One of Diageo's spirits brands is to advertise with the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) for the first time ever. The move takes effect at the 2005 NASCAR Nextel Cup season.

NASCAR announced yesterday (10 November) that spirits companies would be allowed to participate as team sponsors. Diageo will lead the spirits category's entry into the sport.

The move by NASCAR lifted a decades-old ban on liquor ads on cars.

"We felt the time was right," said Mike Helton, president of NASCAR. "Attitudes have changed, and spirits companies have a long record of responsible advertising."

NASCAR already allowed beer companies into the sport.

Diageo, which has a history in NASCAR with its flavoured malt beverage brand Smirnoff Ice, said it will utilise its new sponsorship in NASCAR to continue to educate consumers about the importance of responsible drinking.

"Diageo is perfectly positioned to capitalise on this exciting new opportunity in NASCAR because of our existing relationship with Roush Racing," said Mark Waller, executive vice president of consumer strategy and marketing for Diageo.

"Our association with this world class racing team will allow us to connect with millions of adult consumers, who are devoted NASCAR fans, and remind them about the importance of responsible drinking.

"A multi-million dollar marketing budget supporting this sponsorship will include dedicated social responsibility messaging."

Diageo's sponsorship, which will feature the Crown Royal brand, will be built around the company's existing relationship with the racing team Roush Racing.

"We are excited to grow our relationship with Diageo because we have first-hand knowledge that social responsibility is at the forefront of their marketing efforts," said Geoff Smith, president of Roush Racing. "We are in our second year with Diageo and we know that they have the highest standards in responsible drinking."