05/06/2004: An incoherent rant on corporate sports sponsorship.... because it's my blog, and I can rant if I want tomusic: Leonard Bernstein: Overture to Candide
I would add that corporate logos aren't just becoming part of sporting events -- they've been part of sporting events since time immemorial. Just look at old photos of Ebbetts Field -- there are corporate ads plastered over every square inch of the outfield wall. They looked pretty cool, if you ask me.My own take on the matter is a bit more dubious than Brian's, though that may come from my distrust of Big Business in general.
And that's really the key issue here: aesthetics. I have no quarrel with advertising in principle -- after all, those ads help keep ticket prices down and allow you to listen to ballgames on the radio for free, and in general MLB should be finding creative ways to increase revenue. But I draw a line when such ads uglify the game. Case in point: those horrendous digital green-screen effects that Fox puts behind home plate during the playoffs. They're a blight on the eyes, and should be done away with, pronto. But those spidey webs on the bases? Seems pretty harmless to me.
Advertising on the outfield wall, for instance. That doesn't bother me any, since, as Brian notes it's part of the hoary tradition of baseball itself (just look at old photos of pretty much any ballpark--save maybe Wrigley Field after Bill Veeck planted the ivy on the wall--the outfield wall is loaded with ads). There has to be some limit, though I don't know where exactly to draw the line. I just know that the more I see advertising seep into the game, the less I like it. I find "stadium naming rights" annoying; I much prefer "Sportsman's Park" to "Busch Stadium", for example, and that was long before it became a statutory requirement to put a corporate name on every ballpark or stadium. Granted, the sale of stadium naming rights may generate a ton o'cash to help finance the building or the operations of the park (and in this day and age of sports teams trying to rape and pillage the community to not only get the locals to build their stadium for them but then pay the owners for the privilege of having their teams play there, that may be important), but it's still bloody annoying. And when the telecast gets interrupted by "the Cellular South call to the bullpen" (that's how the televised Memphis Redbirds games manage to sneak that sponsorship plug in), I begin to start seeing red and my blood pressure begins to rise....
Of course, you can argue, as Brian did, that this helps keep ticket prices down. Possibly. Way back in the 70's (I think), we started seeing "commercials" appearing before movies when we went to the movie theater. At the time, a lot of my friends and family were highly annoyed--"Dammit", they'd say, "I pay money to go to the movies to get away from the commercials." I didn't mind. For me, the experience of seeing a movie on the big screen is part of the reason for going to the theater; seeing a movie in a theater and seeing the same movie on home video aren't fungible--the big screen offers an enhanced viewing experience that the small screen doesn't (my employer doesn't pay me enough to have one of those fancy-ass home theater systems with the big screen TV and the theater surround sound, so I suppose that opinion may change if I ever win the lottery and get my chance to get one)--and I reasoned that the commercials would keep ticket prices down so I could keep going to see movies on the big screen. Alas, twenty something (too damn close to thirty) years later, I'm seeing no evidence that the ticket prices are being kept down.
Brian's got a good point: the aesthetics are important. I live in terror that, if we aren't too careful, baseball uniforms are going to wind up festooned with so many sponsorship patches that you won't be able to tell a ballplayer from a NASCAR driver until the driver puts on his crash helmet and gets into the car. And that just ain't right! I dont mind the logos of the maker on uniforms or equipment items--that's normal branding. But placing sponsorship logos of third party corporate sponsors on unis? If there were a just God, that will not happen. (Since I don't believe there is any God, you can understand why I'm starting to get as nervous as a Christian Scientist with appendicitis.)
Of course, sometimes corporate sponsorships backfire in an amusing manner--can you say "Enron Field"?
Someone gave me this, which is kind of cool. I have one of the last "Enron Field" hats. I guess you're up for a new name now, huh? "Fifth Amendment Field" won't fit... "Up Shit Creek Field".... Arthur Andersen wanted to have a field but then the seats would have to turn both ways. What're you going to do then? "Shredder Field"? No.... "Home of the Shredders"? No, you can't do that.That Williams line, and the potential for more like them, might just be the only bright lining in the dark corporate sponsorship cloud.
--Robin Williams [concert in Houston]
UPDATE: The FoxSports.com story quotes Ralph Nader. While Ralph is, admittedly, himself getting more and more annoying, he's on to something here, I think:
Ralph Nader, a presidential candidate and consumer advocate, criticized the deal. He wrote Tuesday to baseball commissioner Bud Selig, denouncing the decision to have ads on uniforms during the season-opening series in March between the Yankees and Tampa Bay Devil Rays in Tokyo.You don't have to be the seventh son of a seventh son to see the inevitable: if this isn't stopped soon, we're going to see ads sponsoring ads: "And now, a message from Levitra, brought to you by Pepsi." And then advertisements for other ads themselves aren't far behind: "Catch the new ad for Bud Light, it's a shoo in for a Clio this year. Running tonight on FoxSports Midwest, during the Cardinals game...." And other unnatural and perverted permutations....
"It's gotten beyond grotesque," Nader said. "The fans have to revolt here. Otherwise, they'll be looking at advertisements between advertisements."
Take me now, Lord. If you exist.
Len on 05.06.04 @ 10:19 AM CST