Campus: CSU Sacramento -- February 22, 2002
CSU Sacramento: The hidden cost of sports sponsorship
Though the "right to carry cola" hardly ranks with the Bill
of Rights, many visitors to Salt Lake City during this month's Winter
Olympic Games will find it's a freedom they no longer possess. A California
State University, Sacramento professor says the influence of corporate
sponsorship is beginning to infringe on civil rights.
"The controls sponsors put on the Olympics and the host city are
quite draconian," says Richard Batty, a professor of recreation and
leisure studies who has done research on the costs of sports sponsorship.
"They now require a 'clean zone' free of advertising. It raises real
issues of civil rights. In many cases these are public areas and people
are being told what they can wear or carry."
Sydney, for example, had boundaries around Olympic venues where visitors
were not allowed to bring in competing sponsors' products. "There
were even checkpoints to screen for 'bombs, knives and cans of Pepsi,'
" he says. "Journalists had to tape over the brand names on
their laptops and cameras if they were competitors of the official Olympic
The cost of the maintaining the clean zone is borne by the city, even
though the money from the official Olympic sponsors goes to the International
Olympic Committee. And the Olympics aren't alone in bowing to sponsor
pressure. Similar restrictions apply to many other major events like the
NCAA Final Four, he adds.
"Sponsorship is always billed as 'win-win' - the sponsor gets associated
with a team or event, and the team or event gets wads of cash. But there
are costs on either side," he says. "It's not money for nothing,
and the checks aren't for free."
Batty started his research during his previous position at the University
of Otago in New Zealand when he assisted with the FIFA Under-19 World
Soccer Championships. He was amazed at the demands the sponsors placed
on the event, ranging from freebies to only having their brand names shown
at the venue to changing the schedule of activities to fit their wishes.
With sponsorship, there is an expectation of giving up control, Batty
says. It's not a simple one-time economic relationship. It has to build
over time. And to maintain the relationship, both sides have to throw
He notes that football has changed the pacing of the game to accommodate
the needs of sponsors, pointing to the two-minute warning and TV timeouts.
Other sports, such as basketball, have divided their game in quarters
to satisfy the demands of sponsors and the media.
And there's another cost, Batty says, a cost that's hidden - the erosion
of good will.
"The sponsor doesn't bear the cost straightaway but there's an imaginary
lline they can push supporters to," Batty says. "Baseball faced
it when it considered putting logos on uniform sleeves. There was a huge
outcry and the powers that be in baseball decided 'That's the line.'"
Though sponsorship issues occur in other areas of society, sports is the
obvious extreme, since 80 percent of sponsorship is associated with sports.
"The sports field is a contested terrain, a battle in and around
the field as well as between the teams that are competing," Batty