Thursday, May 4, 2017

Hold My Beer?

Fans like me look back at the glory days of IndyCar, especially the late era of the CART cars, and look fondly on the tobacco sponsored cars. I mean, who could forget Greg Moore hustling his baby blue infused with navy blue and gold Player's car, or Dario Franchitti in his beautiful green and white KOOL car, or the iconic white and orange colors of the Marlboro cars of Team Penske.

We miss those cars, and with that, the "easy" sponsorship money that comes with it. Many fans talk about those cars of yesteryear with great fondness. But how often do we forget about the cars sponsored by alcohol? 

Let's take a trip down memory lane. Bobby Rahal would end up with Miller, a company that had bounced around from several teams over the decade, before retiring. Miller would stay on Rahal's team for the next couple of season. Tecate, the Mexican beer, was a long standing partner with Adrian Fernandez. Budweiser was with several cars and ended up with Richie Hearn. Coors Light sponsored both Scott Dixon and Buddy Lazier in 2002. Patron sponsored Scott Sharp for a short period of time. Brahma were primary sponsors for a short period of time. Who could forget the sponsorship of Dan Wheldon's car with Jim Beam adorned to the car? Canadian Club was the sponsor for Dario Franchitti in his championship winning effort in 2007. Azul Tequila sponsored Mario Moraes for a couple of races. 

Bobby Rahal in 1998 (Photo: Peter Burk)


With the plethora of former alcohol sponsors, one has to ask, where did they all go? Sure, you an argue the lack of interest in IndyCar, or the ratings, or anything else, but alcohol sponsors in racing in general are way down across the board.

In IndyCar now, Fuzzy's Vodka, who sponsors Ed Carpenter Racing, carrier the sole alcohol sponsors in the series now. The cars of green and gold have become quite popular in the IndyCar world, with Fuzzy's apparel widely visible at every race track. Just last April, MillerCoors agreed to be the official beer and cider of IndyCar, but has anyone else noticed a lack of Miller or Coors anywhere in IndyCar? They sponsor Carb Day and the Snake Pit concert, but other than that, I don't see any other activation. 

Newgarden paces Carpenter in the Fuzzy's cars at Iowa in 2016 (Photo: IndyCar)

Josef Newgarden, the new Team Penske driver, was teasing everybody in the offseason with random videos about Miller Lite and all of its refreshment. People like me were hopeful that given the relationship with Miller and Penske (Miller is the primary sponsor for Brad Keselowski in NASCAR), Miller would be joning Newgarden for a couple of races in the 2017 season. No such announcement has been made.

Casamigos was on the verge of joining IndyCar, but instead opted to put their money to be an associate sponsor for Scuderia Ferrari in Formula 1. 

The alcohol sponsorship question, like the tobacco one, is a moral argument for some. Such an argument was made against the use of tobacco sponsors, and the government enacted swiftly to remove tobacco sponsorship from race tracks. Many efforts have been made in Europe to ban alcohol sponsorship, as recent as last May, but nothing has passed on the legislative front.

Indy 500 Practice
One of the most underrated liveries of all-time: the Scott Sharp Patron car from 2007
(Photo: Darrell Ingham / Getty Images North America)

Companies that sell alcohol spend a combined total of $2 billion a year on advertising. With sponsoring an IndyCar, which costs from anywhere from $8 - $12 million a year, being a crumb of that, why haven't we seen more companies willing to jump into IndyCar compared to year's past? We've seen how successful Vuzzy's has done commercially and throughout the racing community from their sponsorship efforts.

While there are many other factors to consider that are beyond control, I miss seeing the amount of alcohol sponsors in IndyCar. The days of Budweiser, Miller, and Coors being in IndyCar are no more. Will we ever see the day again? Who knows.

Thanks for reading!

-Matthew Hickey

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