Re: Steffi Graf Admiration Thread Vol 2
So in one corner we have the American Heart Association, the American Lung Association, the American Cancer Society, the International Tennis Federation, and the Graf camp. In the other corner, we have Virginia Slims Cigarettes, Phillip Morris, Inc., the WTA, and the King, Evert, and Navratilova camps. At stake: an extra few million dollars from the cigarette company. BJK actually spun this as a freedom of choice/speech thing!
STRANGE BEDFELLOWS - Sponsorship of sports events by tobacco and alcohol firms is drawing more and more fire
The Orange County Register
Tuesday, August 16, 1988
It is a habit many are trying to kick, this mixture of alcohol, tobacco and sports. But like any addiction, the quitting isn't easy, especially when profits are at stake.
For nearly two decades, alcohol and tobacco products have adorned the names of sporting events.
Take the $127,300 Ironman Triathlon, brought to you by Bud Light.
Or the women's tennis tour, sponsored by Virginia Slims for $16.7 million.
The $72,000 International Cycling Classic has Coors along for the ride, and NASCAR racing has the R.J. Reynolds tobacco company at the controls of the Winston 500. The list is long.
To sponsor an event, a company gives money to a promoter or organizer, often for the prize fund. In exchange, the company gets to link its name with the sport. For example, Marlboro's logo will adorn the hull of the Stars and Stripes catamaran that will be used in the America's Cup sailing race, and Miller beer labels are on Bobby Allison's Buick.
Some companies will buy "title sponsorship," which lets them name the event after themselves. Those are events such as the Budweiser 500, Jose Cuervo Beach Volleyball Championships and the Camel GT motor-racing series.
But there's trouble brewing for these sponsors. Sporting events and promoters are feeling increased pressure from coalitions concerned about the effects of tobacco and alcohol to drop those sponsorships. And the coalitions want sports to go cold turkey.
In London last June, the Coalition on Smoking Or Health, a Washington DC-based organization, bombarded members of the Women's International Tennis Association with pleas to change sponsors. The Women's International Professional Tennis Council, WITA and representatives of Phillip Morris met at Wimbledon to discuss the expansion of its worldwide sponsorship.
Virginia Slims, a subsidiary of Phillip Morris Inc., has sponsored women's tennis for 13 of the past 18 years and last year pumped $16.7 million into the tour. The company is responsible for a large chunk of the $300,000 being offered as prize money in last week's Virginia Slims of Los Angeles.
The coalition, which involves three large health organizations -- the American Heart Association, the American Lung Association and the American Cancer Society -- and Advantage International, an association of athletes' agents, had helped persuade Procter & Gamble to bid for the sponsorship, according to coalition spokesman Cliff Douglas.
But Procter & Gamble withdrew its offer. The WIPTC and Phillip Morris are proceeding with exclusive negotiations.
"They (Proctor & Gamble) claimed they didn't want to break up the strong bond between Virginia Slims and the tour," Douglas said. "We received the strongest opposition from the older players, like Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova. They've been with the tour longer and wanted to keep it."
Douglas said some of the younger players were more receptive to the idea of a new sponsor.
"The younger ones feel it's wrong that the tour is promoting a lethal product," he said. "Cigarette smoking doesn't have a place in an athletic world."
Billie Jean King, who was instrumental in bringing women's tennis and Phillip Morris together in 1970, said censorship is dangerous.
"The freedom of choice is really important," King said. "When you start censoring, where do you start and when do you stop?
"Do you think if you take away cigarette sponsorships people are going to stop smoking? Baloney."
According to the Coalition on Smoking Or Health, 320,000 people in the United States die each year from diseases related to cigarette smoking. The organization also estimates there are 50 million smokers worldwide.
Officials from the WIPTC and Phillip Morris were reluctant to discuss the issue because of the sensitive nature of the negotiations. But Jane Brown, manager of the WIPTC, said the anti-smoking wave that has hit the country will play a factor in the meetings.
Ellen Merlo, vice president of marketing for Virginia Slims, led the recent negotiations in London. She said she is hopeful of a major announcement at the US Open.
But the Coalition on Smoking Or Health's fight didn't go up in smoke. According to Douglas, Phillip Morris agreed to drop the Slims name from tournaments in Europe. Tournaments overseas now will bear the name of a product made by General Foods, a subsidiary of Phillips Morris.
