Friday, March 27, 2015
Lipton, a pioneer in sports advertising
Sports advertising is a topic I’ve certainly never thought of in light of its tea connection — or at least I hadn’t until I read an article in the Spring 2015 issue of the Upton Tea Quarterly. When I think of sports advertising, I think of those ridiculously expensive Super Bowl ads and, later in the year, those NASCAR name-droppings that follow each race: “I’d like to thank the MasterCard-Ford-Coca-Cola-McDonald’s-Colgate team for helping us win today …” But sports advertising has been around a long while, as this article attests. Sir Thomas Lipton knew the value of building an advertising campaign around sports, and he capitalized on his love of yachting to help grow the Lipton brand.
Although he would try five times to earn the America’s Cup, he would never win, although he did gain a reputation as a good loser. When his ship Shamrock failed to win him the trophy in 1899, he commissioned the rival of that ship's builder to design the Shamrock II. The ship was tested at the William Denny and Brothers shipyard in Dumbarton, Scotland, the shipyard that had completed construction of the famous tea clipper Cutty Sark.
According to the Upton article, “America did not want to lose the Cup to the British, but more than a few Americans were actually rooting for Lipton. Win or lose, his increased tea sales would more than pay for the ride.” Lipton’s ship didn't win the race, but the Upton article notes that “the almost limitless exposure given to him by the press was priceless. In a very real sense, Lipton had become a pioneer in what was later to be called ‘sports advertising.’” It’s yet another way we can very truthfully note that our favorite beverage has changed the world! If you’d like to read the article for yourself, or to subscribe to the free Upton Tea Quarterly, click here.