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A SETBACK FOR SPONSORS AS TEAM PENSKE FAILS TO QUALIFY
Published May 23, 1995
As former winners Al Unser, Jr. and Emerson Fittipaldi (members of the Roger Penske racing team) failed to qualify for this year's Indianapolis 500, many reports focused on the disappointment of their corporate sponsors. Their defeat was "shocking not only to the sports world, but also the business world that spends more than $5 million a year to sponsor each of the drivers." By losing out on the Indy 500, sponsors miss an event that will draw over 400,000 spectators and watched by 8 million viewers. Eric Wright, VP of the tradeletter, SPONSORS REPORT: "This is their Super Bowl." Penske's main sponsor is Marlboro, a unit of Philip Morris, with Mobil, clothier Hugo Boss and auto glass and paint company, PPG Industries, also on board. The loss could also "cause headaches" for ABC, with the absence of two of the most popular drivers causing a possible ratings decline (James Peltz, L.A. TIMES, 5/23). Goodyear, which sponsors Unser, said they will not feature him in any ads planned for Sunday's broadcast. Carole Swartz, spokesperson for Goodyear's Racing Division: "We usually feature people in the race." Swartz said spots with Unser will run at some other time (Glenn Gamboa, AKRON BEACON JOURNAL, 5/23). Mike Heistand gives a "thumbs down" to the Marlboro Man, "likely wishing he'd stuck to horses" (USA TODAY, 5/23). ON FIRE: After a 20-year absence, Firestone Co. will return to the Indy 500, supplying racing tires to eight cars, according to Raju Narisetti in this morning's WALL STREET JOURNAL. A victory could "help restore Firestone's image" and position the company to win back marketshare from rival Goodyear. Japan's Bridgestone Corp., which owns Firestone, is spending close to $30M on the project, including national TV ads on ESPN and ABC "bragging that 'The Legend Returns.'" But there are risks, since a loss could make Firestone look more "like an also ran." In addition, the effect of an Indy win on consumers is debatable. Meanwhile, Goodyear is ready for Firestone, having directed "more marketing resources" to its racing group last fall (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 5/23). TOO MUCH? In Chicago, auto writer Jim Mateja criticizes the excess sponsorship in racing. Mateja: "There must be a contract that states any driver seen without a logo hat on and who doesn't mention his sponsors ... is banished ... The world's fastest profession isn't all that far removed from the world's oldest" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 5/22).