The Sporting Iconoclast
Challenging the conventional wisdom, sowing new ideas, sending some old ones to the compost heap

Newspapers, wise up. Stop giving free advertising to companies that buy sports-venue naming rights

We’ve all grown accustomed the intrusion of corporate sponsor names into sporting events: the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, the Toyota Halftime Report, the Chevrolet Players of the game.

Companies pay good money to have their brands mentioned during broadcasts that reach millions of people.The typical NFL telecast starts like this: “Welcome to Qualcomm Stadium for today’s game between the San Diego Chargers and the Oakland Raiders.”

I don’t work in TV or radio, but I’m guessing that the NFL’s contract with the networks requires announcers to refer to game venues by their full commercialized names.

Fair enough. Someone is paying and someone is pocketing the cash in this arrangement.

What I don’t understand is why almost all sports writers and columnists, whose publications don’t get anything out of those deals, go out of their way to refer to the venues by their corporate names.

Example:

I was reading a newspaper story the other day about an upcoming road trip of the Cleveland Cavaliers. The story explained that the trip will take the team to, among other places, Houston, Miami and Atlanta. The writer then noted that the Houston Rockets are 23-6 at the Toyota Center (their home arena); the Atlanta Hawks are 19-6 at Philips Arena (their home arena, named for the electronics company); and the Miami Heat is 9-1 in Miami’s American Airlines Arena during the years LeBron James has played for the Cavs.

The writer could have just as easily – more easily – said that the Rockets are 23-6 and the Hawks are 19-6 at home this season, and the Heat has beaten the Cavs 9 out of the 10 times they’ve played in Miami during the LeBron James era.

Not only could the reporter have written it that way, I argue that he should have.

It’s one thing for a team or a city to sell or lease naming rights to stadiums and arenas. It’s another thing for a newspaper to provide free advertising in its news columns.

Most newspapers are facing tough economic times, right? Well, here’s a way for them to make easy money: Contact American Airlines and Toyota and the rest and say, “We’re going to stop referring to these venues by your bought-and-paid-for names and instead use perfectly informative alternate constructions like, “The Lions are home this Sunday to play the Chicago Bears” — unless you pay us ten grand a year or whatever.

If you’re going to be a corporate shill, you ought to be paid for it. And if you aren’t being paid, why shill?

Ed Cohen

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One Response to “Newspapers, wise up. Stop giving free advertising to companies that buy sports-venue naming rights”

  1. I totally agree – but this is not a new phenomenom – product placement has been around for decades. It would be interesting to see what happens to the possible bribes paid to state-owned broadcasters, media etc.

    Good article.


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