A SETBACK FOR SPONSORS AS TEAM PENSKE FAILS TO QUALIFY
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
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).