Broadway Sponsor Drops Mayor-Bashed Ads

Continental Airlines, recently crowned Broadway's first official sponsor, received a black eye at the hands of an irate Mayor Rudolph Giuliani last week. The criticism led to the airline voluntarily suspending an ad campaign the mayor termed derogatory of the city.

Last April, Continental and the League of American Theatres and Producers shook hands on a five-year, multi-million-dollar sponsorship agreement, making the airline the first corporate concern to back Broadway itself, as opposed to separate shows or league events.

The airline's pro-city profile seemed to change by June 26, however, when Mayor Giuliani held a press conference to accuse Continental of anti-New-York activity. At the City Hall gathering, Giuliani berated the flier's recent advertising campaign, which he alleged had bruised the Big Apple.

The string of ads encourages travelers to avail themselves of Continental's hub, Newark International Airport, making wry comments about the supposed disadvantages of New York. The mayor expressed particular ire over a radio ad which ended with the taxi recording parody: "Welcome to New York! Now get out!"

Giuliani was not allowed to rant long, however. Mid-conference, Deputy Mayor Randy Mastro appeared, announcing that Continental had decided to discontinue the newspaper and radio ads; the outdoor ads would remain, said the airline, due to the difficulty of removing them quickly.

League Executive Director Jed Bernstein was out of town and unavailable for comment. League press representative Kylie Robertson said that it would be inappropriate to comment on the issue because the campaign had nothing to do with Broadway specifically.

Continental officials, meanwhile, contend that the ads did not slight New York at all. "The campaign only highlighted the convenience of using Newark Airport," David Messind, Continental's director of public relations, told Back Stage. "It is not an anti-New York campaign. It has been mischaracterized as such. Continental has a huge track record of being positive about New York, including the sponsorship of Broadway, and we expect to cont