19 January 2007

Commercialism...Gone Right?


Simply said, commercialization has taken over the world. It is estimated that the average American is exposed to 2,500 advertising messages each day (http://www.nolo.com/product.cfm/objectID/5E5BFB9E-A33A-43DB-9D162A6460AA646A/sampleChapter/5/111/277/#summary). This commercialization has taken effect just as strongly in the world of sports. Sports venues are named after corporations, and even when they’re not, logos are plastered everywhere. Take our beloved Dodger Stadium for a quick example – where once on the outfield wall stood proud memories and photos of Dodger past now lies the advertisements for Budweiser and AAA (or something like that). Some of this commercialism is done well, but most of the time it isn’t. The San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl is just one example of many in the latter category (TCU 37, Northern Illinois 7, in case you were wondering). It’s rare to see commercialism done gracefully, let alone bring a smile to one’s face.

Uniwatchblog.com has a small story today about the Spanish soccer team Barcelona doing just that. European soccer is rife with advertisements – logos on the front of jerseys are commonplace. The team was in fact one of the few teams not to have such logos. That was until last year, when Barcelona teamed up with UNICEF, the UN Children’s fund. Now, during a time when companies are paying millions each year for the opportunity to advertise on a uniform, Barcelona did just the opposite. They are paying close to $2 million dollars a year to UNICEF! This is a truly incredible story that perhaps hasn’t gotten enough press. It really takes something to not only pass up millions, but also then dish it out to someone else. It also looks pretty good too.

Yes, it could be argued that the $2 mil is hardly a drop in the bucket for a top-flight team. In fact, they’ll probably easily recoup that amount in jersey sales for the year. But it’s a start, and it is certainly more than most others are doing. While I’m sure most teams have a charitable wing, putting the UNICEF logo right front and center is far and away a different animal. It provides a constant reminder of the organization, the need for charity, and of course, more importantly, how great Barcelona is for doing it. Simply said, it’s a great show of altruism, and a great P.R. move by the team.

The next question is – how long will it be before another team takes a page out of Barcelona’s book, particularly in the US? Setting aside the logos of Nike, RBK, etc, corporate logos currently aren’t on the jerseys of any of the four major sports. Heck, Adidas can’t even get their logo onto the NBA jerseys that they make (but they’re all over the warm-ups!). Whichever team chooses to break the barrier first would be well advised to go the route of Barcelona, as the press would be all over it. The lower tiered MLS does include corporate sponsorships on their jerseys like their European brethren. Speaking of MLS, it will sure be interesting to see which logo the LA Galaxy will align themselves with this spring. With the money they’re paying David Beckham, you can be sure it wont be a charity case!

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