For Release: October 6, 1997

Contact: George Hacker at (202) 332-9110, ext. 343

Coalition Urges Champion Skater To Stop Champagne Promotion

A coalition of 35 public-interest organizations today called upon champion ice-skater Todd Eldredge, a contender for the Olympics, to drop plans to promote Canandaigua Brands' Cook's champagne. In their appeal to the athlete and the wine company, the groups cited federal alcohol advertising guidelines and voluntary broadcast-industry and wine-industry policies governing the use of athletes in alcohol ads.

In August, Eldredge signed an advertising deal to promote Cook's Champagne. The ad campaign's centerpiece is the "Cook's Triple Challenge," in which Canandaigua will make donations for cancer research to the City of Hope National Medical Center for every triple jump Mr. Eldredge lands during this skating season (up to a total of $100,000).

"Canandaigua's plan to tie Mr. Eldredge's success as a skater to its Cook's champagne, sends a dangerous and deceptive message to kids," said George Hacker, director of the Alcohol Policies Project at Center for Science in the Public Interest and spokesman for the coalition. "Mr. Eldredge is a role model for young skating fans who may be misled by his promotion of alcohol." The groups also urged the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF), which regulates alcohol advertising and labeling, to block the ads. They cited ATF's guidelines that stress that the appearance of an athlete in an advertisement not convey a misleading impression to youth. The coalition asked ABC Broadcasting and Fox Television, the two television networks with ice-skating events scheduled to include Eldredge, to refuse all related promotions.

"Cook's Triple Challenge," expected to be promoted during several skating events aired on ABC and Fox, will reinforce 30-second television commercials for Cook's champagne starring Eldredge. Canandaigua also plans to sponsor the national telecast of two skating shows, one of which is named "Champagne on Ice."

"Linking an alcohol promotion to a cancer-fighting charity is, in itself, misleading," said Hacker. "The ads, which promote alcohol use, fail to disclose that alcohol is a risk factor for numerous cancers, including throat, larynx, esophageal, colorectal and breast cancer."

In letters to Eldredge and Canandaigua, the groups point out that the ad campaign violates the Wine Institute's Code of Advertising Standards, which provides that wine advertising "shall not use amateur or professional sport celebrities, past or present." Canandaigua Brands is not a member of that association, but its marketing practices reflect on the entire industry.

The ad campaign also violates ABC network's policies that deem wine and beer advertisements unacceptable if linked to athletic ability or personal achievements. The Fox network's broadcast advertising standards do not specifically address the use of athletes in alcohol advertising, but prohibit beer and wine ads that encourage alcohol use by young people.

Although Cook's champagne advertising may not be targeted specifically to children, the groups note that many skating-event fans are under the minimum legal drinking age. They raised the following concerns:

  • "Cook's Triple Challenge" links Eldredge's athletic success to an alcoholic beverage and may deceive impressionable children into believing that drinking is related to his accomplishments;
  • the ads glamorize the use of alcoholic beverages to the large number of underage viewers in figure-skating audiences;
  • Todd Eldredge is an athletic role model for young people, and his endorsement of alcoholic beverages conflicts with "no use" messages appropriate for kids; and,
  • the television advertising campaign cynically exploits the reputations of a champion athlete, a respected medical institution, and the 1998 Olympics to sell alcohol.

Canandaigua Brands is the country's second-largest wine seller, third-largest importer of beer, and fourth-largest supplier of distilled spirits. Among its other products, the company markets fortified wines, including Richards Wild Irish Rose and Cisco. Several years ago, Canandaigua was the subject of considerable public controversy concerning its potent Cisco brand. After an investigation, it entered into a consent order with the Federal Trade Commission under which it was required to change the labels and marketing practices for the products.

The coalition of 35 groups, besides CSPI, includes Children of Alcoholics Foundation of New York, NY; Latino Council on Alcohol and Tobacco of Washington, DC; Marin Institute, San Rafael, CA; National Association for Children of Alcoholics, Rockville, MD; National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, New York, NY; and Remove Intoxicated Drivers, Schenectady, NY.

JOURNALISTS: The coalition letter to Mr. Eldredge follows. Letters to ABC, Fox, Canandaigua Brands, the Wine Institute and ATF are available upon request.

CSPI is a nonprofit health-advocacy organization that focuses on alcoholic-beverage problems, nutrition, and food safety. Based in Washington, DC, it is supported by foundation grants and by the one million subscribers to its Nutrition Action Healthletter. CSPI does not accept funding from industry or government.

