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From Left Field

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By The Staff

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I remember watching sports on television back in my youth and most of the advertising before, during and after the game either came from cigarette or beer companies. That was fine. You pretty much knew what to expect and you just enjoyed the game.

Today, it’s a whole other story.

Over the past few years, I’ve noticed a trend in sports broadcasting, and that is the tendency to sponsor anything and everything. There are still the usual ads for Budweiser, Miller, and Coors during the broadcast, but are revenues so bad for the networks that they have to sell ad space to make an announcement on-air?

During a recent baseball playoff game on TV, I noticed that Geico sponsored the announcement of the starting lineup and the defensive alignment, we had the Sprint pitcher profile and Budweiser brought the first pitch to us. And then there’s the Verizon/AT&T/Sprint/US Cellular call to the bullpen when there’s a pitching change.

What’s next, the Gold Bond scratch of the game?

And the trend continues as the teams themselves sell naming rights to their venues. Minute Maid Park has replaced the Astrodome, U.S. Cellular Field has replaced Comiskey Park, and Riverfront Stadium has been replaced by Great American Ball Park.

During my eight years in St. Louis, the Blues played hockey in the Kiel Center, Savvis Center and the Scottrade Center – they were all the same building, just different names paid for by corporate sponsors. Talk about an identity crisis!

Sometimes the name changes are so fast, there’s no time to add new signage to the building, they drape a big banner over the old name until the new sign is ready.

It’s not enough to simply buy an ad spot during a broadcast anymore; you have to sponsor a moment. It’s all becoming one big cross promotion. I find it humorous because, as part of earning my mass communications degree, I studied advertising and minored in broadcasting and I can see where the convergence is taking place.

I’m pretty sure we can still have a first pitch without it being sponsored by somebody, right?

Probably the lowest point to all this so far was back in June of 2004 when Major League Baseball featured advertising for the movie Spider-Man 2 on bases during interleague games. At the time, MLB’s president and chief operating officer Bob DuPuy insisted that fans should not expect to be bombarded with advertising while watching games. Has Bob turned on the TV recently?

Am I going to change my long distance provider simply because they sponsored the kickoff during the Steelers/Bengals game? I highly doubt it.

Before you know it, some sports writer in a small town is going to try to find a way to make a buck here or there by selling column space.

Hmmm...

This space for rent!