I must admit, I’m not much of a NASCAR fan.
I never have been and, safe to say, I probably never will be. If I wanted to watch cars drive side by side at unsafe speeds, I can observe the pseudo-drag racing going on up and down Jefferson Street during afternoon rush hour. With that out of the way, I stumbled upon a reporter’s tweet this week mentioning the Brickyard 400 race coming up in September.
To the common person, the race is just the Brickyard 400 — as in 400 miles driven at the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway with its brick start/finish line. For commercial purposes, it can’t be that simple. Instead, the oval madness is to be to be officially referred to as the Big Machine Vodka 400 at the Brickyard powered by Florida Georgia Line.
There’s a lot to unpack in that title. For starters, what’s Big Machine Vodka? And is Florida Georgia Line powering the several-hour foray by strumming away on guitars and loud bass lines?
I wanted to know more, so I went to the Wikipedia, the everyman’s guide for facts on the world you hope are actually true. I knew Big Machine was a country music record label, but I wasn’t aware they have their own line of vodka. (Here’s a fun fact: Florida Georgia Line actually hails from Nashville, Tennessee, which is very far from the Florida-Georgia state line. Who knew?)
In short, these corporate titles are just silly. Who has enough time in the day to rattle off “Crown Royal presents the Your Hero’s Name Here 400 at the Brickyard powered by BigMachineRecords.com?” That’s what you were supposed to call it (sorry if your memo got lost in the mail) between 2012 and 2014. I needed a pit stop and a tire change just to make it to the end.
Reports out of Pittsburgh this week included some rumblings that the Steelers’ home field could have a new name in the coming years as Kraft Heinz rethinks its naming rights deal for Heinz Field. Now think — baseball has the moniker of America’s pastime, but football is the sport for the toughest of the tough. Players are referred to as warriors and gladiators. On game day, the men trot into war and fight battles in the trenches ... doing so in arenas nicknamed “The Big Ketchup Bottle,” “The Big Crabcake” and the newly christened United Airlines Field at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
Sports aren’t the only offender in this corporate-naming race. Until 2014, Chicago’s Willis Tower was the largest skyscraper in America. The only problem? It’s still commonly known as Sears Tower, even though it’s been 10 years since it had that name. In everyday life, parks and pools are named after corporate sponsorships.
As long as there’s an opportunity for a cash grab, sponsorships and naming rights will only continue to make once simple names convoluted and covered in corporate slime.
On that note, this column is now open for a presenting sponsor and can be yours if the price is right.
(Pete Sirianni is the digital editor at the New Castle News. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.)