The Critical 'I'

Read. React. Repeat.

Thursday, December 04, 2003

team effort
If you think there's too much commercialization in sports, then you'll cringe--with delight--at this sponsorship-driven tour through the St. Pete Times Forum, home of your Tampa Bay Lightning.

Actually, in light of this, they're not so much your Tampa Bay Lightning as much as they are the sponsors'.

Here's a breakdown of all the sponsors and their placement, and Chrysler-Jeep's success story as a primary sponsor at the Forum. Also take note that the newspaper that's bringing you this news, the St. Petersburg Times, is of course the arena's naming-rights holder.

I'm really surprised they didn't mention the seemingly endless credit-card signup tables that are lined up on the concourses between concession stands. They're always offering t-shirt, totebag and othe trinket giveaways in exchange for signing people up for a card. They're always out in force, and there are always people signing up, so I imagine it's super lucrative for the credit card companies.

The other point missed here is the marketing residuals that come after this captive audience leaves. The credit card tables get plenty of direct personal information from the schlubs they sign up, so they can then start sending them junk mail and spam and target their neighborhoods with more marketing. Same deal for all the other raffles and other giveaways. No doubt, a sporting arena is a goldmine.

A couple of interesting tidbits from the main article:

[Lightning and Forum president Ron] Campbell said ownership hopes to sell $21-million in Lightning tickets this year and make $17-million on sponsorships, counting hockey and all other arena events.

It's surprising to hear any sports team exec give out specific numbers like that, considering how they're alway bleating about going broke. Of course, this is far from their only revenue streams: Concessions, extended marketing, parking and at least a dozen other opportunities keep the dough rolling in.

Last year, a fan wrote [minor league sports maestro Mike] Veeck a polite but scathing letter accusing him and his ilk of ruining the game. Naturally, Veeck made a promotion of it - Complaint Night - and invited the fan to throw the ceremonial first pitch.

The fan is 53-year-old Michael Grubb, the chief administrator of a medical group in Charleston.... Grubb detests that the "garbage" of sponsorships and silly promos drowns out the heavenly sounds of the game (infield chatter, ball meets bat).

"Everything is commercialized to the hilt because it's such a moneymaking endeavor, driven by the outlandish salaries the players have to have," he said. "I just don't follow professional sports anymore. There's just no point to it."

And yet:
Grubb said he was "devastated" when Veeck informed him that attendance for Complaint Night (a.k.a. Purist Night) came nowhere near attendance for Tonya Harding Mini-Bat Night. There you go.

Curious; why would he be "devastated" that one of the promotions he claims to hate so much didn't do so well? He should have been elated. Without consciously realizing it, he's just as sucked into the commercialism in sports that supposedly turns him off. And he's living in a fantasyland if he thinks amateur (i.e. college, high school and little-league) sports are any less commercialized.

Actually, he's living in a fantasyland altogether, because there never was a time when commercial endeavour wasn't part of sports. It's just more obvious now.