The Colonel, the Racecar Driver and the Actress

Jun 08, 2004

By George Anderson

Did you hear the one about the Kentucky colonel, the racecar driver and the actress?

KFC’s deal to hire racecar driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. to serve as a pitchman for the restaurant chain has already got people talking and, in the case of actress Pamela Anderson,
writing letters to express dismay.

The deal with Mr. Earnhardt calls for him to appear in television spots for the chain and promotional materials. The KFC logo will appear with other sponsors on Mr. Earnhardt’s
car at NASCAR events.

His image will also appear on limited edition KFC chicken buckets, making Mr. Earnhardt the first person other than company founder, Colonel Sanders, to be pictured on the buckets.

“We are thrilled to be partnering with Dale Earnhardt Jr. — one of the most talented and dynamic drivers on the circuit,” Gregg Dedrick, president of KFC, said in company press
release. “He has become a major icon for the sport, and we’re excited to have his likeness on our special KFC commemorative buckets.”

Ken Hoffman, writing in the Houston Chronicle, offers a different take on replacing the colonel with the racecar driver. “No Colonel on the bucket? It’s sacrilegious.
It’s blasphemous. It’s like taking Abraham Lincoln off Mount Rushmore and replacing him with Carrot Top.”

Pamela Anderson, unlike Mr. Hoffman, doesn’t see anything remotely humorous in Mr. Earnhardt’s endorsement of KFC.

The former Baywatch star and spokesperson for the animal rights group, PETA, Ms. Anderson wrote a letter to Mr. Earnhardt asking him to try and influence KFC’s treatment of its
chickens. A report on the MSNBC Web site says PETA is critical of KFC’s practices which it alleges include defeathering live chickens with scalding water.

“When you take a multimillion-dollar endorsement from a company, you must also take some responsibility for the company’s practices,” Ms. Anderson writes, “so we’re
asking you to use your considerable influence with KFC to improve its animal-welfare standards.”

Moderator’s Comment: What are your thoughts on KFC’s choice of Dale Earnhardt Jr. as its spokesperson? How should
the company deal with the public criticism it receives from groups such as PETA?

Being that Pamela Anderson is vegetarian, we think there’s little chance she was going to be buying much fried chicken anyway. That doesn’t mean people
who eat chicken won’t be responsive to her message if they believe it.

– George Anderson – Moderator

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