The debut of erectile dysfunction medication that was safe, reliable and easy to take when it was
needed changed the culture of sexual health, not only in the medical profession but in the wider
By offering a solution that was easy, fast-acting and more discreet than the previous pumps and
injections that were the norm for treating ED, more men were able to order sildenafil online and
turn ED into a condition that could be managed and treated like any other.
Pfizer, the original company that manufactured sildenafil, under the name Viagra, not only
innovated in terms of the medication they created but also innovated in how they marketed,
changing how people thought about men’s health in the process.
They chose several older, respected figures to discuss ED and ways of managing it, which included
legendary football player Pele and politician Bob Dole.
One endorsement that also had a major effect on the perception of ED in the wider world was their
sponsorship of a car in America’s most popular motor racing series: NASCAR.
The Viagra Car
Mark Martin was a twenty-year veteran of the sport, and at the age of 41 had reached a crossroads
in his career as he entered what would become a lengthy twilight period of his career.
After his sponsorship deal with engine oil company Valvoline, Pfizer stepped in to offer Mr Martin
and his team Roush Racing one of the biggest deals at that point in stock-car racing history to
The deal, worth $14m per year according to the Chicago Tribune, was set to last five years and was
part of a wider campaign to both promote Viagra as well as a wider men’s health campaign known
as Tune Up For Life.
The campaign, which focused on mental health, heart screenings and sexual health, included having
health checks available at NASCAR races throughout the campaign, which aimed to improve
knowledge of common health issues that affected men.
Mark Martin proved to be a good spokesperson for the brand for many reasons. He was in several
very 2000s adverts for the brand, advertising sample kits, consulting with your doctor and general
men’s health screening.
Having an older but still highly fit athlete talk about ED helped to normalise the brand, helped in no
small part by Mr Martin’s insistence that his sponsorship focused on men’s help specifically.
As a result, millions are spent on advertising screening for health conditions and research on
prostate and testicular cancer. This in turn contributed to a reduction in the rate of prostate and
testicular cancer deaths in the United States.
On the track, the deal initially appeared to be a mistake, as the number 6 car went winless
throughout 2001 and led to concerns that Mr Martin may be on a permanent decline.
This proved to be premature, as the blue and white car would win his first race in two years and
continued to be in the running to win the championship.
However, just as it looked like he might finally achieve his long-time dream of winning the
championship, an illegal front spring led to 25 points being docked and costing him the
championship by an incredibly small amount.
The deal continued until 2005, which was set to be Mr Martin’s final year, dubbed the “Salute To
You” tour. Viagra has not sponsored another motor racing team since.