Tobacco Sponsorship Promotions A Form of Lifestyle Advertising

A second key issue during recent court proceedings has been to make a distinction between lifestyle advertising and informational advertising. Making such a distinction was suggested by the decision of the Supreme Court of Canada during the TPCA trial. The majority judgment identified that by not distinguishing between brand preference and lifestyle advertising, it was not clear whether the objectives of the TPCA could have been met with less intrusive measures (Manfredi, 2002; Wyckham, 1997).

The Tobacco Act defines lifestyle advertising as "advertising that associates a product with, or evokes a positive or negative emotion about or image of, a way of life such as one that includes glamour, recreation, excitement, vitality, risk or daring" (p. 8). Informational advertising, meanwhile, is described as a promotion that provides factual information to a consumer about the product's characteristics, price, or availability.

Looking to leading marketing and advertising textbooks, lifestyle is considered to establish the ways in which one's time and money is spent and reflect which activities are most valued. Lifestyle is defined as a person's pattern of living that becomes manifest in his or her activities, interests, and opinions (Kotler, Armstrong, & Cunningham, 1999; Lamb, Hair, & McDaniel, 2000;

Wells, Burnett, & Moriarty, 1989). Lifestyle advertising, then, involves the association of products and brands with particular activities, interests, and opinions, appealing to a specified segment of consumers. The activities, interests, and opinions that are depicted in an ad may reflect the actual or desirable lifestyles of either current or prospective consumers. According to Tuckwell (1988), in an attempt to match the lifestyle of the product user, one may appeal to "their looking-glass self." Lifestyle advertising can be accomplished through the portrayals ofpeople, settings, and objects (or combinations thereof). Some leading textbooks on marketing and advertising do not make extensive use of the phrase lifestyle advertising, however, and prefer to use terminology such as image advertising and transformation advertising. Transformation advertising has an objective of building a product or brand personality or image and making the experience of consumption seem richer, warmer, and more enjoyable (Wells, Burnett, & Moriarty, 1989). Consumers often use the same terminology to describe brands and people, such that particular brands are perceived as expressing excitement, success, sophistication, ruggedness, and so on (Aaker, 1996).

Brand imagery or personality has traditionally been seen by the tobacco industry as very important to communicate. According to an Imperial Tobacco document, 1971 Matinée Marketing Plans, "without price differentials and without easily perceptible product differentiation (except for extremes, e.g. Matinee versus Player's) consumer choice is influenced almost entirely by imagery factors" (1970, p. 566628090). Roughly 25 years later, Rothmans, Benson & Hedges claimed, "in the cigarette category brand image is everything. The brand of cigarettes a person smokes is their identity. Cigarettes tell others who they are as a person. There is a strong emotional connection to the brand, the image it projects about the smoker, not only to themselves but to others" (cited in Pollay, 2002, p. 13). Another internal document indicates that the taste qualities of cigarettes are developed only after an appropriate brand personality has been selected: "Must think imagery/brand personality first and then develop the products with taste qualities/product and package attributes that reinforce image" (cited in Pollay, 2002, p. 14). The role of lifestyle, meanwhile, is to "promote and reinforce the social acceptability among the peer group to smoking as a relaxing, enjoyable self-indulgence" (Imperial Tobacco, 1979b, p. 13).

Contemporary Canadian industry documents indicate that the function of many tobacco sponsorship promotions is consistent with the objectives of lifestyle advertising. Canadian firms recognize that lifestyle and imagery is conveyed by sponsorship communications. According to Imperial Tobacco, "opportunities to utilize image advertising in Sponsorship communication should be exploited" (1992, p. 013870). Rothmans, Benson & Hedges (1993) considered sponsorship to be "one of the few image-enhancing marketing tools available" and looked to "use sponsorships as a means to establish and build upon lifestyle image associations through targeted selection, strong promotional programmes and professional execution, all of which reflect the desired character and image" (p. 005381). RJR-Macdonald recognized, "our sponsorship approach must be consistent with our brand position to enhance image reinforcement" (1996b, p. 80151 3317).

