Commercialization of Sports

Cardiff, Wales is one of the most beautiful cities in the United Kingdom. The town boasts a professional rugby team, a university named after the city, a museum with three Monet paintings, and a castle in the middle of it all. Although there are many differences between Cardiff and for our sake Chicago, there are still similar things.

Much like Chicago, Cardiff absolutely loves their sports. You see posters of the rugby team plastered everywhere. In pretty much every we went to they were playing rugby on the flat screen. And if there was not a game on the television there were at least half a dozen people wearing the attire for their favorite teams. In this way they are very similar to the sports atmosphere of Chicago.

In Chicago there are hundreds of people wearing the teams of the city. Turn one corner and run into a man wearing a Bears Jersey. Looking at the gift shop seeing all the merchandise for the White Sox’s. Go into a restaurant and see Michael Jordan’s dunk from the free throw line in a nice wooden frame. Then after the Cubs won the world series, the “W” was flying everywhere.

Although the two cities celebrate their teams in very similar fashion there are noticeable differences. The notable one for me is their focus on one sport. I don’t think we ever saw anything at the pubs that indicated supporting more than one sport. They might be cheering on one or more teams, but often this because you have the local and the national teams. In the United States on the other hand we are paying attention to every single sport. We have our basketball teams, hockey, baseball, sometimes soccer teams we cheer on. Just because both towns love sports, Cardiff is a lot more focused on rugby, while the Americans enjoy following every sport.

A big difference in the cultures has to be also the sponsorship. Most European teams regardless of the sport usually have a company’s name blasted on the front of their jerseys. While waiting in the Cardiff airport this morning I was browsing through the duty free store. Usually they have some knick knacks or some pieces of apparel so you can remember your time on holiday.  In this tore they had a few of the rugby jerseys hanging on the wall for purchase. And right on the front of the jersey they say “Visit Malaysia”. This sort of advertisement is so common in Europe though, for most Europeans it would seem normal.

In contrast in the United States it such a taboo thing to do. The only real exception being the MLS but that is not considered one of the main sports in the States. We are starting to head down that path though to corporate sponsorships. In the past few years the NBA has introduced very small sponsorship opportunities for companies. This includes a spot on the left upper part of the jersey where people can place their logos. This maybe just a small start it could lead to the possibility of other sports being commercialized.

Out of the top ten largest sports stadiums in the United Kingdom only one has a sponsor in the stadium’s name. While in the United States many of the most well known stadiums are named after sponsors. There is Coors Field in Denver, Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, the Barclays Center in the heart of Brooklyn. It sort of interesting to compare these two different types of sponsorship. In Europe you can have your name on jerseys, but in the United States you can have it on the building itself. In some articles online they mention how just because the company’s name is on the outside of the stadium doesn’t mean people are going to call it that. Often they will simply refer to it as the stadium instead of providing free publicity for the corporate sponsor. They also mentioned in the same article when you have the brand on the jersey there is more of that emotional connection. You are going to wear that around because you love your team and recognize the brand to the team. Personally, I will always connect F.C. BArcelona with UNICEF. I make this connection because I was a fan who wanted a jersey and got one with the sponsor on it.

A large similarity of the two sports can be the sponsorship of individual athletes. Many of Europe’s premier athletes have inked deals with different companies, muck like with our’s. I know Leo Messi is sponsored by both Adidas and Turkish Airlines. Like I said there also Americans that receive similar endorsements. Lebron James is the biggest star of the NBA and has been for quite some time. Due to his position in the sport he is able to be sponsored by multiple companies. The largest being his deal with Nike, he has been featured in KIA commercials, and in Sprite commercials. It has gotten to the point where a good amount of these star athletes are making off of endorsements then they are playing the sport. A very scary statistic to think about.

Then both countries host large events that are sponsored by companies. Like we saw in Cardiff with the Volvo Ocean Race. This can easily be compared to how companies will sponsor many college sports games. My favorite one being the Popeye’s Bahamas Bowl. It is not because I like watching that bowl game, it is just because the name of that bowl game is so funny. There also events that are sponsored even though there are no presenting sponsors. I think of how Rolex is the official timekeeper in a multitude of things. There is also Coca Cola and Pepsi who are always duking it out with each other to become the official beverage provider.

The United States and the UK may not have too much in common but one thing they do is sports. Not only does it create bonds between people but it is also establishing connections between fans and brands.

Having fun at the Cardiff Bay
The site of the Volvo Ocean Races
Art from the National Museum in Cardiff
Probably should have looked this up and figure out what it is
i look forward to the Friday’s in Dublin

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