Times are hard. How hard? So hard that Tiger Woods just lost a $7.5 million sponsorship contract he had with Buick for 2009.
Of course, the gabillionaire golfer will be all right, but it’s a sign of the times that even those in the high-dollar world of professional sports are feeling the financial squeeze as corporate sponsors withdraw support. For example, the ultimate event of extravagant sports commercialism – the Super Bowl – is only weeks away, yet several of the pricey 30-second television spots for this spectacle are still unclaimed by advertisers.
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Especially hard hit these days is the one pro competition that literally wears corporatization on its sleeve: NASCAR. Drivers and their cars are covered in assorted corporate logos, becoming roaring billboards for everything from GM to M&Ms. Indeed, corporate dollars typically account for 80 percent of a NASCAR team’s budget, with various companies putting up about $10 million each to sponsor a team.
Auto companies have been big NASCAR backers, and scoring a victory on the circuit can actually boost the sales of the brand that got the checkered flag. “What wins on Sunday,” the saying goes, “sells on Monday!” But these days, with Detroit automakers in line for taxpayer bailouts, such names as Ford and Dodge are bailing out of some of their NASCAR sponsorships. In a bizarre twist of financial gamesmanship, some racing teams are now turning to Wall Street speculators to get the capital they need to stay in the race.
Meanwhile, coming full circle, Citibank is paying $20 million a year to the owners of the New York Mets to emblazon its corporate logo on the team’s new stadium. Yes, this is the same bank now getting a $45 billion bailout from us taxpayers.
So, seeing how we’re paying for it, shouldn’t Citi Field really be named Taxpayer’s Field?