With conventional cigarette advertising severely restricted in Canada, tobacco manufacturers have directed their promotional dollars toward sponsorship and attempted to have the content of the sponsorship promotions resemble their previous conventional ads as much as possible. In 1992, Imperial Tobacco acknowledged, "we have already begun the transition from event advertising to more image based advertising. We still need to fully exploit the communications value inherent in our sponsorship involvement. Until further regulatory change, this is the means by which we will replace traditional brand/trademark image advertising" (cited in Pollay, 2002, p. 11). According to RJR-Macdonald:

Associative marketing allows us to associate the brand with images which we are prevented from using in brand advertising. In other words, the actual sponsorship is simply the price we pay in order to feature a particular image in our advertising. Although there are many additional benefits to traditional sponsorship programmes such as promotional extensions, our primary concern is with the image advertising potential around the sponsorship. We are attempting to alter a brand's image and, in our view, this is best achieved through advertising which we control. (1996c, p. 80154 2472)

To exploit a brand's link with a particular image, several tobacco sponsorship promotions communicate that the cigarette brand is a general supporter of an activity (i.e., Export 'A' sponsors an extreme sports series, Player's sponsors auto racing, Matinee sponsors fashion, and du Maurier claims to sponsor music, photography, and nightlife), without specifying any details about the particular events being sponsored.

Tobacco companies have found that a challenge with event sponsorship advertising is the duration that the accompanying promotional campaign can effectively run. In other words, if a 1-day event is being sponsored, it proves difficult to justify promoting the event throughout the year. RJR-Macdonald specified that sponsorship vehicles should be selected that "spread throughout the year to provide continuity" and "support the brand sell message that is the same in non-event periods" (cited in Pollay, 2002, p. 9). Similarly, another document from the company included "duration" and "timing seasonality" as important criteria for judging sponsorship opportunities (cited in Pollay, 2002, p. 9). According to Imperial Tobacco, "in terms of understanding, it is very clear that while the event itself is a communications vehicle, the true value is the amount of targeted imagery communications which surround the event. It gives us the legitimate excuse to promote. In analyzing event operation costs, the goal will be to identify expenditures which will not effect our image, and re-channel to communications" (1992, p. 013835).

The objectives and budgets sections of tobacco industry documents, pertaining to sport and cultural sponsorship, are dominated by the importance of enhancing or reinforcing brand imagery Reflecting on the implementation of the TPCA, Rothmans, Benson & Hedges claimed, "today (1988- ) sponsorship is the only means whereby company trademarks can be exposed to the public. The image of the activity and the broadcast exposure received in large part determine trademark awareness. ITCO event inventories are being streamlined and investment is being made in broadcast programming and broad scale image communication" (1995, p. 008593). One Imperial Tobacco (1993b) document bluntly stated that the primary objective of sponsorship advertising is to communicate image, and selling tickets to the sponsored event is only a secondary objective. "Specific Objective: To communicate relevant sponsorship imagery to its target group—national versus local. To maintain year-round presence of this imagery on a national basis. . . . A secondary objective is to promote ticket sales for the events" (p. 014435). Canadian tobacco sponsorship promotions, in many cases, link a cigarette brand with a particular image at the expense of providing important information about the actual event being sponsored (i.e., neglecting to indicate which athletes or teams are participating, the cost of attending, where tickets may be purchased, or where the event is being held).

Tobacco companies select to sponsor sports and cultural events possessing symbolic imagery or personalities that are desirable to link with their respective brands. The objective is to have the image of a sports or cultural event transferred to the sponsoring brand: "Borrowed Imagery: Association with sporting events creates a situation where, because of the perceived 'personality' of the sport, sponsoring corporations can 'borrow' imagery from that personality in order to strengthen their own public perception" (cited in Pollay, 2002, p. 13). According to Imperial Tobacco:

With regard to the brand or corporate image, the sponsor gives the impression of seeking to associate itself with the image of the event or of those who participate in the event. When a company sponsors a tennis or golf tournament, a regatta or the classical arts, this is interpreted by the public as a kind of expression (by the sponsor) of the temperament of the company. Depending on the event sponsored, the company appears young, self-assured, master of itself, classical, adventurous, etc. (cited in Pollay, 2002, p. 13)

Don Brown, Chairman, President and CEO of Imperial Tobacco, claimed, "sponsorship is still limited in the degree to which it delivers a specific product attribute message. The value lies in matching imagery of the event to that of the product or service" (cited in Gross, 1994, p. 67).

