Ward Burton Shows How To Win Beyond Racing

WardBurtonI became a NASCAR fan only in recent years…in fact, the first race I can honestly say I watched from start to finish was perhaps one of the most dramatic Daytona 500s in the history of the sport.   It was February 2001, and in the closing lap of that first race I witnessed the legendary Dale Earnhardt (Sr.) die in a horrible crash.   Oddly enough…this weekly soap opera called racing was slowly capturing my interest to the point I have now eventually become a serious fan of the sport.

A year later…and with the sport of stock car racing still having heavy hearts due to the loss of Dale Sr, the February 2002 Daytona 500 race was once again the all-American spectacle that it had been built up to be.   Again there were several dramatic wrecks, but this year fortunately there were no major injuries or fatalities.   In the end, a driver in the #22 Caterpillar Dodge known as Ward Burton celebrated his first and only 500 win in Daytona’s “Victory Lane.”   Two years later this popular racer would find himself on the outside of the racing world now looking in.   You see…the world of motorsports is a fickle one…and Ward Burton knows that better than anyone.

So what does a popular NASCAR driver do when he is no longer an active participant in the sport from week to week?   The answer is quite simple…at least it was for Ward Burton.   You start The Ward Burton Wildlife Foundation and commit your life to a passion of saving land from development while also striving to educate both children and adults about the importance of being good stewards of that land.   Indeed, Burton has used his notoriety to positively channel his endless energy for the outdoors into a very worthwhile cause.

In many ways Burton’s life is not much different than for most sportsmen.   It began at an early age with a grandfather and father showing Ward the wonderful aspects of the outdoors.   Interestingly, even though his life eventually took a major turn finding him on the race track 36 weeks out of the year…he somehow never forgot about his outdoor roots.   In fact, now that his storied NASCAR career has been temporarily put on hold (while he waits for another “ride” as they say in the biz), I find it somewhat heart-warming to see a man put so much effort and money into doing what he believes is his life mission in the outdoors.

To learn more about Ward Burton’s outdoor legacy, click here.   If you don’t have time to peruse the entire web site, at least read this ESPN article by clicking here.

Meeting Ward recently got me contemplating about my personal outdoor legacy.   Will I have one…or will my time spent tromping through the woods and fields be lost once I take my last breath?   Often we don’t like to dwell on it…but our life as healthy sportsmen is sometimes cut way shorter than we expect.   A person never knows when a major health ailment could strike ending our days afield…or worse, even facing death.   Now understand I don’t want this to become depressing or morbid, yet, if we want to do something positive for the outdoors we can’t keep putting it off in our lives.

Ward Burton certainly has had many good fortunes in his life mostly as a racer…and in so many ways has created a legacy for himself on the race track.   But I think if you ask Ward what he is most proud of in his life it would probably be the efforts he has put into giving back to the outdoors.   That’s what is truly important to this man who easily has made his life complete by his time spent in the race car.   Yet, that wasn’t enough.   As soon as opportunities ended on the oval track…new opportunities were created in the woodlot.

Believe me, Ward Burton should serve as a hell of a role model for all of us sportsmen.   Granted, it is unlikely that most of us can aspire to create a wildlife foundation as successful as what Ward has already accomplished, but that doesn’t mean we can’t still significantly contribute to the outdoors in our own unique way.   When one door closed for Burton (his racing career) he quickly refocused his energies into doing something positive for the outdoors.   In time, folks will likely start forgetting about the many achievements Ward has assembled in his racing career…but his work for the outdoors could easily blossom into someday becoming his real claim to fame.

A large portion of Ward Burton’s life, much like it is for most of us sportsmen, has been built on a strong foundation of conservation values.   One of the fundamental tenets of conservation is finding a way to give something back when you have taken.   Maybe creating a legacy isn’t your objective in life…or maybe it is.   The bottom line is we all should be inspired by the likes of role models such as Ward Burton who could have easily slipped from the limelight to enjoy the fruits of his racing fame.   Instead, he realized the importance of making the outdoor world where he lives a better place in which to live.

No doubt about it…Ward Burton is one race car driver who knows how to win both inside and outside of his stock car.

© 2006 Jim Braaten.  All Rights Reserved.   No Reproduction without Prior Permission.

Remembering The Old Hamm’s Beer Bear

HammsbeerbearDon’t you just hate it when you get a song into your head and it keeps playing over and over again to the point of being ad nauseum.   Even worse than a song…what about those cutesy advertising jingles that are designed to be short, sweet and very memorable?   Well, I’m not exactly sure how it happened…but today I got the old Hamm’s Beer jingle into my head and it’s working overtime to accomplish its goal.

