Advertising Portrayals of Indy’s Female Drivers: A Perspective on the Succession from Guthrie to Patrick, pp. 209-217

Jacquelyn Cuneen
Nancy E. Spencer
Sally R. Ross
Artemisia Apostolopoulou

This study presents a perspective on advertisements featuring female drivers that appeared in the official Indianapolis 500 programs from 1977 to 2006. Specifically, content analysis was used to track the succession of female drivers’ depictions in the programs over the 29-year period from Janet Guthrie’s rookie year to Danica Patrick’s second race appearance. Ads were analyzed for pose, connotation, role portrayal, and camera angle. Descriptive statistics indicated that prior to 2003, the drivers’ (Guthrie, Lyn St. James, Sarah Fisher, and Patrick) ad depictions were most often strong and athletic or displaying athleticism, and their photographs were shot from straight, even planes. A transition began in 2003, when an ad featuring Fisher was somewhat sexually suggestive in her role portrayal. The advent of Patrick, however, substantially changed all aspects, particularly portrayals, as she was often photographed in sexually suggestive manners. Thus, Patrick’s arrival essentially changed the treatment of females appearing in the official program ads, when she was objectified as compared with Guthrie, St. James, and the majority of Fisher’s ad portrayals.