hightower
September 11, 2009

 

 

Hide the sponsor
by Jim Hightower

It's time for another edition of The Wide, Wide, Wide, WILD World of Sports!

Today, we're looking at a whole new ballgame called "Hide the sponsor." As you know, big time sporting events are plastered with the names and glaring logos of corporate sponsors eager to link their brand with popular games, teams and stars. With the recent Wall Street scandals and bailouts, however, some corporations have become a bit skittish about being seen in public and are actually hiding their light under a bushel.

Take professional golf tournaments, which are usually gaudy displays of corporate tagging, with logos on everything from tote bags to Tiger Woods. But at this summer's US Open, the corporate presence was conspicuous in its absence. Oh, they were there, but you couldn't see them.

The Open is a prestigious upscale event that attracts such A-list sponsors as Bank of America, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley. They host fabulous hospitality tents, with lavish food spreads and open bars, inviting their primo clients to hobnob with bankers, munch on foie gras and sip martinis from glasses etched with the bank logo.

At this year's Open, however, the names of sponsoring banks were missing, and logos were taboo. Bank of America had laid out $400,000 to be a sponsor, Goldman Sachs paid $100,000, and Morgan Stanley ponied up $250,000.  Yet, no table in the hospitality tent bore a bank's brand — even the pampered guests couldn't tell which outfit was hosting them!

Event planners have coined a new term for this phenomenon: "Stealth spending." As a Bank of America spokesman explained," Symbolism matters. We are right-sizing our hospitality for the current environment and tone and mood of the country."

Only Wall Street would spend so much to play sponsorship peek-a-boo.

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