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Time for another report [sports theme] from the Wide, Wide, Wide, WILD world of sports!
Exciting news, sports fans: Marketers have made a trendsetting breakthrough for the corporate branding of sports! For some time, corporations have been plastering our stadiums with such lovable names as Office Depot Center, Bank Of America Stadium, and Enron Field (until that corporation plunged into infamy and bankruptcy.)
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Well, if you loved having a cold corporate ID slapped on your local stadium, get ready to be deliriously happy, for corporations have now begun to put their brands on the teams themselves! One of our listeners has labeled this development as an act of “brandalism.”
The first victim is the major league soccer team formerly known as the MetroStars. This New York City team was recently bought by the Austrian corporation that produces Red Bull, the energy drink and cocktail mixer. So – shazam! – the MetroStars are now the New York Red Bulls, and the players trot out for each match wearing jerseys bearing the corporate logo. As the team president gamely says, “We are part of the Red Bull family.”
How sweet. But, it’s not a family. It’s a corporation – and the team is just another commodity being peddled by the executives and beancounters back at headquarters. It’s one thing to cheer for a team – but it’s hard to connect with a corporate profit center: “Go Red Bulls! Raise your return on investment! Downsize the workforce! Hike your CEO’s pay! Scooooooorrrre!”
One sports marketing executive scoffs at critics who’re concerned that other corporations will follow the Red Bull example. “Can you imagine the New York Rangers [hockey team] being called the ABC Rangers?” he asked.
This is Jim Hightower saying… Sadly, yes. I can also imagine the Wal-Mart Warriors, the Yahoo! Yankees, or the Exxon Mobil Cowboys. After all, we’re talking about profit-grabbing corporations here – not sports.
“First Stadiums, Now Teams Take a Corporate Identity,” The New York Times, March 22, 2006.