Even pitcher’s mounds have sponsors now

Even pitcher’s mounds have sponsors now

Anyone else out there starting to feel a bit overwhelmed by the amount of advertising that has infiltrated sports television? Perhaps we should be used to it by now. Without the megabucks advertisers pour into their countless methods of commercialization, we know our sports programming options would be excruciatingly dismal.

There was an era when broadcasting watchdogs devoted considerable time to calling out those guilty of a technique called “subliminal” advertising. Consumers were unknowingly tricked into thinking they wanted/needed a certain product.

Images and messages were flashed on the screen so quickly that we didn’t actually know we were seeing them. Such images and messages, however, did somehow enter our stream of conscientiousness. And off to the store we went, craving a Pepsi or a new Mustang or a nasty pinch of addictive tobacco.

Subliminal advertising has changed. In fact, it thankfully has been all but snuffed out. The marketing geniuses have devised new ways to disseminate their persuasive points without hiding them. What they want us to absorb is right out there in plain view of every eyeball.

They know us sports geeks are especially susceptible to their methods. And they’ve got us buying into every temptation. All the while, the money keeps rolling in to the networks and the franchises that shell out millions to the athletes, coaches, team executives and marketing zealots.

While money matters — a lot — to us regular folks tuning in, there are others more than willing (and able) to let their vast wealth evaporate into thin air. Case in point: former Las Vegas Raiders head coach/social media buffoon Jon Gruden resigned Monday night after a hailstorm of criticism related to racist, homophobic and misogynistic emails he sent out a decade or so ago. Gruden stands to lose the paltry $60 million that still remained on his contract. His original 10-year deal, struck in 2018, was worth $100 million.

But back to this thing about advertising and how it’s eroding sports television:

We tune into a college football game, and when a team is about to attempt a point-after-touchdown kick or field goal, we see stadium workers scrambling to hoist up that familiar Allstate netting, designed to keep the football from soaring into the endzone seating.

We take this in stride. But does that large, dangling Allstate logo drive us to sign up for insurance? Apparently, it does.

For decades we’ve come to accept NASCAR’s colorful race cars as 200-mph billboards promoting everything from motor oil and beer to fast-food chains and beer, from auto parts to beer and from male enhancement pills to beer.

Here’s something relatively new I just noticed while watching the Major League Baseball playoffs a few days ago: Even the pitcher’s mound is sponsored now. Teams, in a veiled attempt to make up for revenue lost during the pandemic last summer, are allowing companies to have their logos electronically superimposed on the back of the bump.

For a few innings, you might see the Loan Depot image. After a commercial break, the mound might be digitally branded with the Google Cloud imprint. Then T-Mobile gets in on the nonsense.

The images look amazingly real, as if carefully applied by a stadium groundskeeper. But then the long-range camera jiggles a tiny bit and the logos move around as if the whole ballpark is in the middle of an earthquake.

During the Braves game the other night, they were actually superimposing the name of Truist Park over the wall behind home plate and in full view of the TV audience. The earthquake issue reared its ugly head during those camera shots as well. Even for a bloke accustomed to watching 200-mph billboards, the wobbly Truist Park logo was a little annoying.

One would think that, given the millions spent to build Truist Park 10 miles northwest of downtown Atlanta in 2017, somebody would have thought to affix an actual logo behind home plate, well within TV camera range.

Advertising is everywhere a sports fan looks. Gatorade towels abound, as do hand-held Microsoft tablets. Tennis pros wear logos on their Wimbledon whites. What once was hideous dress on the pro golf scene is now dapper corporate attire replete with your favorite brands.

Get this: even on the replay of the PBA King of the Lanes “Empress Edition,” I saw the new, futuristic KIA logo on the pin-setter sweep bar. Women’s bowling legend Liz Johnson wore a shirt with the STORM name draped across her upper torso.

On ESPN’s rebroadcast of the Nebraska-Michigan football game, a recap of rushing statistics was tabbed the “Arby’s Running Back Spotlight.” A few minutes later, a promo on another channel teased the “Big Noon Saturday” show — sponsored, of course, by Wendy’s.

Final thought on all of this?

Despite the highly effective advertising and giving due respect to her appearance and obvious skills on the lanes, I doubt I’ll be going for the “Liz Johnson look” during this lifetime.

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