Sunday Rants – Thoughtless Sponsorship

Sponsorship has become a way of life in business. Need a quick way to make some money? Get a sponsor on board. Want to make it big in sport? Bring in money with the sponsors. Need to fix up a part of your business, but don’t have the ready cash? There’s a sponsor for that!

On the whole, the concept of sponsorship seems fine. Nothing wrong with a company making a bit of easy money, nothing wrong with another one advertising their product (much). But sponsorship can go to far and can ruin things that were once loved or admired and turn them into nothing more than a corporate billboard.

Sometimes sponsors can ruin the name of something irreparably. Take for example the American Motorsport Champ Cars. That’s what it used to be called, until in 2003 when the sport got into financial difficulties and became ‘Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered By Ford’. Eurgh! Even as an acronym that’s terrible.

I also despise the whole terms of ‘Bridgestone Presents’. Bridgestone don’t present anything. They make tyres and paid a bit of money to the series to get their name up there. But then again, I guess that’s a more American term that I’m not used to and therefore tend to not like.

Another time sponsorship can be bad is for TV shows. This doesn’t count for everything of course, trashy reality shows like X Factor and Big Brother thrive on their sponsors and in a way it sets the tone for that show.I believe the sponsors of such shows also add extra competitions for viewers, so that’s not a bad idea and it beats flippin’ product placement.

But it doesn’t fit with the tone of the show when watching dramas. The current ITV one’s with Aviva are just terrible. You could be watching a thriller, a tearjerker or a period piece when every 15 minutes your thrown into a shot of a man in a lift with a tiger having a fight, or a man stuck up a tree upside down. Oh how funny, I’d better get some life insurance. I’m sorry, but it doesn’t fit with the mood of the show and massively detracts from my suspension of disbelief.

Now we move on to what I see as just pure vandalism. The London Eye became sponsored by EDF energy at the start of this year, a company who’s colour scheme is orange and blue. Almost as soon as this happened, one of the 32 capsules on the eye was painted orange. It’s a complete and utter eyesore to what it one of our countries iconic landmarks. There is no reason to do this, BA never wanted the capsules red and blue when they sponsored the eye, because they knew it would look awful.

It’s unknown at the moment if the whole eye will eventually turn orange or whether this will be a one-off, the owners Merlin are currently fighting Lambeth Council over the decision, but this isn’t the biggest orange problem I have with Merlin at the moment.

Oblivion at Alton Towers was more than a ride. It was the worlds first vertical drop rollercoaster and was one of the most intimidating sights in the theme park world. Even now, 13 years on, it still had quite a daunting psychological feel to it. But sadly that has now all but diminished, because Merlin have decided that this ride should be sponsored by Fanta.

And it wouldn’t be so bad if this had been done tastefully. But it hasn’t. The park has put cardboard billboards all over the ride, plastered in bright orange, with goofy carton characters. The ride has always had a dark menacing feel, which has now been ripped out and replaced with bus-stop style advertising.

Oblivion had one of the most well-know catachphrases for coasters worldwide – ‘Don’t Look Down’. This still remains, but there’s now several more, ‘Bring It On’, ‘Tummy Bubbling Fun’ and the disastrous ‘Looking Down Is the Fun Part’ – talk about contradiction.

Maybe I’m too close to Alton Towers and Oblivion itself (it was the scariest thing I’d ever seen when I was 9), but I can’t stand this. What was a work of art (and if you’d have seen it in it’s prime you would agree) has been turned into a joke. It Wouldn’t be so bad if the sponsor money had gone into sorting out the flaking paint and broken scenery in the area, but it hasn’t. The ride is still run down, just with some posters. The most appalling sponsorship I have ever seen.

And the sad thing about all of this is the fact that sponsorship can be done well. Many sports are sponsored, but just done quietly and subtly like the Barclaycard Premiership. Serious TV shows can be done well, the documentary spots on Channel 4 work just fine. And at Alton Towers, when Spinball was sponsored by Sonic last year, it was welcome as the ride was fully repainted and rethemed, making it look new again.

It goes to show that sponsorship does have a place, rightly so, because when it is done with thought, everyone is happy. But when it is done in a rushed fashion, with no correlation between what is being sponsored and the sponsor themselves, it makes everything look tacky and poor.

Some of you may think everything I’ve just said is not important in the grand scheme of things, fair enough, but if you feel like me, let Alton Towers know what we think by putting your name to the TowersTimes petition.

Enjoy your Sunday 😀

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