Commercialism


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commercialism Sporting crises

Sporting crises lay sponsors' most valuable assets, their brands, open to an associated fallout. How they can minimise its impact?
Sport is never far from controversy. Whether it be alcohol-fuelled misbehaviour, allegations of drug abuse or inappropriate public musings on a thorny political issue, the national press is filled to the brim with sports stars dragging the image of their employers and the sports they represent through the proverbial mud.
Such crises can have a major knock-on effect on existing sponsorship partners and the potential for attracting new income to the sport. The medium has only begun to prove its commercial viability in terms of return on investment over the past five years, and some believe that brands are being scared off by the inherent risks of sports sponsorship deals.
Football is the most obvious sport whose commercial value has been tainted by the actions of its players. While the game still attracts multimillion-pound investment from brands due to the massive media spotlight it enjoys, many are questioning the wisdom of their associations in light of a seemingly never-ending stream of negative headlines.
The guilt of the player involved in many of these cases can be irrelevant. As one sponsorship industry expert says: 'A sports star may be cleared of any wrongdoing following the emergence of a scandal, but would you put him back on the road for your brand? I know I wouldn't.'
The flip side of any sponsorship deal is the knowledge that the sponsoring organisation's most valuable marketing asset, its brand, is exposed to the risks that are inherent in professional sport. The key issue is the strength of the link between shocks, crises and general bad behaviour of top-profile sports people, and the image and brand equity of sponsors. In short, when the mud flies, does it stick to the brands?
According to David Abrahams, senior vice-president of Marsh Risk Consulting Practice and an expert in brand risk, there is often a demonstrable link between the way in which a crisis is handled by a company and what happens to that business and its associated brand. 'The way in which any crisis is handled becomes a visible test of management capability,' he says. 'If that crisis arises from a fundamental breach of trust or performance, the compound effect of the bad handling can be devastating.'
Crisis management
The size of the problem faced by sponsors relates closely to an incident's shock value in media terms. For Alun James, formerly group managing director of Hill & Knowlton Sports Marketing, who recently left to set up FourGritti Sports and Sponsorship, there are two distinct types of crisis in sports sponsorship.
'The first can be reasonably anticipated while the second is totally out of the blue,' he says. 'If you are a sponsor of a sport, such as sailing or motor racing, where accidents regularly happen, then it is straightforward to undertake scenario planning and have a rigorous and robust response prepared.
'The unexpected crisis, such as Gary Neville's observations on the obtrusive nature of commercialism in charity football initiatives (see box, below left), is more difficult to deal with. The impact can be mitigated by clear processes and lines of responsibility, even if the specific nature of the crisis could not have been anticipated,' James adds.
In these instances of crises that cannot be anticipated, he believes that logic takes over to a certain degree. 'In many ways, the laws of physics apply when in a crisis: every action should have an equal and opposite reaction,' he argues. 'If the crisis is serious, then the reaction of the sponsors should demonstrate concern and action. An overreaction can create an issue when little exists, while an underreaction can make the sponsoring company look indifferent, disorganised and out of touch.'
As the sponsorship industry has matured, so the inherent risks that come with the association a brand has with sport have been minimised, primarily due to the importance placed on in-depth research prior to signing up to any partnership.
'Any form of marketing activity carries an element of risk, whether it be a sales promotion, PR activity or a new advertising campaign,' explains Stephen Curnow, head of marketing at SFX Sports Group. 'An association with a sports star is no ... more

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A Democratic Shout for the Chaos of American Literature
Einstein once said that the only physical theory that will never be overtaken is the thermodynamic principle that the entropy of the universe is always increasing.  In other words, our universe is constantly moving toward a state of increased disorder and chaos.  If our post modern culture has any correlation to the physical world, I am inclined to agree.  The basis of post modern literature is the theme of infinite regress, which echoes the laws of entropy and universal disorder.  The most important novels of our time must originally and clearly deal with the issues of a society ordered by chaos, while reflecting the universal trend toward disorder.  


           Of the five novels we read this quarter, Mao II deals, most directly, with issues relevant to contemporary society.  Repetition is a major theme of the novel that DeLillo uses to reflect some of these issues.  In the text he uses the repetition of words and phrases to continually draw the reader back to the starting point, as if the characters, for all their action were never really getting anywhere new or making progress toward anything new.  Mass media such as news broadcasts, billboards for Coke II in war torn Beirut, and Andy Warhol silk screens, give all of his characters and events the feeling that who they are and what they do is both inescapable and repetitive.  His characters loose their identities in the crowds of homeless in New York City, and the mass wedding ceremony at Yankee Stadium.  Just as Warhol used repetition of common place objects such as Coke cans and Campbells soup labels to single out an object into a long line of meaningless lonely repetition, DeLillo uses repetition of American culture in the novel to speak to the loneliness and solitude of a generation surrounded by masses of people and advertisements and world news reports.  None of it is personal or related to the characters individuality.  The people that make up the crowds have no more unique identity than Warhols duplicate Campbells soup cans.  


           In contrast to the saturation of post modern American culture DeLillo gives us, Norman Rush sets his novel, Mating, in a feminist African utopia project.  Rush gives us a love story plot to talk about ideas like feminism and socialism.  We can relate to the characters specific stories of childhood and perhaps know them better than we know any of DeLillos characters because of all the background information and complex character development Rush gives us.  However, Mating is a novel of intellectual ideas and intellectual love, it has none of the universal themes or experiences of Mao II.  Feminism and Socialism dont have much to do with mainstream American commercialism and independence.  While Rush does a good job of dealing with these issues and even taking a new approach to the utopian novel, his themes are just not broad enough to be relevant to American culture as a whole.  For most of his readers then, his book becomes less of a social commentary and more of a pure love story.  


           Mating belongs to the genre of the utopian novel.  This establishes a link between this and other great works such as A Brave New World, and 1984.  Unfortunately, narratives of social utopianism fall under suspicion in our post modern society.  This puts all of Rushs social, religious, and scientific commentary under suspicion as well.  Rush recognizes the need to replace the religious narrative with a more secular, even scientific, moral commentary.  He calls Mating an anthropodicy, or a justification of mans ways to man.  Post modern morality, however, has more to do with what feels right or wrong and what seems fair than with any standard universal right or wrong that such an anthropodicy would involve.  So, again, Rush is not speaking to post modern America in a style that our culture can accept without reservation.  


           A style that our culture has no trouble identifying with however, is the sort of three-ring circus of multi-media, multi, 20-second blurb evening news, story line that we get in Mao II.  Mixed media is one of the defining characteristics of post modern novels.  DeLillo combines the prose of ... more

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