DaimlerChrysler won't sponsor Lingerie Bowl


By David Kiley, USA TODAY

DaimlerChrysler, under pressure from family values groups and its dealers, has withdrawn from sponsoring the pay-per-view “Lingerie Bowl,” planned for halftime of the Super Bowl.

“Dodge brand’s sponsorship of the Lingerie Bowl has become a distraction,” said George E. Murphy, global marketing vice president for DaimlerChrysler (DCX) .

The Feb. 1 pay-per-view event is to include a 10- to 15-minute runway fashion show by lingerie models, followed by a football game between two teams of models clad in lingerie and football pads.

Proceeds from the event were originally to be donated to the American Foundation for AIDS Research, but that organization withdrew its participation earlier this month. DaimlerChrysler was looking for another beneficiary.

The event is expected to draw as many as 40 million TV viewers and 50 million people online. Producer Horizon Productions said the event will still run but with a new sponsor. Chrysler is planning to run a Dodge ad during the Super Bowl telecast, but isn’t saying what kind of ad or for what product.

Julie Roehm, director of marketing communications for Chrysler/Jeep/Dodge, said last week she approved the Lingerie Bowl sponsorship to attract young, affluent males. They are Dodge’s target audience but are increasingly hard to reach with ads outside of big sporting events.

Selling with sex is “dangerous for a company like Chrysler with multiple brands and constituencies, because it’s difficult to pander to the baser instincts of one customer base without offending the others,” says Advertising Age ad critic Bob Garfield.

It is the second time in a month that a major advertiser has backpedaled from playing the sex card. Clothing retailer Abercrombie & Fitch said it will discontinue its quarterly catalog, which had been criticized for showing young, scantily clad or nude models in sexually suggestive poses.

Chrysler turned to sex or frat-boy humor in ads a few times the past year and seemed to fumble each time. A recent ad for the Dodge Hemi Ram truck featured two men at a restroom urinal; it has been criticized for poor taste.

Last year, Chrysler ran a minivan ad featuring a gag about spouse swapping, and a Concorde sedan ad with a mother telling her adolescent daughter her baby sister was conceived in the car. Those ads had to be changed.

“We’ll continue to be aggressive and push the envelope so we stay out of the middle ground where most advertising is invisible,” says Chrysler spokesman James Kenyon. “But we are finding the limits of what we can do.”