The wide world of advertising
Aug. 30, 2010
by Ivan Raconteur

We are all doomed. Advertising is taking over our lives, and there is no escape.

Advertising is an insidious tide that is slowly, but relentlessly forcing its way into every corner of our consciousness.

The world of sports provides plenty of illustrations of this.

I am old enough to remember the days when one could identify sports teams by the stadium in which they played.

A few of the old classics, such as Lambeau Field, are still around. Just hearing those words is enough to make the hair on the back of my neck stand on end, because it reminds me of the hated Packers.

When someone mentions Fenway Park, there is no question that they are talking about the Boston home of the Green Monster.

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Today, though, many of the stadiums have taken on the names of advertisers, and sometimes both the stadium and the field are named for advertisers.

When someone mentions Candlestick Park, I know what they are talking about.

When they mention places like Lincoln Field, FedEx Field, Gillette Stadium, and the Edward Jones Dome, I haven’t the foggiest idea what city or team might be involved.

Sports marketing is nothing new. Advertisers learned a long time ago that people like to watch sports, so it is only natural that athletes and sports teams would be targets.

The problem is, it is getting worse.

I don’t blame the advertisers. They are doing what comes naturally to them, like a fox chasing chickens.

If the entire professional sports industry was not tied to obscene salaries, and outrageous financial models, perhaps teams would not have to prostitute the sacred ground of their stadiums for money.

It is not only the fact that I can’t keep track of which facility people are talking about that bothers me.

Something dies each time a stadium is renamed for commercial purposes.

Imagine going to see a ball game in the Bronx, not at Yankee Stadium, but at big insurance company park.

What would happen to the prestige and tradition of the Kentucky Derby, if instead of Churchill Downs, the event took place at the big bourbon racetrack?

I don’t think I could stand it if the British Open were staged, not at The Old Course at St. Andrews, but at a links facility named after some shifty financial advisor.

The same would apply if they changed the name of the venerable Augusta National Golf Club to the name of some pharmaceutical company or a textile company that manufactures snappy green jackets.

The Masters just wouldn’t be the Masters.

Madison Square Garden is a legendary venue for many sports, but would it have the same prestige if it were called the cheap beer garden?

I have friends who are NASCAR fans, and I have seen enough races to convince me that they are going to have to start adding wings to those fire suits the drivers wear, not for practical reasons, but to give them more surface area on which they can stick sponsors’ logos. They seem to have used up every square inch on the suits of the average-sized driver.

The same is true of their cars. Sometimes, after a crash, the only thing holding the vehicles together is the vinyl logos that are plastered all over them.

The sport may have been started by a few good old boys running moonshine on country back roads, but the heart of NASCAR is on Madison Avenue today.

I sometimes feel that I am about to fall victim to information overload, and now I realize that it is due to advertising.

Going to a modern sporting event is like immersing oneself in a virtual commercial.

Not that I can afford to go to many games these days. Advertising might be taking over sports, but it doesn’t seem to be doing much to reduce the price of the tickets.

At least when I watch sports at home, I can still mute the commercials. And I can avoid them altogether by retiring to the icebox during commercial intermissions (or, more correctly, commercial interruptions).

We better enjoy it while it lasts, though. The same knuckleheads who broadcast the commercials 25 decibels higher than regular programming are probably already lobbying to have the mute buttons and volume controls removed from our remotes in order to force us to listen to their propaganda.

Here is a prediction from the curmudgeon: for those of us who would rather watch pitches than listen to pitches, the days of peace and quiet are numbered.

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