On the End of Tobacco Companies as Event Sponsors

Blitz Magazine, September 1998


A recent Goldfarb poll commissioned by Maclean’s Magazine found that 45% of Canadians reject the notion of a government ban on the sponsorship of sporting events by tobacco companies. The notion is supported by 23%, 31% don’t care.

          Another lobby which would like to end the sponsorship of sporting events by distilleries and breweries. The poll found that 52% of Canadians reject this notion, 15% support it, 32% don’t care.

          So the federal government is pandering to the minority by imposing Bill C71, which will delete tobacco money from the balance sheets of those organizations who depend on it. Motorsports in Canada will be damaged (although now that Quebec has a Formula 1 mega-star, things may not turn out as expected.) The Molson Indy Vancouver is only one of many BC events which have two years to find new money.

          Each June, the DuMaurier International Jazz Festival is attended by 350,000 people and brings $10. million in economic benefit to Vancouver. Although it is a fully viable event with the infrastructure needed to continue, it exists because of tobacco money.

          Each July, the Benson & Hedges Symphony of Fire provides four nights of world-class fireworks. Benson & Hedges spends $2. million on the event; Vancouver reaps $10. million. Two million people enjoy these fireworks, free of charge.

          We could have the Cheese Doodles Symphony of Fire, the McDonald’s International Jazz Festival, the Pepsi Indy. But then other well-funded groups who are obsessed with sanitizing society will produce ‘studies’ suggesting that Cheese Doodles, McNuggets and Pepsi cause dire consequences for The Fate of the Nation.

          Tobacco and alcohol aren’t good for us. Junk food isn’t good for us. Household cleaners aren’t good for us. But these are products which exist because members of society want them. They are legal products, governments profit from their sale and their producers have the right to advertise them.

          Events funding is a form of advertising. If corporations can’t promote their products in this way, we’re going to lose events which spin off into greater economic benefit, cultural enrichment and affordable entertainment for increasingly financially-squeezed and stressed-out Canadians. Stress isn’t good for us either.