The Seeker

A Meta-Cognitive Journal About Writing… Plus Other Stuff

Behind Blue Eyes: The Dark Side of Being Paul Newman

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Mike Burd is my oldest brother, an unexpected guest blogger on The Seeker, and a businessman/sailor who is able to spin a decent yarn when the notion strikes him. He relayed this story to me after reading the recent post regarding the death of Paul Newman.

When I was finishing my undergrad studies at Ball State and working with Prestige Foods, my business marketing professor was VP of National Sales for Merrico, a large division of Anaheuser-Busch that makes yeast cinnamon rolls for retail customers. At that time, Budwieser sponsored the Newman/Haas Indy Car racing team. The year the race was in Indianapolis, there came a great opportunity to market to AB’s clients and distributors. So, they had a large function at an upscale hotel in Indy.

Paul Newman showed up at the dinner and reception as part of the marketing program, as did Mario Andretti, the team’s high profile driver. Everyone was having a wonderful time, although Augie Busch’s wife was displeased because she and her lady friends wanted to see Paul Newman’s blue eyes. He was wearing sun glasses. Augie Busch thought it would be reasonable to ask Newman to remove his glasses, so he approached Newman and asked that he remove them since the ladies wanted to see his eyes. Newman said he would consider it.

Newman did not remove his glasses, which made Augie Busch unhappy. As the night was coming to an end, Busch turned to his Marketing people, including my professor, and asked how much money Budwieser provided as a sponsor for Newman Haas Racing. The figure was around $9-10 million. Without hesitation, Busch told them that needed to end, that Budwieser would never again sponsor Newman/Haas Racing.

The story was a lesson: It did not matter how much effort was put into marketing programs with companies, they can all be sunk by one little thing, such as Paul Newman refusing to take off his sunglasses at a dinner function, obviously a $10 million mistake for a wealthy CEO’s wife being snubbed in front of her peers.


Written by seeker70

October 4, 2008 at 12:48 am

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