|Tuesday, July 13
Ad targeting Earnhardt axed for Daytona
By Darren Rovell
A company that produces official racetrack publications for NASCAR events rejected an advertisement that People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals had purchased in a recent NASCAR race-week program.
The ad, which showed a leg kicking a Kentucky Fried Chicken bucket and a caption that read "Hey, Junior! KFC Races Dirty," targeted Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s race team. Since signing an endorsement deal with KFC's parent company, Yum Brands, in January, Earnhardt has become the first person other than Colonel Sanders to be featured on the restaurant chain's signature chicken bucket.
Mainstream Media publishes the programs to approximately 20 auto racing events each season, including the program distributed at the recent Pepsi 400 held July 4 at Daytona International Speedway. PETA had purchased its ad in that program.
Mainstream Media president Jonathan Wilson said a sales representative with his company called PETA to gauge its interest in placing an advertisement. Believing that officials would "go in a completely different direction," the sales rep accepted the ad copy and a $9,500 check. The publishing company, however, reserves its right to reject ads that have political agendas or are deemed too risqué for a family audience.
"I put the kibosh on it," Wilson said. "It was never even seen by International Speedway Corporation (which runs Daytona International Speedway) or NASCAR."
NASCAR spokesman Andrew Giangola said "NASCAR is not aware of any plans for a PETA ad or of any controversy surrounding such an ad."
"It appears like our money isn't as good as someone else's because we have something to say," said PETA spokesman Dan Shannon, who noted that about 50 percent of the ads the group creates are permitted to run in publications and on billboards. "We'll just use the money we got back to run another KFC ad in another publication."
PETA has criticized the fast food chain for its treatment of chickens for the past three years, claiming that KFC suppliers across the world have bred chickens in crowded, filthy conditions. Last year, the organization dropped a suit against KFC after the restaurant chain made significant changes on its Web site, Shannon said.
"PETA has disparaged our brand and misrepresented the truth about our responsible, industry-leading animal welfare standards," KFC spokesperson Bonnie Warschauer said. "KFC is committed to the humane treatment of chickens. We don't own any poultry facilities, and our suppliers are acting responsibly. We believe enough is enough. We want PETA to know that their corporate terrorist activities won't be tolerated."
The organization has already had Pamela Anderson write Earnhardt a letter asking the NASCAR driver to use his position as KFC's spokesman to promote a more humane means to kill chickens. Shannon said Earnhardt's business manager, J.R. Rhodes, had promised to take PETA's complaint to Earnhardt a month ago, though the group hasn't heard back from Rhodes since. Rhodes did not immediately return a call from ESPN.com seeking comment.
Last year, PETA claims, Jason Alexander's role as KFC's spokesman was terminated after he expressed concerns about the treatment of chickens to company officials, doing so after meeting with PETA president Ingrid Newkirk. KFC officials have denied that PETA played a role in their decision to go in a new direction after a two-year relationship with Alexander.
Darren Rovell, who covers sports business for ESPN.com, can be reached at email@example.com.