Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Conservative Party Wants To Go Fast

New twist on "horse race" model of politics

In a new effort to reach potential supporters, the governing Conservative Party of Canada is off to the races.

In an unconventional move, the party has sponsored the #29 car of Pierre Borque, the owner and operator of Bourque Newswatch, a website that sells favourable headlines to politicians. The Conservative party has reportedly been a client.

The Tories are seemingly using this move to pursue the "Nascar dads", a predominantly middle-class market.

While it could give them a unique edge, the Tories' latest move is also fairly boneheaded, and could quite easily be classified as a blunder.

First off, sponsoring a car on the NASCAR Canadian Tire circuit (the re-named and re-launched CASCAR, which was bought out by NASCAR last year) doesn't even constitute effective political advertising. Politics works most effectively when a message is involved. While sponsoring a stock car may expose the Conservative party to potential voters, it gives them no idea as to why they should vote for the party.

By making a move such as this, the party is clearly relying on a mere exposure effect. While potentially effective, this does unfortunately make for rather fickle politics. Sponsoring a stock car doesn't necessarily mean that you relate to this particular block of voters any more than your political opponents, and it's hard to print a party's entire platform on the hood of a car travelling around an ashphalt track at 170 miles per hour and still make it legible to the spectator.

Beyond the basic strategic issues surrounding the move, there is also the criticism that this has -- and will continue -- to draw from the environmental movement. With climate change occupying the central position in the environmentalist agenda, sponsoring motorsports -- which spew tons of CO2 into the atmosphere in what many may consider to be a rather frivolous activitiy -- only alienates Canadians who are concerned about climate change. All this in the name of pursuing the "NASCAR dads" -- a market that it's pretty safe to say the Conservatives have all sewn up.

Green Party leader Elizabeth May could have it right (for a change) when she suggests that "there is more money than sense in the Conservative party right now."

The Conservative party needs to go back to the drawing board, produce some new ideas, and focus on getting its message out. That will have a much greater impact on their recent slinking polls.

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