Media Relations: media commentary and criticism

Thursday, December 18, 2003


-- television -- aw, knickers!

Chrysler backs off lingerie football (Media Life Magazine, December 18, 2003): You can get your panties out of a bunch. DaimlerChrysler has decided not to sponsor the Lingerie Bowl after all. The gimmick, featuring 14 models in bras and underwear playing a pay-per-view game during halftime of the Feb. 1 Super Bowl, will still go on, but without Dodge’s logo and slogan (“Grab Life by the Horns”) on those bras and underwear.      DaimlerChrysler pulled out last night after receiving increasing heat over the whole mess, apparently not realizing when it announced the sponsorship last month that women and perhaps even a few men might be offended by halftime show with scantily clad players flashing their 36-Cs during the break in the most-watched game of the year. [...] When it first signed on to the event, Dodge executives said they saw it as a nifty means of breaking through the ad clutter of Super Bowl. Now, in backing off the event, they say the controversy surrounding the gridiron panty romp has become too distracting, taking the focus away from its cars. [...] The company also claims that neither its CEO, Dieter Zetsche, nor its executive vice president of sales and marketing, Joe Eberhardt, had any involvement in or knowledge of the Lingerie Bowl deal before it was signed. They say the women were going to play in shorts and sports bras, though official site suggests differently. Lingerie Bowl producer Horizon Productions says the game will go on, with NFL Hall of Famers Lawrence Taylor and Eric Dickerson coaching the squads.

I'm just trying to figure out who exactly is being, shall we say, "disingenuous" here. It simply does not make sense that the vice president of marketing would not have signed off on what would be the biggest ad buy of the year. It doesn't make sense that he wouldn't have paid attention to their biggest ad campaign of the year. People who do marketing are supposed to pay attention to the pulse of the public, as it were; how does an entire marketing department not realize that this type of campaign would not precisely go over well?

It's possible to be entirely cynical, of course, and figure that perhaps, just perhaps, they might have thought that even though there would be adverse publicity, the buy-in from your Joe Sixpack Super Bowl viewer would have been worth it. Plus, of course, there was the whole charity aspect. One suspects, however, that people making that calculation forgot to take two things into consideration: (1) people who watch either little or no football during the year will watch the Super Bowl. The ad campaigns associated with it have taken on a life of their own, independent of the game with which they're associated, as have the various promotions that get attached to it. Thus, there were people paying attention to the ad campaign buildup that wouldn't have normally noticed; thus the backlash from conservative groups and Daimler Chrysler's own dealers. (2) One suspects that the American Foundation for AIDS Research, the nominal beneficiary of this campaign, really was blindsided by the type of promotion that it turned out to be. After all, can one really imagine the very serious organization AmFAR -- with chairman of the board Mathilde Krim, founding international chair Dame Elizabeth Taylor, and current spokesperson Sharon Stone -- giving their approval to a promotion quite this tawdry? Between backlash from their own dealers and the public disassociation from the event of its benefiting charity, it's hardly surprising that Daimler Chrysler decided that the better part of valor was retreat, in this case.

Posted by iain at 11:08 AM in category television