Marketing Momentum

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Corporate Branding in Sports Going Too Far?

We've all seen the impact of corporate advertising in sports - large stadium advertisements to corporate sky boxes to corporate named stadiums.

Here in Baltimore, the Ravens play at M&T Stadium. Previously, it was PSI.net Stadium, but when the company was suffering it could no longer afford the stadium sponsorship. Although Baltimorians had fun toying with possible corporate sponsors, like "Rent-A-Wreck Stadium" and "M/T (empty) Stadium - a.k.a. M&T Stadium," considerations for naming a stadium are much different than the days of Memorial Stadium - a football/baseball stadium that was dedicated to honor the dead of World Wars I & II.

Now I've just read where Red Bull is the owner of a Major League Soccer franchise in New York, and has named the team the New York Red Bulls. I have to wonder if Red Bull ever decides to sell the team to another company, will the New York Red Bulls change their name because the new owner/company doesn't want to advertise the former?

Personally, I think commercialism has gone too far when stadiums, and most certainly teams, are being named after companies. Going from a mentality of dedicating a stadium to those who lost their lives in World Wars I & II to intentionally seeking to name a stadium after a company that's willing to pay the most, is just sad.

Professionally, as a marketer, renaming a team is like renaming a brand. It's extreamly challenging because of issues like consumer loyalty and perception. I would imagine it would be even more difficult as team fans express such loyalty that it becomes a cultural way of life.

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