Actually, if a person must obsess about a jingle you could do far worse than the Hamm’s Beer jingle.   At least it’s short and sweet.   But more importantly, it’s not about the music alone…rather, it’s about the state of mind that is evoked when you hear the jingle and think of the goofy mascot bear performing some stunt in the Northland of Minnesota.   Indeed, the Hamm’s Beer ad campaign is often heralded as one of the most successful promotions in the history of American advertising.   And that’s saying quite a bit considering the ads only ran in 31 states where the beer was once available.

For those who are unfamiliar with the music from the jingle, click here.   The lyrics are also short and sweet:

 “From the Land of Sky Blue Waters (Waters),
  From the land of pines, lofty balsam,
  Comes the beer refreshing,
  Hamm’s the Beer Refreshing”.

Fact is, if you’re under the age of 35 or so and you grew up outside the Midwest…the Theodore (or Theo) Hamm’s Bear probably means nothing to you.   The campaign was first created back in the 1950s but it got most of its mileage during the 60s and 70s.   The Hamm’s Bear was cute and cuddly…so it was a perfect family mascot that held viewing appeal for the entire family.

But aside from the immense popularity of the bear mascot, the true star in the marketing gimmick was the Northwoods and the cherished thoughts it evoked for the potential beer consumer.   Even today, a search on eBay will show that the Hamm’s Brewing bar signs are some of the most collectible of all brewing signs.   They showed a pristine north country that made you want to just grab your rod, reel and tacklebox while you kissed the wife goodbye as you headed out the door.   Ask anyone who remembers, those bar signs had a definite mesmerizing effect that connected life enjoying the North-country with a cool, refreshing, satisfying Hamm’s Beer.

So what does this all have to do with being a sportsman?   Quite honestly, it says quite a bit.   Obviously, it seems today’s marketers have largely forgotten the Northwoods appeal and the desirable effect it has on stirring raw emotions inside us.   There was a certain connectivity between Hamm’s Beer…the Northwoods…and being a sportsman that no longer exists today, at least not to the same level it once did.   Much like the old Hamm’s Brewery which now sits idle (in terms of use as a brewery) in St. Paul, Minnesota…the ad world seems to have forgotten that pine trees, pristine lake waters, and of course, bears can have a positive effect on people.

On the other hand, have today’s advertisers forgotten the Northwoods on purpose because it lacks the appeal it once held on the public?   Hmmm…   Think back to the beer ads you’ve seen on TV recently.   I think you would be hard-pressed to find any that incorporate the inviting wonders of the great outdoors.   But don’t limit yourself to just beer ads.   How many ads of any type today use the captivating aspects of the outdoors woven into their message?   Not saying you can’t recollect a few…but nothing stands out quite like the Hamm’s commercials.

Indeed, the Hamm’s Beer advertising message proved it’s possible to positively and effectively promote a product by hinting at the appeal of the Northwoods and its icons.   Today, the only commercial that even comes close to accomplishing the same effect on me is the new Dodge Truck ads featuring Paul Bunyan and Babe.   Even so, this ad campaign somehow pales in comparison to the affinity I have always felt with Hamm’s Beer…and this is a statement coming from a man who doesn’t even drink beer.   Why else would I have been whistling the jingle long after the ads last appeared for the brew?

© 2006 Jim Braaten.  All Rights Reserved.   No Reproduction without Prior Permission.

A Penn & Teller Video Worth Watching

If you’re read my blog for any amount of time you’ll already know that I am NO fan of PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals).   Recently while monitoring some blog feeds I noticed that Doug Howlett over at The Strut Zone had stumbled upon an interesting video about this do-good organization.   It’s narrated by the famous Penn & Teller, Las Vegas show entertainers…and it’s a marvelous piece every sportsman should take 15 minutes to view.   Be forewarned, the video does have some rough language…so viewer discretion is advised.

To view the Penn & Teller PETA video click HERE.   This video was apparently produced as part of SHOWTIME’S Penn & Teller Bullshit! reality series which you can learn more about by clicking HERE.

I know I sure have some new respect for this entertainment duo for being brave enough to tell it like it is in a very eloquent fashion.   No doubt the next time I’m in Vegas I will be buying tickets to support their live performances.

© 2006 Jim Braaten.  All Rights Reserved.   No Reproduction without Prior Permission.