Danecdotes: Corporate ads overused in pro sports
Corporate sponsorship has leaked into just about every facet of professional sports. Words cannot express how much I hate that.
I recently purchased a T-shirt from a clothing line called "Naming Wrongs." It's a light blue shirt with big red letters that just say "I miss the Metrodome." I don't actually miss the Metrodome. That stadium was kind of a dump long before the roof collapsed. What I do miss is the name "Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome."
Whether you liked him or not, Humphrey was a prominent Minnesotan. Even if I disagreed with some or all of his policies, I would rather see someone like that honored over a corporation, unless of course that person committed some sort of criminal act.
When the Twins announced their new stadium nearly a decade ago, I got my hopes up that they would find a prominent Minnesotan to honor, or even a prominent former Twin (Harmon Killebrew Stadium would have been pretty nice) but I knew better. Sure enough, Target Field is now a part of the Twin Cities skyline. Don't get me wrong, the stadium is great, but why does it have to be named Target Field?
Why did the new Vikings stadium have to be named USBank Stadium? Why the Xcel Energy Center? Metropolitan Stadium was cool. The Metrodome was cool. The Met Center was cool. Nothing makes an organization look greedier than selling rights they don't necessarily need to sell.
I have nothing against these businesses, and as someone who works for a newspaper, I certainly understand the benefits of advertising, but having the business' name on the side of these tremendous buildings in the heart of Minneapolis cheapens the experience a bit, at least for me.
Corporate ads in sports don't stop with stadiums, unfortunately.
The Minnesota Timberwolves recently unveiled their new-fangled uniforms. They look fine - nothing special, but I think they are better than what they were wearing before. However, when seeing the photos of the new jerseys, my eyes were immediately drawn to two things: the Nike logo in the top right corner - which will be on every NBA uniform starting this year - and the Fitbit logo on the top left, which is Minnesota's new "corporate sponsor." Beginning this season, NBA teams are allowed to have a 2-square-inch ad on the upper-left portion of their jerseys.
Why? WHY, why? Is the NBA hurting for money? Are the 95,000 commercials interjecting themselves into each individual game not paying the bills? Is the Sprint Halftime Report (you read that correctly) not pulling in the revenue?
The Wolves are one of the least valuable franchises in the league, but they are still valued at about $300 million.
Now to be fair, Fitbit is providing the organization with more than just ad money. A story on NBA.com and the Associated Press says the Wolves will "use Fitbit's technology throughout the organization, including logging the new concession offerings at Target Center into the Fitbit food section to help fans make healthier choices at the games."
That is all great, but does the Fitbit ad absolutely have to be on the jersey? I would be fine with it on the court or throughout the arena. I would even be perfectly fine with every commercial break ending with a voice saying "This presentation of the Minnesota Timberwolves is brought to you by the National Basketball Association and Fitbit."
But turning the players walking billboards? I'm afraid that is where I draw the line.
I realize professional athletes endorse things all the time, but it is usually an organization or product they choose to endorse and they are compensated directly for that endorsement. For me, that is completely different. To me, this comes off as greedy by not only NBA teams, but the league itself.
I also know the WNBA and Major League Soccer have had much larger ads on their jerseys for years, but neither league makes the amount of money the NBA does. Jerseys ads may be necessary for those leagues to stay afloat.
I know I'm shouting into the void here. The leagues, teams and businesses won't read and wouldn't care about my thoughts on the matter, but if enough people stood up and said they preferred the old stadium names (I'll never compliment the Packers again, but hats off to them for keeping Lambeau Field) or ad-free uniforms, maybe the big wigs would take notice.
I don't know about you, but I miss the Metrodome.