Riverfront Powerboat Races Canceled Due To Racy Sponsor
By ERIC GERSHON | Courant Staff Writer
July 25, 2008
Fast boats and leggy ladies might make for a good beer commercial, but the combination has sunk the Connecticut River powerboat race planned for next month.
Local organizers of the Riverfront Grand Prix ChampBoat races scheduled for Aug. 16 and 17 decided the main sponsor of this year's race, a men's magazine called Knockout, was, well, too racy for a "family-friendly event."
"It's a free public park. It's a free public event. We were using public resources to help produce the event," said Joe Marfuggi, president of Riverfront Recapture, a Hartford nonprofit group. "It just seemed inappropriate. We weren't talking Sports Illustrated here."
Founded two years ago as an online publication, Knockout considers itself a men's entertainment magazine in the vein of Maxim, editor Ronnie Kuch said Thursday in a telephone interview from Las Vegas. It does not depict nudity, he said. The first print edition hit newsstands in 25 U.S. markets last month, including Greater New York City.
Issues available online show barely covered women in sexually suggestive poses. In one video on Knockout's website Thursday, a leather-clad woman grips chains leashed to two panthers. The magazine recently introduced a feature called "Busty Brit of the Month."
Kuch said he was surprised to learn that event planners in Hartford cited the magazine as a concern.
"This is the first we've heard of the event being canceled because of Knockout's involvement," he said.
As far as he was concerned, the magazine and ChampBoat Series LLC of North Carolina, which organizes the racing tour, had agreed for unrelated marketing reasons to delay the start of Knockout's sponsorship of the races until September. The magazine approached ChampBoat, he said.
But Marfuggi said he was told only recently that Knockout would be the main sponsor and that models from the magazine would be at the Hartford event.
"It would have created a whole different atmosphere," Marfuggi said.
ChampBoat races were first held in Hartford in 2006, when they drew an estimated 10,000 to 15,000 spectators, but were not held not last year due to money problems. The boats can reach speeds of 140 mph and accelerate to 100 mph in seconds.
ChampBoat arranged for Knockout to sponsor the Hartford race, one of eight in the 2008 Formula 1 racing schedule, as a way to help pay for the event.
A sponsor became necessary after Riverfront Recapture and other local partners said they couldn't provide the $100,000 subsidy ChampBoat wanted, Marfuggi said. ChampBoat told him it could manage with $25,000 and logistical support from Hartford sources, assuming a sponsor could be found to provide the rest, he said.
Art Henson, ChampBoat's marketing director, said the organization understood Riverfront's "need to play it safe," but defended Knockout as within the bounds of taste.
"It's not Penthouse or something," he said, referring to a magazine known for its photographs of nude women.
Henson said ChampBoat would not have allowed Knockout's models to dress too provocatively."Heck, women come to the races in bikinis and cutoffs. It's the summer," he said. "It wasn't going to be a bunch of prostitute-looking chicks with barely anything on."
After Marfuggi learned of Knockout's involvement, he said, Riverfront Recapture and ChampBoat quickly agreed to cancel the Hartford race, citing "a difference of opinion about the appropriateness of a proposed title sponsor," according to a press release.
"They were talking to us early on about Coca-Cola and other mainstream sponsors," Marfuggi said. "We had never seen on their website any evidence of them working with an adult magazine. We were really surprised."
Henson said ChampBoat hasn't written off Hartford.
"'09 would be great," Henson said.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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