Congressman Mike Synar (D-Okla.) first introduced legislation in 1986 seeking a similar ban of advertising and promotion of cigarettes in this country. According to a spokesman in Synar's office, the bill has been gaining support each year, and his staff expects it to pass sometime in the next two years.
"It's incredibly tough trying to put health up against a multibillion-dollar industry," said Dr. Rick Richards, president of Doctors Ought to Care, a physicians' organization that helps promoters find alternative sponsors.
"Health can be pretty boring when you have the opportunity to line your pocket with millions of dollars," he said.
According to Richards, DOC has been monitoring the sports scene for the past 11 years, and it helped campaign against the WITA's association with Virginia Slims. He said his organization has been involved with many groups that have protested at Slims events.
"I think the 15-, 16-, 17-year-old competitors are seeing a cigarette company as a source of major embarrassment," Richards said. "I also think that other ethical corporations are not going to want to work with legal drug pushers."
Matt Walker, director of sports marketing and sponsorships for R.J. Reynolds, said his company is aware of the anti-smoking forces, but doesn't anticipate the tobacco company leaving the sports world soon.
R.J. Reynolds has been involved in sports promotions since 1971 and sponsors 1,600 sports events, ranging from auto racing to golf to Hobie Cat sailing. Although Walker wouldn't release R.J. Reynolds' budget for sports promotions and advertising, he did say the tobacco company spends $10 million to $12 million on its Camel GT Points Series.
"We, of course, are hoping the Synar bill doesn't pass," Walker said. "It's a matter of freedom of speech, and if it passes it would have serious constitutional limitations and flaws.
"Whatever the case, whether the bill passes in whole or in part, we plan to continue our involvement with sports programs."
Walker defended the tobacco industry, saying, "The cigarette industry is a mature industry, meaning it's a no-growth industry as far as the number of new consumers. Companies compete for that group of existing smokers, not new smokers. Advertisements are designed to enhance brand loyalty and to get them to try our products. That's what we as sponsors try to do in TV spots and in sports promotions."
When it comes to advertising, Anheuser-Busch is the king of beers. Russ Bell of Fleishman and Hilliard, which handles public relations for Anheuser-Busch, said the company spends two-thirds of its $344 million advertising budget in sports-related areas, including television commercials.
According to figures reported in a Sports Illustrated article last week, Old Style, Colt 45 and Carling beers put up $6 million to sponsor the Chicago marathon, and Labatt's, the major sponsor of the 1988 Olympic Games, came close to spending $25 million on the Games.
Yet to many doctors and others, alcohol and sports don't mix well. They say it's a paradox that alcohol should be associated with athletic performance. There are an estimated 13 million alcoholics in the United States.
Patricia Taylor, head of the Alcohol Advertising Coalition division of the Center for Science in the Public Interest research institute, works to increase public awareness of the dangers of alcohol. She said her office, located in Washington, DC, has been working with Major League Baseball to develop a stronger opposition to alcohol sales and sponsorships in the form of commercials.
"They have been very responsible about taking positions in alcoholic sales," Taylor said. "They've encouraged cutting off sales, stopping them after seven innings, putting in `family' sections (where beer is not sold) in ballparks, and showing a concern about alcohol-related problems among team players.
"Now we want them to take it one step further and get away from the promotional tie-ins, such as the All-Star Game's association with Anheuser-Busch."
It's doubtful that Taylor's or any organization can separate beer and baseball. After all, the St. Louis Cardinals are owned by the August Busch family, and there is a team called the Milwaukee Brewers.
But baseball isn't the only sport with ties to alcohol. Bob Whitsitt, president of the NBA's Seattle SuperSonics, was quoted in Sports Illustrated as saying, "We could seriously be hurt without beer companies as sponsors. It's a sensitive issue because you need the money, but you don't want to be seen as promoting the idea that people come to our games, get drunk and drive home."
Alcohol-related accidents killed 23,990 people in 1986, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. In the past five years in the United States, more than 500 drunken-driving laws have been enacted or strengthened.
Richards of Doctors Ought to Care, noting that 50 percent to 60 percent of driving-related deaths are caused by drunken drivers, said, "It's stupid that in (automobile racing) ... you have alcohol sponsors."