SBJ/20090302/Opinion

Bailouts put spending on sports under scrutiny

Among the beliefs that have been discarded in these troubled times is the notion that sports is recession-proof, and we’re even beginning to wonder whether it is any more recession-resistant than other parts of the economy.

But here’s one belief that we still hold: Good marketing is a vital business tool, and it will be important in rebuilding the nation’s businesses, both in sports and in other industries.

That’s why we’ve been keeping an eye on criticism leveled against some business leaders for their marketing expenditures.

Here are two examples:

Last week, Northern Trust’s hospitality around its PGA Tour Northern Trust Open was the target of Internet Web site TMZ.com, and even The New York Times’ Maureen Dowd mounted a scathing attack. U.S. Sen. John Kerry issued a call for penalties against companies that accept government bailout money but continue spending on hospitality and entertainment.

Bank of America was also a target. Legislators and consumer groups went on the attack when the bank sponsored the NFL Experience at this year’s Super Bowl after it had received billions of dollars in federal assistance. The president of one consumer watchdog group told ABC News that the sponsorship “says to the American people, ‘We’ll take your money and then we’re going to waste it.’”

It’s natural, and right, for companies that take taxpayer money to be scrutinized for their spending, and we’ll admit that we’ve been more than a little dismayed at how tone-deaf some of these companies have been when it comes to what they spend their money on.

But we also think some of these critics should back off. Good marketing isn’t a luxury, it’s a necessity. Few successful companies are built without it.

We say spend it wisely, but spend it, nonetheless.

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