Sunday 11th February 2007
Alex Massie in Washington
It's a very public move from a traditionally secretive and mysterious organisation. But concerned by an ageing membership, America's most senior Freemasons have decided on a bold new strategy: advertising.
The Scottish Rite, which represents more than 500,000 Freemasons across the United States, has joined major American brands such as Budweiser as a sponsor of Nascar racing.
The Masons will this year be the principal sponsors of car number 34, driven by rookie Brian Conz who is himself a member of the organisation. There will be no charge to the organisation, however - instead they will offer Masonic activities to the racing team.
Frank Cicci Racing's car will have "Scottish Rite" emblazoned on its bonnet and the traditional Masonic symbols of a compass and set square on its sides.
According to some estimates the Masonic message could receive as many as 30 million "impressions" each race - a figure calculated using the number of viewers and the number of times each car is seen on screen.
"The culturalists we've talked to tell us there's a window.
Young people these days are looking for ways to give back to their communities," said Stan Dodd, a spokesman for the Scottish Rite.
The median age of Freemasons is now over 60 and the move into Nascar's series of races is designed to promote Freemasonry to a younger generation of American men.
"We need some younger members," said Dodd, adding that the Nascar demographic fits naturally with the Masons' target audience: "men". The advertising strategy also aims to counter bad publicity spawned by conspiracy movies such as The Da Vinci Code which portrayed the Masons as a sinister global network.
The freemasons point out that they contribute more than $750m a year to charity and other good works.
The Scottish Rite, based in Washington DC, represents more than 500,000 Freemasons across the country and is one of the most significant "Appendant Bodies" in Freemasonry.
Formed in Charleston, South Carolina, in 1801, the Scottish Rite also owns one of the most extensive collections of Robert Burns' poems and manuscripts.
No fewer than 14 US presidents from George Washington to the late Gerald Ford have been masons, from George Washington to the late Gerald Ford have been Masons, while other prominent American members have included Benjamin Franklin, John Wayne and General Douglas MacArthur.
Ordinarily sponsorship of a Nascar car would cost as much as $2m a year.
The Masons, however, are not paying.
Instead the Scottish Rite "will lend its name to the team and will provide staff support for masonic activities related to the race programme".
Frank Cicci Racing hopes that aligning itself with a nationwide organisation such as the Freemasons will open up opportunities for the team to take advantage of the Masons' membership and make lucrative sponsorship deals in the future.
"We're aligning ourselves with a dynamic, worldwide organisation.
We expect access and introduction to their members, who will assist us in meeting
executive-level corporate leaders interested in getting involved with racing," a spokesman for the team said.
Bill, Dunblane,11/02/2007 01:45:08
Ye've 'goat' to admit it's a good idea. But they'll need to develop a fireproof apron! Report Unsuitable
2 Cadgers,Perth 11/02/2007 09:38:36
And don't forget the funny handshakes. Report Unsuitable
3 Andrew_10101,11/02/2007 10:14:42
Won't it interfer with the racing, trying to drive with a trouser leg rolled up and your shirt hanging open? Report Unsuitable
4 Guga,Rockall 11/02/2007 11:24:44
#3 Not to mention the noose around your neck. Report Unsuitable
5 Scaramouche,11/02/2007 12:52:46
My old dad was a Master Mason .... and he'd be having an apopletic fit if he saw this article.
The Yanks never did understand what Freemasonry was all about. Like Religion, they subverted it and replaced Jehovah and the Great Architect with Mammon.
Personally (and this drove my dad nuts), I think Masons are every bit as bad all the other religions. Report Unsuitable
6 Aoda,Pennsylvania Wilds 11/02/2007 13:14:05
A member of the Masons and Scottish Rite, I do not agree with it either.
#5 Scaramouche, you have it wrong. We very much know what freemasonry is and it defiently is not a religion. Report Unsuitable
7 Scaramouche,11/02/2007 14:24:57
#6. "We very much know what freemasonry is and it defiently is not a religion."
Are you saying 'defiant' or 'definitely'?
Either way, it very much behaves like one. And after all, if it looks lika duck and quacks like a duck ..... Report Unsuitable
8 bobio,Canada 11/02/2007 17:20:10
Obviously you didn't pay too much attention to what "old dad" said or did. The Masonic Order is NOT a religious organization. It does more good than most people realize but doesn't advertise it.
Get your facts, my man, before you go blowing off.
By the way, I don't agree with the public promotion. Typically Yank though. They can't seem to get anything right these days.
9 Scaramouche,11/02/2007 18:05:25
#8. You obviously can't read posts correctly either.
I never at any time said Freemasonry was a religion. But I have inferred very strongly that it behaves very much like a religion.
Of course my dad tried to get me into the Masons, but I dislike and don't trust 'organisations' of any kind. I only did ONE hour with the Scouts before I shot the craw!
Report Unsuitable10 One-man-bucket's older twin,11/02/2007 18:37:02
"The median age of freemasons is now over 60" - maybe the organisation has had its day?
Report Unsuitable11 Guga,Rockall 11/02/2007 20:33:25
#10 Not yet I'm afraid. Remember that it is full of police, lawyers and judges.
Report Unsuitable12 ghost chaser,ramona, ca. usa 12/02/2007 01:36:44
yes and don't forget about the youth aspect of the groups De-mole' and the jobs daughters, may be it should keep it secrecy or maybe tiger woods will have free masons golf balls complete with the masons insignias. i respect traditions and this is a long standing one.
Report Unsuitable13 Swilly Tisher,Loch Maree 12/02/2007 15:01:29
They're goats if they go public