There are a lot of ways to sell cars. Certainly there are new and exciting ways to advertise, using all the new technology, and then there are the good old tried-and-true methods that have been moving the iron for decades.
And certainly one of the most effective methods of marketing, whether it's cars or some other product, has to be motorsports.
Everyone knows about the popularity of stock car racing. NASCAR has seen the kind of growth only Silicon Valley can match. And CART has a great following in this country and around the world.
The tobacco companies have been among the biggest supporters of motorsports, and it's high time that the automobile industry end that connection.
Sure, a lot of folks will argue that if they are still able to sell tobacco, they should be able to advertise and market it like any other product. Well, tobacco companies haven't been able to use broadcast advertising for a long time, and in a few months they also will be banned from billboards. It is becoming more and more difficult for cigarette companies to use traditional marketing, and that must make motor racing so appealing to them. What a great way to take advantage of broadcasting without violating the letter of the law.
I don't know how much Winston pays NASCAR to name the Winston Cup Series, but Winston puts up a huge purse for the winners. And it's pretty hard to ignore those Marlboro cars that whiz by on your TV set during CART races.
It's simply time to start looking for other sponsors for race cars. The auto industry should have said goodbye to the tobacco business long ago. The two simply don't belong together.
When they were forbidden to advertise on TV, the tobacco people realized that a 200-mph billboard on the side of a race car would be a pretty good substitute for that 60-second TV spot. And if you wonder whether they thought it was a good value, you should see the kind of sponsorship money they've been paying over the years. It's pretty cheap TV advertising.
But it's time for this industry to get out. Tobacco and motorsports simply don't belong together any more. I would like to think that with all the marketing dollars out there today and with the popularity of racing, it will not be impossible to replace those tobacco sponsors.
I'm sure that Bill France and Roger Penske don't want to lose their sponsors, but the simple truth is, the time has come.