MagazineOctober 2004The North Face Overlook Column, Powered by Honda

The North Face Overlook Column, Powered by Honda

Does anybody else think sponsorships might be getting out of hand? I think Atomic bought the winter Olympics outright. Individuals are up for sale too. Every athlete from snowboard thugs to competitive hot dog eaters has a primary sponsor. And have you been to a baseball game recently? Not only are the stadiums now named after large corporations, even the Seventh Inning Stretch is brought to you by the Home Depot. Everything is sponsored these days. I’m part of a weekly bike ride that just picked up a title sponsor. According to the contract I signed, we must now refer to our regular ride as the “Tuesday Night Ride brought to you by Kona.”

It’s as if every corporation in America is desperately trying to mark their territory by naming things first. It’s the 21st Century version of imperialism. Buy an athlete or event, stick your logo on ‘em, and claim them for the glory of Staples.

It would be easy to take the high road and condemn these rampant sponsorships as just another example of the corporate takeover of everything pure, but that would be nothing more than envy thinly veiled as moral superiority. Honestly, who wouldn’t want to be sponsored? As an athlete, you get to participate in the sport you love, you get to live the adventurous lifestyle, and you get paid handsomely as long as you wear Tevas and mention Kelty Backpacks. Take a hard look at the sponsorship deal and then tell me, who’s taking advantage of who here? Dean Karnazas would run his ultra marathons anyway, and he’d probably wear The North Face anyway, so why not cash in in the process? There was a time when climbers and runners and skiers had to work day jobs in order to fund their adventures. Now, thanks to Atomic, instead of waiting tables, Bode Miller can spend his time off the hill playing video games in his tricked-out trailer.

And as far as I’m concerned, this is just the beginning. Think about the full potential of sponsorships. The Bush Administration is proposing a sale of National Forest land in order to fund their budget. This is troubling on many levels, but it disturbs me personally because President Bush has the exact same financial plan as my brother. Whenever my brother needs extra cash, he pawns small appliances like his blender. Sure, he gets $25 out of the deal, but he can’t make daiquiris anymore. And this is the point that the Bush Administration is obviously missing: once you sell it, it’s gone. A far smarter financial plan from our government would be to sell a title sponsorship. For $6 million, the Pisgah National Forest will become the Home Depot Pisgah National Forest. For $30 million, how does the Kentucky Fried Chicken Great Smoky Mountains National Park sound? And there’s no reason to stop at public lands. I bet Exxon Mobil would salivate over the chance to be the title sponsor of the legislative branch of the federal government. For $2 billion, the Capitol Building will become “The Exxon Dome at Capitol Hill.” Sell title sponsorships to all three branches of the federal government and the deficit is eliminated. These corporations already own the American government anyway, we may as well be up front about it and make them pay for it.

Long live the sponsorship deal.

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