October 6, 1997

Todd Eldredge
Detroit Skating Club
888 Denison Court
Bloomfield Hills, MI 48302

Re: Commercials for Cook's Champagne

Dear Mr. Eldredge:

We write to ask you to revise your plans for the "Cook's Triple Challenge" advertising campaign. We are alarmed by the deceptive messages the campaign will convey to your fans and young television viewers.

Because a substantial portion of those viewers will be under the minimum legal drinking age, your endorsement of any alcoholic beverage is improper. "Cook's Triple Challenge" is especially inappropriate because it directly links an alcoholic beverage to your athletic ability and achievements in your role as an ice-skating champion and hero to youth.

Although Canandaigua is not a member of the Wine Institute, we have written the company to ask that it yield to the benchmark established in the wine industry's Code of Advertising Standards, which provides that wine advertising "shall not use amateur or professional sports celebrities, past or present."

We have asked the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) to review whether the campaign complies with federal regulations concerning alcohol advertising. We believe the campaign violates an ATF ruling which states, in part:

"ATF is particularly sensitive to the influence athletes are known to have on youth as role models. This is particularly the case where active or recently retired athletes are concerned . . . . ATF is concerned that the appearance of an athlete in a label or advertisement not convey a misleading impression to youth."

We have asked that Canandaigua contribute the $100,000 donation to the City of Hope without linking your skating ability to Cook's Champagne through television commercials or other promotions when you land triple jumps. Any promotions should name only the City of Hope, not Cook's Champagne or other Canandaigua wine, beer or distilled spirits brands. Likewise, the "Champagne on Ice" and "Todd Eldredge and Friends" skating shows should not be aired as Cook's or Canandaigua events.

We hope that Canandaigua will work with you and with us to make this advertising campaign an appropriate promotion of the City of Hope. We wish to ensure the donation to the City of Hope is made, as its work is unquestionably deserving of funding. We urge you to respond before the debut of any "Cook's Triple Challenge" commercials or other promotions. Please respond to George A. Hacker, Director, Alcohol Policies Project at CSPI, (202)332-9110.

Thank you for your consideration, and we look forward to working with you.


George A. Hacker
Director, Alcohol Policies
Center for Science in the Public Interest

On behalf of:

Action on Alcohol & Teens -- A Citizens' Group, St. Paul, MN
Alabama Citizens Action Program, Birmingham, AL
American Council on Alcoholism and Prevention, St. Louis, MO
Center on Alcohol Advertising, Berkeley, CA
Children of Alcoholics Foundation, New York, NY
Committee for Children, Washington, DC
Community Prevention Coalition of Hennepin County, Minneapolis, MN
General Board of Church & Society, Washington, DC
High Desert Alcohol Policy Coalition, Palmdale, CA
Indiana Communities for Drug Free Youth, Zionsville, IN
Institute for Health Advocacy, San Diego, CA
Latino Council on Alcohol and Tobacco, Washington, DC
Los Angeles County Commission on Alcoholism, Los Angeles, CA
Manocherian Foundation, New York, NY
Marin Institute, San Rafael, CA
National Association for Children of Alcoholics, Rockville, MD
National Association for Public Health Policy, Reston, VA
National Association of State Alcohol and Drug Abuse Directors, Inc., Washington, DC
National Citizens Communications Lobby, Iowa City, IA
National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Washington, DC
National Institute on Media and the Family, Minneapolis, MN
National Women's Christian Temperance Union, Evanston, IL
North Carolina Initiative to Reduce Underage Drinking, Research Triangle Park, NC
North Orange County ATOD Regional Advisory Board, Yorba Linda, CA
Orange County ATOD Policy Council, Fullerton, CA
Pennsylvania Council on Alcohol Problems, Harrisburg, PA
Pennsylvania Independent State Store Union, Harrisburg, PA
Placentia Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drugs Coalition, Yorba Linda, CA
Remove Intoxicated Drivers, Schenectady, NY
Scott Newman Center, Los Angeles, CA
The Trauma Foundation, Berkeley, CA
THUMBS-UP Association, Akron, OH
Utah Alcohol Policy Coalition, Salt Lake City, UT
YMCA Communities in Prevention -- North, Yorba Linda, CA
Zenza Ltd., Twinsburg, OH