September 2, 2003

Like Football, This Space for Sale

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Checking out the NFL schedule for opening week, I came across an interesting matchup: the Bank One Bears against the 49ers.

Now when did Bank One, a banking company when last I checked, acquire a football team?

In June, the Chicago Bears agreed to a multi-year sponsorship deal with Bank One Corp. to become the Bears’ presenting partner. While selling stadium rights is now the norm, the Bears were unable to sell the naming rights to the newly renovated Soldier Field because it is a National Historic Monument. Fortunately for them, they reached an agreement with Bank One, and now Soldier Field will be littered with signage that reads “Bears Football presented by Bank One.”

Now that the team name can be “presented”, the only bastion in sports that remains (somewhat) commercial free is the uniform. Sure, the logo of the apparel company is on the jersey, but it is not displayed prominently. But sometime soon, I guarantee the team’s logo will be displaced for some corporate sponsor.

If you think this will never happen, you obviously haven’t looked at a European soccer jersey. You will be hard pressed to find the Manchester United crest on its jersey at first glance, as the Vodafone logo is prominently displayed across the center.

Just think of the possibilities here; the Yankees logo could easily be shrunken to accommodate a more prominent larger Adidas logo.

Don’t stop at the uniforms, though. Maybe instead of the National Football League, it should be EA Sports presents the National Football League? All the major awards and trophies would be in play too. The Heisman Trophy is already sponsored by Suzuki, why not the Vince Lombardi Trophy or the Stanley Cup? If the O’Brien Trophy — you know, the NBA Finals trophy– were sponsored, people would actually know what its name was.

College football has taken the lead in the sponsorship department. Not only is the BCS Trophy sponsored (by Sears of all companies), but also almost every single bowl game has a corporate entity attached. We now have the opportunity to watch such wonderful games as the Continental Tire Bowl and the GMAC Bowl on New Year’s.

College basketball could stand to make some more money by selling the naming rights to each different round of the NCAA Tournament. How does the Nokia