Last year the National Public Radio show Freakonomics ran a 22-minute program called “The NFL’s Best Real Estate Isn’t for Sale.” The podcast asked why a multibillion-dollar franchise that has made astounding revenues hasn’t caved into advertising on teams’ jerseys.
The National Football League is the most profitable sports league in the United States. Owners, players and all involved love to make money. They’ve branded and sold everything from cup-cozies to flat-screen TVs. Yet, they are unwilling to compromise the sacredness of the game jersey. According to Freakonomics, the NFL could bring in an extra half a billion dollars a year if they sold advertisement space on jerseys. The NFL forgoes this substantial pile of cash for one big reason — tradition. NFL teams have always been brands of their own, so while adding “Shop at Staples” across the front of their jerseys would increase cash flow for the NFL, it would also lessen the brand value of the specific team’s name.
Like everything else in this world, however, the NFL has started to cave. They’ve allowed sponsors to advertise on practice jerseys.
The NFL is one of the last organizations to cave to advertising, at least on jerseys. There are some establishments that have been advertising since their inception — television, magazines and newspapers. Others have only recently started. Things that were once valued because of their freedom from advertisements suddenly have multitudes of commercials. Buses are plastered with movie posters and healthcare ads. Highways are sprinkled with billboards. Commercials of every form have taken over the Internet, which was once a free space of expression. I know I’m not the only one who wants to throw my laptop out the window when Youtube puts an ad before my video of a sneezing baby panda. Websites, mobile apps, Facebook, Google, e-readers — not too long ago all of these things were free of any obvious industry sponsorship.
Just as advertisements have infiltrated the Internet, they have become a driving force in political campaigns. Everywhere I look I see “Vote for Romney” — or whoever is the frontrunner this week. Ads on Youtube and television that say nothing of substance are there for the sole purpose of getting the candidates name out. Debates on the issues are second to the massive amounts of money poured into publicity. Our presidential race has come down to an ad campaign, like the latest sale on jeans at Macy’s.
In Scott Adam’s book “The Dilbert Principle,” Adams explains how cell phone companies use “confusifiles” — plans designed specifically to confuse — and high rates of advertisements to gain new clients. Clients are so confused and overwhelmed that they end up choosing the company or plan that they’ve heard of the most.
The presidential race and other political campaigns are the same thing. The issues are so confusing, complicated and almost impossible to understand, even for the candidates themselves. Most voters don’t even try to understand the issues or their candidate’s position. They end up choosing based on other factors — usually the amount of times they have heard about candidate. The world is in trouble when our decisions are based on advertisements, not thought.