OBJECTIVE To describe the nature and extent of tobacco company sponsorship in the USA during the period 1995-99 and analyse this sponsorship in a marketing context.
DESIGN A cross-sectional study of tobacco company sponsorships identified through a customised research report from IEG Inc, and from internet web site searches.
METHODS First, a customised report was received from IEG Inc, which identified sponsorship activities for Philip Morris, RJ Reynolds, Brown & Williamson, Lorillard, and US Tobacco for the years 1997 and 1998. Second, the internet was systematically searched for tobacco industry sponsorships during the period 1995-99 by the same parent companies and their respective brands.
RESULTS During the period 1995-99, tobacco companies sponsored at least 2733 events, programmes, and organisations in the USA. Sponsorships involved all 50 states and the District of Columbia, and the minimum total funding amount of these sponsorships was $365.4 million. Tobacco corporate sponsorships involved numerous small, community based organisations, both through direct funding and through grants to larger umbrella organisations, and many of these organisations were part of the public health infrastructure.
CONCLUSIONS Tobacco corporate sponsorship serves as an important marketing tool for tobacco companies, serving both a sales promotion and public relations function. Public health practitioners need to develop better surveillance systems for monitoring tobacco sponsorship, to seek out alternative funding sources for tobacco company sponsored events and organisations, and to consider promoting a ban on tobacco sponsorship, possibly linking such regulation to the creation of alternative funding sources.
- tobacco industry
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