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Cancer, History, Public Health

Cigarettes and chronographs: How tobacco industry marketing targeted racing enthusiasts

Hot on the heels of reading about the tobacco industry’s connection to the Olympics, I’ve just come across a post on Hodinkee (a great watch blog) detailing a surprising relationship between Swiss watch manufacturer Uhrenmanufaktur Heuer AG (now TAG Heuer) and Brown & Williamson. According to Jeff Stein, the relationship arose out of a need to better position Viceroy cigarettes:

For years, Viceroy’s advertising theme had been balance–“not too strong, not too light, Viceroy’s got the taste that’s right.” A normal ad might depict a woman offering her companion one of her cigarettes, and he, surprisingly, enjoys the taste. The Viceroy was “less masculine than its key competition,” and the brand had a “feminine orientation,” according to internal documents. While the Viceroy couple shopped for flowers, the Marlboro man rode his horse straight into more market share.

The solution, Stein writes, was to make Viceroy the brand of the “auto racer.” To help shape that perception, Brown & Williamson partnered with Heuer to offer a discounted chronograph wristwatch ($88!) with the purchase of a carton of Viceroy cigarettes:

Brown & Williamson contacted Heuer in late 1971 with the idea of offering the Heuer Autavia in a Viceroy promotion. Throughout the 1960s, Heuer was a dominant presence at the racetrack. Its stopwatches, handheld chronographs, dashboard timers, and timing systems were the gold standards in their respective categories.

I don’t want to spoil the rest of the entry, so head over to Hodinkee if you’d like to see another example of how the tobacco industry has, in Jackler’s words, “affiliated its products with cherished and admired cultural icons.”

Previously: A discussion of the tobacco industry’s exploitation of “smoke-free” Olympic Games

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