Friday, July 25, 2008

AIGs, Carlsbergs, Emiratess, Samsungs...and West Brom (or, why Kathryn Crosby will never buy an iPhone)

Someone who tunes in to English Premier League - whoops, Barclays Premier League - football for the first time is bound to be very, very confused.

They'll look for Chelsea and Manchester United and all these other teams that they've heard about, but they won't find them.

Instead, they'll see the Samsungs taking on the AIGs.

That's probably the biggest difference between American football and world football. We'll name the stadiums and everything else, but we won't, in effect, rename the team. Can you imagine the hue and cry if Jerry Jones were to place the word "Verizon" on the Dallas Cowboys' helmets?

But while Carlsberg promotes its "partnership" with Liverpool, and Emirates makes similar statements about Arsenal, and Manchester United talks about principal sponsor AIG, and Brand Republic talks about the Chelsea-Samsung deal, there's one team that is a refreshing change from foreign corporate sponsorship.

But not by choice:

Let’s hope that West Bromwich Albion are better on the pitch than off it this season.

Due to the club’s complete incompetence, the Baggies have not secured a club sponsor for the 2008/2009 season. This means that the fans and players will adorn their official football shirts without a sponsor’s name emblazoned across the chest.

Actually, I kind of like the idea. While I've ranted and raved about the so-called "Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim" and the "LA/Ontario International Airport," I haven't even touched on the corporate sponsorships that are all over the place.

And how they change every few years, confusing me to no end. I can't go see the Anaheim Mighty Ducks play at the Arrowhead Pond any more, for example.

But my favorite story about corporate sponsorship gone awry involves a dead man. This was written in 2006, twenty years after a corporate sponsorship move raised anger in some (not all) quarters:

The Crosby Clambake first brought celebrities and professional golfers to Pebble Beach in 1947. Bing Crosby brought together his friends from the entertainment business and the world of golf for a weekend tournament during the offseson on the Monterey Peninsula.

When Crosby died in 1977, the tournament took on a big corporate sponsor -- AT&T -- and Katherine Crosby pulled her support.

Or, as Confessions of a Bad Golfer put it in a February 2008 blog post:

In 1977 Bing Crosby died the way every golfer should. On the afternoon of October 14, Bing was playing at the La Morajela golf course near Madrid, Spain. He finished 18 holes with a score of 85, and with a partner, defeated two Spanish golf pros. After his last putt, Bing bowed to applause and said, "It was a great game." He was about 20 yards from the clubhouse when he collapsed from a massive heart attack. He was 74.

After Bing’s death the Crosby family had an unfortunate falling-out with the Monterey Peninsula Association, the organization that actually owns the tournament, about the use of Bing’s name, or more accurately about the money for the use of Bing’s name, and from that time forward the tournament has been [known] as the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. Sorry, Bing.

The Monterey Peninsula Foundation, predictably, has a different spin on the matter:

The tournament, then known as the Bing Crosby National Pro-Amateur, moved to Northern California in 1947 and was played on Pebble Beach, Cypress Point, and Monterey Peninsula Country Club.The tournament continued after Crosby’s death and in 1986 AT&T stepped in as title sponsor, ensuring financial stability, and the event became known as the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.

The 2006 story quoted above was written because Kathryn was attending the event for the first time in 20 years - 20 years since her husband's name had been removed from the event. But she only came to see other family members who hadn't been boycotting the event for the previous 20 years like she did.

But I'd be willing to bet Kathryn doesn't have AT&T phone service.

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