by Arthur T. Dean
November 22, 2004
After making a responsible decision to end its relationship with tobacco sponsors last year, NASCAR is now making a cynical decision to pursue profit by replacing one dangerous substance with another.
In promoting this policy change, NASCAR President Mike Helton has emphasized the "long record of responsible advertising" by liquor companies, but there is already evidence that NASCAR itself is being irresponsible with its marketing efforts. The most flagrant example of this irresponsibility is the availability of toy cars with liquor logos on NASCAR.com.
Over the past week, representatives from NASCAR and Diageo (sponsor of a Roush Racing vehicle and the producer of Crown Royal whiskey) have repeatedly made assurances that they will be responsible and limit the marketing of liquor products to adults. Yet one of the first things they have done is to produce a child's toy covered with advertising for Crown Royal whiskey.
Clearly, there is no way that NASCAR can guarantee that young people will not be exposed to liquor marketing -- primarily because young people will see the sponsored car speeding around the track two or three hundred times a race. And then they can play with a toy that features the same liquor logo as the car they rooted for in the last race.
NASCAR is now the most popular live spectator sport in America. And it is the second most-watched televised sport. In recent years, NASCAR has aggressively marketed the sport to young people. There is now an estimated youth audience of at least 3 million. According to the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth (CAMY), liquor advertising on cable television has "exploded" by 148 percent. CAMY estimates that more than 20 percent of these advertisements are more likely to be seen by youth than adults and CAMY asserts that this targeting of youth is directly correlated to high rates of underage drinking.
I lead Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA). We are not a prohibitionist organization. The responsible use and marketing of alcohol has its place in American society. What NASCAR is doing is not responsible.
According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving, more than 17,000 people die, and a half million are injured, every year because of drunken driving. In addition to this death and destruction, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reports that at least 1 million young people between the ages of 12 and 17 drink alcohol on a weekly basis.
If NASCAR is truly concerned about responsibility, they will reverse their decision to allow liquor sponsorships, and do more to prevent drunk driving and underage drinking. CADCA, and the 5,000 coalitions we represent, will not rest until this decision is changed.
Arthur T. Dean
Note: Arthur T. Dean, Major
General, U.S. Army, Retired, it the Chairman and CEO of Community
Anti-Drug Coalitions of America.
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