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Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Out in Front

Derby contenders Uncle Mo and Stay Thirsty have owner Mike Repole sitting in the catbird seat these days and from all accounts it could not be happening to a nicer guy. In his relatively short time involved in the sport (he bought his first horse in 2002), Repole has done nothing but good things when it comes to promoting the sport, including casting Shaquille O’Neal as a jockey in this 2008 Super Bowl ad for Vitaminwater:

Unfortunately, we don’t see horse racing in mainstream advertising that much anymore, but (once again) that wasn’t always the case. As someone whose “real job” requires the study of visual images and interpreting their contextual meaning, these ads fascinate me. They reveal how profoundly ingrained in American culture thoroughbred racing once was.

Not surprisingly, hard liquor ads in particular often featured horseracing themes, like these two for PM whiskey, one from 1948 illustrating Citation’s walkover in the Pimlico Special (click to make larger), and the other from 1951 recalling the great 1938 Seabiscuit vs. War Admiral match race.

Notice the racing lingo bantered about so casually, as in this 1956 ad for Schweppes (“odds-on favorite”) and this 1959 Coke ad (“your money’s on the favorite...”). Even long-time horse owner and founding partner of Del Mar racetrack Bing Crosby lent his image to Royal Crown soda for this 1945 ad that also cross-promotes his latest film (“You bet RC tastes best!”).

Love this 1959 ad for the Plymouth Fury convertible! “Full of fury and eager to run! They’re off! And this sleek, sure-footed Plymouth Sport Fury steps ahead and stays ahead. With its New Golden Commando 395, biggest V-8 in the low-price field, it gives you instant response without the least bit of strain—all the horses you could want for modern driving…For this well-muscled beauty handles with sports-car ease, too.”

Here’s one from 1943 for Breeze aircraft engine starters: “Quick starting. Seconds saved in starting can bring victory.” Not surprisingly, if you read down through the ad it mentions they are used in military and naval aircraft, so the victory alluded to and symbolized by the race horse is more specifically referencing our efforts in World War II.

Alcohol, cigarettes, can readily get the connection to horse racing with those products, but how about this 1948 ad for Textron women’s blouses: “Pick two to win. Wonderful to show too.”


suebroux said...

Great stuff from the archives, Val!

My Dad had a Plymouth Fury and, if I recall, it didn't exactly run like a thoroughbred out of the gate and eager to run; more like an ornery mule.

The_Knight_Sky said...

The jockey adorned in yellow in the Gin and Tonic ad seems to be reacting to:

"I'll buy you one after the race. Not a minute before. :)

Hen Bros said...

Don't forget the great Leroy Jolley's Miller Lite ad ... can't find it on YouTube though.

Glimmerglass said...

1979's Pabst Blue Ribbon tv ad:

While not racing this ad for Motorola did feature man and horse:

And a play on riding with the horses being waves to surf for Guinness. It was one of the most award winning ads in recent memory.

Becky said...

Wow! I just love some of these old ads! Is there any way you know of to get copies of these? I'd love to have a framed version of that Seabiscuit/War Admiral match race one to hang in my (as yet unfinished) bar area!