Friday, April 11, 2008

Corporate Sponsorships: When Does it Go Too Far?

I'm obviously into every form of media: television, movies, magazines, Websites, music, you name it. And across every platform, I've been looking at corporate sponsorships and wondering just how far can one go without delving too deep that it becomes detrimental to your brand.

As I just mentioned on our sister Website,, Universal’s Island Def Jam record label is joining forces with mammoth household goods manufacturer Proctor & Gamble to create a new music label. The label will be called TAG Records, in obvious synergy with one of Proctor & Gamble’s brands, TAG body spray. What does this say for the quality of music, or the integrity of the record label? Similar partnerships have been around for decades, of course, whereby a company might sponsor a concert tour or CD launch. We might even see a coupon for $5 off a particular CD when you buy a box of cereal; or a free digital download when you buy X product from X manufacturer. This is fine and dandy, but is creating a major partnership with one company for an entire record label division going too far?

Granted, the music industry has been feeling the pain as of late due to digital downloading and online piracy issues. So something has to be done in order to maintain profitability.

As mentioned in the aforementioned article from, technology company Apple had the clever idea of taking unique, TV content from popular show American Idol and offering it as downloadable audio or video files via the iTunes Website. But there are only so many TV shows, and even that industry is feeling the heat from digital downloading, not to mention from the recently ended writer's strike.

Speaking of TV shows (as well as movies) I've seen the same sort of over-indulgent corporate sponsorship in everything from blatently obvious product placements (more so than ever before) to subtle (yet not so subtle) brand plugs within dialogue. Sadly, I've even noticed the same thing in recent novels I've been reading. Have these "mentions" been paid for, or are they legitimate choices by the noveslist? I often wonder.

The typical "brought to you by" sponsorships are no big deal. Every piece of content, whether it's a movie, TV show, or music concert, has to be paid for somehow. But it seems as of late that corporate entities are dipping their hands a bit too much into the creative pies. Iconic artist Madonna has already reportedly made tons of money from her new CD (which, by the way, hasn't even been released yet!) through corporate commercials that feature its songs (like Sunsilk shampoo). I can't even begin to count how many indie artists have skyrocketed in popularity after having their songs featured in an Apple commercial. It appears that commercials now lead the music industry in determining what "good" music really is! Not to mention how many "celebrities" have become increasingly popular through their own lines of clothing, perfume, shoes, heck, even books when none of these things are considered their primary "talent"!

I'm not claiming that all of this is totally wrong or unjustified. After all, maybe it's a necessary evil in order to survive in industries where the Web is quickly cutting into profits and distribution channels. I just think that, no matter who's backing one's music, TV program, acting career, or what have you, integrity and creative control needs to remain in check. Otherwise, music, TV, and every other form of media will no doubt lose touch with the very people it's trying to reach in the first place.

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