Tuesday, October 12, 2010

A Rose by Any Other Name

Mention the words “Rose Parade” and people think of New Year’s Day in

Mention the word “Honda” and people think of a Japanese automobile.

Mention the words “The Rose Parade Presented by Honda” and people
think that another American icon has been gobbled up by a
multinational corporation, an act that threatens to turn the
festivities into a five-mile long infommercial.

That was my reaction when the news was announced that naming rights
to the parade had been sold to Honda. And it was the reaction of
dozens of Internet posters who weighed in on the subject.

A sampling: “As if the event weren't commercial enough, we get the
final sell out. How disgusting!” “I was planning to go to the Rose
Parade this year, but I dislike the idea of hearing Honda this, Honda
that. I’d rather go hiking.” “Why not just make it North American
Honda presents The Tournament of Roses sponsored by Acura?”
“Traditions for sale. Get em' while their cheap.”

This isn’t exactly scientific polling but the fact is the only
positive comments on the deal are coming from Tournament House, Honda
headquarters and City Hall which doesn’t exactly indicate a
groundswell of popular support.

Pasadena, which embraces tradition and civic pride, has been sucker
punched. The culture of the Rose Parade has been compromised.

I guess we can be thankful the sponsor wasn’t Depends or Fruit Loops.

None of this should come as a total surprise. The first commercial
float in the parade appeared in 1935 and the number of corporate
entries have increased steadily since.

In 2010, Honda, Anheuser-Bush , Bayer, China Airlines, Farmers, Jack
in the Box, Medieval Times Dinner and Tournament, Macy’s, Kaiser
Permanente, Dick Van Patten’s Natural Balance Pet Foods, Inc.,
Phoenix Satellite Television (U.S.),.Rainbird, RFD-TV, Subway
restaurants, Wells Fargo and Trader Joe’s joined in the festivities.

We know college bowl games have corporate stickers affixed to them
including the Rose Bowl game which has been sponsored by AT&T,
Playstation and Citi in years past.

It’s the way of the world, 2010. But we don’t have to like it.
And what I like least about it is the efforts of Tournament officials
to spin the message.

For example, parade officials stressed that there will be no major
changes in the parade itself. Then they announced that the Honda
brand will be incorporated into the Tournament of Roses logo and said
there would be changes in the marketing of the event to note Honda's

They also announced that Honda would get the lead position in the
parade each year. And the Honda CR-Z will be used as the “pace car”
for the parade. Clearly, things are going to look different now.

(Note to self: See how many times the Honda brand is incorporated
into the parade route or mentioned on TV. I’m betting I will need
more than my fingers and toes to add up the numbers).

Next, there was this doublespeak: "(Honda) are presenting sponsors,
not a title sponsor - it's not like we've sold the name," said
Tournament of Roses President Jeffrey Throop. "It's the Tournament of
Roses Parade presented by Honda. It's not like the `Tostitos Fiesta
Bowl' ...or when you use a corporate sponsor before it as a title.
That's one thing we're saying is a big difference."

Selling the name is exactly what you have done, Mr. Throop. It’s a
cash transaction no matter how you slice the baloney.

Throop said he wanted to assure everyone the T of R is in "terrific
financial shape."

Then why sell the naming rights? Could it be because a scant two
years ago, some float participants said the economic crisis forced
new cost-trimming and fund-raising efforts?

Fiesta Parade Floats official Tim Estes said smaller companies and
organizations attached to the annual event were particularly hard hit
in regard to budgetary concerns, according to published reports.

Meanwhile, the Rose Float Foundation in West Covina, saw a drastic
decline in donations from area businesses apparently due to the
ongoing economic crisis nationwide. "We're grasping at whatever,"
Foundation Executive Vice President Chris Freeland said.

Two years later, the economy hasn’t changed for the better and its
difficult to believe that the recession hasn’t affected the Rose
Parade’s bottom line.

Erik Wedin, manager of corporate community relations for American
Honda Motor Co., said that he thinks there will be general acceptance
of the presentation agreement. "I think if we were approaching this
relationship as a way to generate sales, then I might agree it would
not be a popular move.”

That’s tough to swallow. The Tournament was a seller and Honda was a
buyer. The parade gets cash and Honda generates visibility which
translates into sales. To suggest otherwise is ludicrous.

In three years, the sponsorship will be up for sale to the highest
bidder. Let the games begin.

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