Citi, AIG Won't Drop Big Sports Sponsorships

Naming deals are "a big gamble," said Steve Hall, a marketing industry veteran who writes a popular advertising blog, AdRants.com. "My whole issue with the naming rights is, in a lot of cases it just sounds stupid. 'Staples Center'. . . It's sort of taken away the good old glory days of sports."

That said, Hall noted that buying a stadium gets a company's name repeated an awful lot. "When a stadium gets named after a company, it gets mentioned millions of times," he said.

Spend Money on Customer Service Not Naming Rights, Says Critic

Instead of spending millions on naming rights, marketing guru Godin says, why not invest in something that will really improve the credibility and public opinion of banks: customer service. "Instead of spending $400 million to put your name on the side of a stadium, how about hiring enough people so that every time someone calls you on the phone it would be answered by someone who knew your name and was delighted to hear from you?"

Despite the criticism from watchdogs like Taxpayers for Common Sense, given the current crisis Godin said banks would be right to follow through with these costly sponsorships. The economic collapse is being fueled by a lack of confidence in what tomorrow will bring, he said, and banks' changing their behavior would signal that fear is justified.

"When banks walk around. . . wasting money on sports sponsorships," said Godin, "it sends a message of profligate spending and confidence."

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