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AAA attacks brewery sponsorship of all motorsports.

AAA attacks brewery sponsorship of all motorsports

A new report by the American Automobile Assn. Foundation for Traffic Safety (AAA) is little more than prejudice and opinion masquerading as science, according to representatives of the brewing industry, the racing community and leading research scientists.

At a Washington, D.C. news conference last week, the vice chairman of the Roper Organization also criticized the scientific validity of the report, "Beer and Fast Cars." Roper's Harry O'Neill characterized the report as an opinion tract rather than objective, scientific research.

Youth susceptible to ads

The report, a booklet produced by the Marin Institute for the Prevention of Alcohol and Other Drug Problems, contends that brewers promote drunk driving through sponsorship of auto racing and that blue-collar youth are uniquely susceptible to this effort.

"The evidence offered does not support the conclusions reached," O'Neill said.

"To achieve their political goals, the groups funding and promoting this booklet are willing to take broad license with what they offer up as fact and logic," said James Sander, Beer Institute president. The booklet "continues the absurdist tradition."

As an example, Sanders cited a statement in the booklet that 30 percent of beer drinkers are unemployed. "Given that there are 80 million beer drinkers in America, 30 percent equates to 24 million people out of work - almost four times the amount reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a far more credible source of unemployment data than the authors of this booklet."

Sanders also pointed out a number of factual errors, one of them concerning the demographics of racing fans. "The authors contend that brewers sponsor motorsports because it reaches teenaged boys," Sanders explained. "This will come as a surprise to organizations such as NASCAR and CART... whose own exhaustive studies of audience demographics show that the over-21 segment of their fan base runs as high as 98 percent."

Echoing this point were Les Richter, National Assn. of Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR), and Kevin O'Brien, Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART). These two series, the nation's most popular, attract more than five million fans to the race and draw television audiences of more than 400 million annually.

"The statements in this booklet are absurd," said Richter, NASCAR's vice president-competition.

"Racing fans are overwhelmingly adult, they are employed, they are respectable citizens and they are too intelligent to believe any of the nonsense promoted in this booklet or by any of the booklet's supporters," Richter continued.

Blue-collar workers defended

Defending the blue-collar workers discussed in the pamphlet was Dick Warden, legislative director, United Auto Workers of America. "The problem I have is with the tone of the pamphlet," Warden said. "It has an elitist and condescending view toward blue-collar workers and young men from blue-collar families. There is too much disdain for working people among the organizations that produces these kinds of studies."

Sanders additionally recited a reference in the report to motorsports fans. "They note that motorsports fans are `lower on the educational ladder' and, because of their supposed ignorance, `tend even more than white-collar workers to resent government, educators' and bureaucrats pronouncements on what's good for them.'

"So they think they have the right to make up their own minds. Well, what's wrong with that?" Sanders asked.

Finally, Sanders noted that the National Coalition to Prevent Impaired Driving, the group defending AAA's position, "is an organization that wants to be open to all...except those who hold a different point of view.

"This is not an anti-abuse coalition," Sanders concluded, "it's an anti-drinking coalition, plain and simple."
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Title Annotation:American Automobile Association Foundation for Traffic Safety
Publication:Modern Brewery Age
Date:May 28, 1990
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