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The international pharmaceutical company SmithKline Beecham (SKB), makers of nicotine replacement medications such as Nicorette gum and NicoDerm patches, is entering sports sponsorship. And it is doing it with a boldness more reminiscent of the companies that make the products which SKB seeks to replace with its own. First came news of its move into billiards, a game closely associated with cigarettes through sponsorship of televised competitions, and featured in the United States in Joe Camel promotions. Just as the audiences for televised billiards have been a natural target for tobacco companies, it is no surprise that they are equally attractive to Nicorette, though for the moment limited to a special target audience. As part of a marketing drive towards the American military, whose goal is to be smoke-free by the year 2000, Nicorette has come up with an international billiards competition open to personnel in all branches of military service at more than 50 bases, in Europe and Asia as well as those at home.
A wider audience awaits the company in another bold venture, once again in an arena dominated by the tobacco industry. The Nicorette-NicoDerm CQ Champ Car is appearing this year in motor sport events ranging from the Marlboro Grand Prix in Miami to events in the FedEx Championship Series in the United States. It will not be the only Nicorette vehicle at the race tracks: a 34-foot (10-metre) van will be there, staffed by counsellors and pharmacists dispensing information and “coping kits” to smoking race-goers. This product-specific racing car goes a step beyond the “unbranded” anti-tobacco racing cars we reported on earlier (Tobacco Control1995;4:217).
Tobacco Control looks to the day when we can report a full season of such sponsorship at the highest levels. Take Formula One, for example: what about buying out one of those tobacco-sponsored teams?