Blog: Olly WehringHelp me pass my driving test

Olly Wehring | 25 January 2006

While writing up the story (even as editor, I still like to keep my eye in) regarding Martini entering Formula 1 sponsorship yesterday, I was reminded of a conversation I had just before Christmas with the communications vice-president of one of the world’s larger spirits companies.

In passing, I asked him for his opinion on Diageo’s entry into F1 through its deal to back the McLaren team with Johnnie Walker. To say that he was verbose on the matter is putting it mildly. “It’s absolutely ridiculous,” he spluttered. “How can an alcoholic drinks company possibly promote responsible drinking in such an irresponsible way?”

As the voice of the drinks industry, we’re naturally on the side of the beverage companies. But I find it really quite difficult to take sides on this one, and I need your help. It strikes me as peculiar to put the name of a spirit on the side of a very fast car, and then look at using the link-up to promote anti-drink driving campaigns. And yet, early last year, Diageo, when unveiling its Johnnie Walker sponsorship, asked an equally valid question: Who has the more powerful platform to educate consumers about the dangers of drink driving: the drinks companies themselves allied with high profile F1 drivers or faceless government authorities?

Add to the debate the fact that many soft drinks companies are being hit by bans from college campuses, for example, only because consumers who don’t get out much and watch too much TV (and don’t start me on this one) might get a little fat, and my confusion becomes overwhelming. Producers of alcoholic drinks, meanwhile, are freely able to advertise their wares in a sport which, if the product and the pastime are combined, could end up killing someone.

Believe me, I have actually lay awake at night trying to get my head round this. Could someone please talk me through it? Is this some sort of outside-of-the-box thinking that my little brain cannot comprehend?

Answers on a postcard, please?


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