Schumi to say ‘don’t drink and drive’ to Indians

New Delhi, Jan 23 (IANS) Speedsters, tune in! There is a message from none other than seven-time Formula One racing champion Michael Schumacher for Indian drivers who like one for the road.

Schumacher, who has become beverage major Bacardi-Martini Ltd’s global social responsibility ambassador for 2008, will hit the country in February with his “Don’t drink and drive” line.

Support TwoCircles

The catch line for Schumi’s campaign will be: “Listen, I am champion. But when I go to a pub, I don’t drive. And when I drive, I don’t drink.”

“We are working on the ‘don’t drink and drive campaign’ in India and it will be executed in February. It’s already a massive success in Germany,” Mahesh Madhavan, CEO and president of Bacardi-Martini India Limited, told IANS.

The Formula One champion started working with Bacardi and its portfolio of brands in January to take the “safe driving” message across the world. Schumacher said he had been involved in several road safety campaigns in his career and “felt very strongly about the initiative”.

The campaign, said Madhavan, who is just back from Thailand to look after Bacardi-Martini’s India operations, makes sense as India has one of the highest averages of road disasters in the world.

According to an estimate, 90,000 people die in road accidents in India every year, over 1.2 million are seriously injured and nearly 300,000 permanently disabled. Studies show that apart from negligence, drunken driving and alcohol-related fatigue are the major causes of road accidents. Such accidents are most common during festivals – both social and religious – which dot the Indian calendar.

Life on the fast lane in Indian metros, changing lifestyles even in tier two cities and mushrooming pubs have contributed to the spurt in rash driving on Indian roads and consequent accidents. Liquor is more freely available than before and nearly 75 percent of the Indian population, now below the age of 35, have more disposable incomes to splurge on liquor, studies cite.

“We plan to promote the ‘don’t drink and drive’ campaign through a series of awareness building exercises and education workshops in pubs, bars and social events frequented by youngsters in Indian cities. Michael Schumacher will be integral to this awareness creation with his message,” Madhavan said.

He, however, refused to shed light on the Formula One champion’s “Indian travel itinerary” for the campaign.

The campaign will be modelled on the one that Bacardi has executed in Germany. “We have a driver’s corner in pubs across Germany. The drivers for the evening (they are usually appointed by groups of friends visiting a pub; one among the peers) are herded to the corner and given an unlimited amount of snacks and soft drinks. Nothing hard, so that he/she can drive friends home without messing up on the road,” Madhavan said.

The campaign will have its test run in bars and in large format parties that the company is hosting to promote its new brand of Vodka – Grey Goose. “Drunken driving in India is penalised by fine and a three-month jail term. There’s no point punishing drunk drivers, it is better to wean them off alcohol while driving,” Madhavan said.

The company, which is still testing the Indian market, plans to ride on charity. “Social responsibility is our top priority. We have just formed the Grey Goose Foundation and are looking for partners and causes,” he said.

The company is associated with several philanthropic projects worldwide, including the Elton John Foundation for AIDS/HIV patients and a project in northern Europe for mothers infected by HIV/AIDS.

Product-wise, Bacardi-Martini plans to promote the palate for Martini and Vermouth – a fortified wine with aromatic herbs and spices – in India.

“Indians still don’t know how to enjoy a good Martini because there were none in the market,” Madhavan honcho said.