To illustrate the matching of a cigarette brand and a sponsored sports event along imagery dimensions, du Maurier—the best selling cigarette brand family in Canada and described by an industry insider as "a high quality, upscale, young brand in Canada with a solid image" (Bingham, 1992, p. 500028180)— has sponsored prestigious tennis, equestrian, and golf events. Du Maurier was the title sponsor for the professional men's and women's Canadian Open Tennis Championships that alternated annually each summer between Toronto and Montreal (both of these tournaments were categorized as top-tier tournaments, and only the four Grand Slam tournaments were considered to be of greater importance), as well as the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) tournament held in Canada. The du Maurier Ltd. Classic represented one of the four major championships on the LPGA tour. The apparent objective with these sponsorship properties was for the upscale, aspiring, high quality, and classy dimensions associated with the events (and sports) to be transferred toward the du Maurier brand. The notion of a sporting event's image being transferred to a brand through event sponsorship promotional activities is consistent with the academic research findings of Ferrand and Pages (1996), Milne and McDonald (1999), and Gwinner and Eaton (1999).

For the title sponsor, the process of image matching and transfer is also applicable to the event's participants (i.e., celebrities) and the co-sponsors (Dewhirst & Hunter, 2002; Kahle & Homer, 1985; Kamins & Gupta, 1994; Lynch & Schuler, 1994; McCracken, 1989; Misra & Beatty, 1990). Popular auto racer Jacques Villeneuve, for example, has been characterized as a wild child, rebel, and daredevil (who engages in a very high risk sport), which makes him a desirable person to link with cigarette brands that are marketed with such imagery (Dewhirst & Sparks, 2003). When du Maurier sponsored the Canadian Open Tennis Championships, BMW was a co-sponsor, which exemplifies co-branding and image matching opportunities being exploited with sponsorship partners. Du Maurier and BMW complement one another with respect to how the brands are positioned in their respective product category. Such brand matching is consistent with McCracken's (1988) concept of "Diderot unities," which emphasizes that the meaning of goods is largely determined by their relationship to other goods.

Player's, du Maurier, Matinee, Benson & Hedges, and Export A' currently represent the Canadian cigarette brands most prominently depicted in sponsorship promotions. Player's continues to sponsor CART auto racing, whereas du Maurier supported 271 art groups during 2002. By promoting grants that are provided to Canadian fashion designers, Matinee is linked with images of relaxation, youthfulness, self-expression, and indulgence (Imperial Tobacco, 1993a). Benson & Hedges sponsors the Gold Club Series, which features leading DJs performing in club settings. Export 'A', which is positioned according to dimensions of adventure, masculinity, and independence, sponsors an extreme sports series (Dewhirst, in press; Pollay, 2001). It has been observed that the extreme sports series consists of activities involving competitors who succeed because of their willingness to take extreme risks, and the promotions for these events appeal to the viewer's desire for independence because the selected activities are all individual sports.

It should be apparent that Canadian tobacco companies sponsor a diversity of events, yet the majority of sponsorship expenditures are toward sports events (the budgets for arts and cultural sponsorship are considerably lower). This weighting reflects sponsorship spending generally, as it is estimated that sports events account for at least two thirds of sponsorship expenditures (Copeland, Frisby, & McCarville, 1996; Linstead & Turner, 1986; Shanklin & Kuzma, 1992). During the mid-1990s, the annual contributions by Player's toward auto racing accounted for roughly one sixth of the total sponsorship expenditures by all Canadian tobacco companies (CTMC, 1997; Gross, 1994).

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