A few days ago, my esteemed Frontstretch colleague and friend, Mr. Mike Neff, made the assertion that it is the driver that makes the sponsor. While that may be true for some lesser known products, I don’t believe the separation of Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Budweiser should prompt Anheuser-Busch to be searching through the St. Louis-area Yellow Pages for a cheap bankruptcy lawyer just yet.
Contrary to popular cultural myth, Budweiser, the “King of Beers,” did in fact exist long before the inception, conception, reception, and perception of NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver. Truth be told, it predates him by some 98 years, back to 1876, when horsepower was actually rated by the number of road apples left in your wake.
My earliest personal recollection of the product was the masked and caped “Bud Man” sticker on the rear window of my Aunt’s boyfriend’s GTO in the early ’70s. My personal usage of the product began with the onset of the ’80s, and occasionally continues to this day. I did not begin drinking it because of whoever the spokesperson was at that time, for I haven’t a clue of who that might be. No, I began drinking Budweiser because it was, well, Budweiser! It tasted good and in those earlier years didn’t cause me to use three rolls of toilet paper the next day.
As time has progressed and middle age has set in, Busch Light has become my beverage of choice for precisely the same reason. My choice has absolutely nothing to due with Busch’s long association with NASCAR or the cases of beer they set on the winning car in victory circle. Trust me, as I’ve been in victory circle on several occasions; there is NO beer in those cases! I checked. The reason I enjoy Busch Light is simple gastronomic comfort and taste (but not necessarily in that order!)
As I so frankly stated nearly three full years ago in this very space,
“Nobody, who possesses half a mind and can think for themselves, ever bought a product because they saw it on top of a racecar! If you have, you are mindless and weak, People who can think for themselves drink what they drink because they like it, They buy the products that provide the best quality and value, not because it was on top of the winning car.”
While I did not specifically also say “because of who hawks the product” in that article, I assume a certain level of intelligence among my readers, and am sure most of you get the gist of that sentiment.
Yes, Budweiser has enjoyed a stellar relationship with Dale Jr. for the last several years, and both have benefited from that marriage; but their dissolution is not the end of the “King of Beers” reign in any way, shape or form. For a lesser product, perhaps… but not Bud. Fact of the matter is, once the dust settles it will be Budweiser getting more of the credit for propelling Junior to the status he enjoys today, more so than the other way around.
Now, don’t misinterpret me as suggesting that Lil E is not a marketing boon: Any company that chooses to align themselves with him will reap huge rewards. That is just the natural order of things given his last name, age, and demeanor. Some other products would surely suffer should they divorce an icon such as him, but the history and scope of Budweiser as a product has it rising above and beyond any one individual… just as no one driver is bigger than NASCAR itself.
(Or, so the Frances would lead you to believe…)
Anyways, the bottom line is simple: Budweiser was “King” long before Dale Earnhardt Jr. arrived, and rest assured, Budweiser will still wear the crown long after Dale Earnhardt Jr. is gone. Long live the King!
Stay off the wall, (and off the road if you’ve been worshipping the King!)
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