It can be easy to forget just how dramatic and recent the rise in ED medication has been, because of the availability of affordable sildenafil tablets and a greater understanding of erectile dysfunction, why men have it and how they can manage it.
In a world where men’s health is far less taboo and far more openly discussed without being stigmatised, it can be difficult the cultural impact of Viagra, the first and most famous Pfizer sildenafil product.
Beyond endorsements by the greatest football player who ever lived and United States senators, Viagra, its blue logo and little blue pill were everywhere in pop culture from 1998 until the mid-2000s when it was locked in a fierce battle with Cialis and Stendra for market share.
This led to an all-out marketing blitz by Pfizer, of which the most fascinating, unusual and arguably most effective was a full title sponsorship of a stock car racing in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series (now just known as the Cup Series).
This car not only created endless headlines, brought the Viagra brand to millions of American viewers and very nearly won the championship, but it also may have contributed to a reduction in preventable deaths in the process.
The Big Silver And Blue Machine
The car in question was the No. 6 Ford Taurus driven by veteran driver Mark Martin, who at the time of the deal being signed was 42 years old and in a similar age bracket to other major spokesmen for Viagra at the time.
Mark Martin was a successful driver for Roush Racing who had a long-term relationship with car lubricant and oils company Valvoline, however due to what was at the time the single largest sponsorship deal in the history of NASCAR, Viagra would be the main title sponsor for his car.
Mr Martin himself agreed on the condition that there was a greater focus on the men’s health aspect of Pfizer’s work known as Tune Up For Life.
At each Winston Cup race that season, Pfizer had a mobile truck that provided free health screens, checking not only for ED but also blood pressure, cholesterol, glucose levels and general cardiovascular health.
Whilst the first year of the deal is a disaster on-track with no wins for Mark, the second year was a significant improvement.
Whilst the Viagra car would only win one race, his consistent finishes meant that he was leading the championship after points leader Stirling Marlin was injured on 29th September, giving Mark Martin a chance at the championship.
However, after his car was discovered to have an illegal front spring, he lost 25 points and the closest chance a Viagra-sponsored car would have at a championship. Mark Martin would take a part-time schedule after 2006 and would retire in 2011 at the age of 52.
Despite this, the Tune Up For Life campaign was a massive success, with a significant and notable decline in prostate cancer rates from 2006 (the end of the NASCAR Viagra sponsorship) onwards.
By the time he retired, the perception of ED medication had changed considerably, to the benefit of both the mental and physical health of men.