NASCAR PR 10/16/04 This rumor is about to be upgraded to 'fact.' NASCAR is set to rescind its ban on hard-liquor sponsorships beginning next season, has learned. The move should bring an influx of new sponsorship money into the sport. Several Nextel Cup teams – Roush Racing and Richard Childress Racing among them – are primed to sign sponsorship deals with hard-liquor companies, including Diageo and Jack Daniels, sources said. On Friday, NASCAR officials insisted they had not made a final decision. "We are currently evaluating the policy we have in place regarding liquor sponsors but no official decision has been made at this time in regard to any changes," NASCAR spokesman Mike Zizzo said. NASCAR has allowed beer companies to sponsor cars and its Busch series has been sponsored by Anheuser-Busch since 1982. In recent years NASCAR also has allowed hard liquor companies to advertise their malt beverage products. For instance, Smirnoff vodka is not allowed, but Smirnoff Ice is allowed as an associate sponsor on Matt Kenseth's #17 Ford. Several other racing series already allow hard liquor advertising. Crown Royal began sponsoring the International Race of Champions series this season. NASCAR will likely provide several guidelines overseeing the marketing of the hard liquor sponsorships, but is not expected to alter its 18-year-old minimum age requirement for its three national series – Craftsman Trucks, Busch and Cup, sources said. 09/18/04 With both NBC and Fox having apparently approved hard-liquor sponsorship of a Nextel Cup car, the ball is in NASCAR's court in the debate over whether to allow Diageo, makers of Crown Royal and other alcoholic beverages, to sponsor a car on the Nextel Cup tour next season, and sources say NASCAR has decided to allow the company to sponsor a Cup car. NASCAR vetoed Jack Roush's sponsorship plans earlier this season. For much of the year the debate has been in the network offices of Fox and NBC, where executives have been against allowing TV ads for products like Crown Royal, even while allowing their cable subsidiaries to accept such ads. The Fox Speed channel is carrying the Crown Royal-sponsored IROC series. But ABC's decision to allow Jim Beam sponsorship during the Indianapolis 500 apparently broke the long-time network ban, and Fox and NBC are willing to let Nextel Cup teams carry such sponsorships too – once NASCAR executives work out their own details – according to sources. Winston Salem Journal

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