Thursday, June 11, 2015

Why Does Anyone Play Along With Corporate Stadium Names?

It'll Always Be Enron To Me
Interesting story related by Deadspin today, over how my basketball laundry Sixers are refusing to play along with Wells Fargo for naming conventions. (I'm linking the Deadspin piece, because it's got the whole sad history of what the dump has been called over the years.)

As a marketing play, paying for stadium naming rights is right up there with paying strippers in terms of Sound Fiscal Advice, with the caveat that when you pay a stripper, at least you are stimulating the local economy. (Heh heh, stimulating.)

Think about this: have you ever, on any level, chosen to patronize a business over their decision to put their name on a building? And I'm even old enough to remember a time when no building had these affectations, and stadiums were either named after vague concepts (Spectrum, Palestra, Coliseum, various Gardens), the honored owner dead (Lambeau, Wrigley), local geographic convention (Candlestick, Three Rivers, Riverfront), or honored public servants (Soldier, Veterans, various Kennedys).

The greater point is this: stadiums should not have names that can change. I'm fine with a yard being called after a corporation if they bought and paid for it from the start and stayed with it all along, have a vested local interest, and maybe even helped the team stay put because of it. Miller, Coors, Busch -- fairly unimaginative, but whatever. But by this standard, the SF Giants should play in Webvan Stadium, the Astros play in Enron Field, and so on. And all of the failed banking names just serve to remind everyone how that industry suckered us all in the bailout days, and how you are free to commit unspeakable fiscal crimes against American taxpayers, so long as you are in a protected corporate class.

If no one uses any of these ludicrous corporate names, and the marketing benefit becomes less and less apparent, teams will not raise concession prices or ticket gouging or jack up the cost to cable channels... because, well, they'd choose to do that on the basis of greater market forces, independent of any money they'd make from the naming. You and I are certainly never going to see a dime from it, and no one has ever been confused about where the game is, or where to go, from the lack of the logo spew.

So just like the DC Slurs, we're not going to buy into a pointless exercise. Sports teams and corporations don't get to self-select on this, for no benefit to consumers. And sure, media will strive to enforce the naming because they can't wait to kowtow to any moneyed demand... but isn't being a sports fan in 2015 in the US just an exercise in filtering your media to get the game? This is just one more step in a well-trained dance. Feel free to join us on this. Or figure out a way to get an affiliate check for wearing the garb...

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