Some folks out there think I’m opposed to advertising, but that’s not true. I’m just opposed to advertising where it doesn’t belong. And do you know where it doesn’t belong? Here, I will tell you:
On the sidewalk. In a historic district. Where sidewalk advertising is illegal. Tied to a sporting event whose advertising tie-ins were supposed to be strictly regulated. All orchestrated by a douchebag corporation.
That’s the story that unfolded over the weekend in New Orleans, which is the host city for the Final Four. On Friday morning, Big Easy residents — including those in the historic French Quarter and Tremé neighborhoods — woke up to find that Coca-Cola had stenciled hundreds of corporate graffiti ads with Final Four-related messages on the city’s sidewalks. There was a huge public backlash, and with good reason, since the ads were in direct violation of at least three city laws: a general ban on advertising in public spaces; a further provision that makes graffiti in the French Quarter a felony; and a “Clean Zone” ordinance passed by the City Council in September, specifically for the Final Four weekend.
Uni Watch reader Chris Falvey lives in New Orleans. I asked him what he thought of all this. Here’s how he responded:
I have strong feelings on the matter. For starters, I generally agree with your opinions regarding advertising in public spaces. But doing it in New Orleans brings something new to this issue. We pride ourselves on keeping everything historic in its original shape. And
by “everything” I don’t mean just a statue or cemetery — the sidewalks are historic here. My house was built in 1888, and it looks the same as it did in 1888. Because that’s the law.
So corporate douchbaggery strikes a particular nerve down here. We don’t view our historic nature as merely a quaint way to generate tourism — it’s our soul. It means something. It’s the ghosts of 200 years of all sorts of good, bad, and weird. So spray-painting a Coca Cola ad on sidewalks is akin to defacing our soul. Maybe that seems like hyperbole, but it really does feel that way when you see it.
Even scummier than the ads themselves is the way they came about. According to local reports, ads were placed on Craigslist seeking “street artists to assist with sidewalk stencils for well known beverage company.” One of the ads said, “We will be placing these stencils without city permission and [they] will be placed near Final Four trafficked areas.” Participants were promised $600 for a night’s work. (The ads — which, like most Craigslist ads, were anonymous and didn’t use real e-mail addresses — have now been taken down.)
When the story broke, Coca-Cola officials conveniently denied any knowledge of what had happened, chalking the whole thing up to a “misunderstanding” by a local ad agency that had “misinterpreted” the instructions from Coke HQ. It’s a classic case of corporate cowardice: Outsource the dirty work to some small-timers and then hang them out to dry when the shit hits the fan, all while feigning surprise and regret over the way things turned out. Douchebags.
Coke agreed to have the ads power-washed off of the sidewalks. So instead of being covered in corporate graffiti, the historic areas were crawling with fluorescent-vested clean-up workers. Wonderful!
This is all a sad example of something I mentioned about 10 days ago — our nation’s shift from a market economy to a market society. It’s what happens when every square millimeter of public space is presumed to be up for sale (or worse, just there for the taking), when people accept “It’s just business” and “Hey, they got attention for it” as blanket justifications for any corporate activity, when the line between our civic institutions and business institutions gets blurred, and when sports marketing runs amok. (Speaking of which, guess where the 2013 Super Bowl is taking place: New Orleans.) Good for all the New Orleanians who stood up and said, “No!”
Now, as some of you are aware, I drink a lot of Diet Coke — like, a lot. I hesitate to use the word “addiction,” but it’s definitely the one thing I put in my body that I have the hardest time going without. I figure it can’t be good for me, so I’ve periodically tried to cut down, but I’ve always failed. This New Orleans situation, however, may be the motivation I need to finally get over the hump. I’m definitely going without Diet Coke today (I know I can do that), and I’ll try hard to do it again tomorrow (that’ll be harder). If I get through two days, I’ll go for three. Ideally, I’d like to go this entire week without consuming any of the stuff. After that, we’ll see.
Will any of this make a difference in Coke’s bottom line? Of course not. But it’s good to feel some solidarity with the good people of New Orleans, who’ve been through enough crap in the past seven years without having some douchebag corporation treating their city like a bunch of free billboard space.
In a related item, a small weekly newspaper in Wisconsin reported the other day that the state had decided to raise revenue by selling a bike trail in a state park to Disney. Turns out it was an April Fool’s prank, but people around the state believed it — a disturbing indicator of how plausible such a scheme apparently is in many people’s minds.
By Brinke Guthrie
With the Swoosh Mothership Death Star preparing to land tomorrow, I thought we’d showcase some of the NFL’s dearly departed licensees today. Each of these companies had its own style and take on how to portray each team’s image — imagine that. One person might view it as a cluttered mishmash of designs. Others might say that having different suppliers gave teams a more distinctive look. Anyway, off we go.
• I remember Troy Aikman promoting this style hat from Logo Athletic. It was quite properly called “Sharktooth.”
• Puma took over the Logo Athletic (née Logo 7) license at some point. Here’s a Puma-branded Vikings jersey. Wait, did I say Puma? Here’s a Vikings jersey from Adidas. And while we’re at it, let’s go for the Vikings trifecta with the Starter.
• Peyton may be a Bronco now, but here’s his old Colts look, again with the Puma brand.
• I owned this very sweatshirt — a clean, simple Cowboys design from Russell Athletic. Everything was embroidered and the fleece was soft as velvet.
• Apex was a big player in the mid-1990s. I had a ton of Cowboys Apex stuff but I didn’t have this style jacket, which I believe was called the “Dart.” Fun fact: The original company name was “Apex One.” Notice the logo on these NY Giants shorts is different than the one on this Eagles parka.
• Apex also made football shoes. They were very comfortable. Check out these lineman high-tops. And let’s not forget the fabled Cowboys double-star design that Apex whipped up for Jerry. What a design that was.
• Wilson did more than footballs. Here’s a Mark Brunell Jaguars jersey.
• Champion was also involved, as you can see from this Air McNair Oilers jersey.
Seen something on eBay or Etsy (or anywhere else) that you think would make good Collector’s Corner fodder? Send your submissions here.
It’s not every day that you can see a 101-year-old film about a special school — especially one that’s clear enough for you to be able to read the writing on the blackboards. That’s the subject of the latest installment on the Permanent Record blog.
Uni Watch News Ticker: Good story about Boston College’s gold hockey jerseys (from Christian Eidt). … A jet with a Giants livery is one thing, but here’s a Virgin America jet with a Brian Wilson-esque beard (thanks, Brinke). … Hmmm, is Superman going BFBS? (From Andrew Levitt.) … I got my hands on a copy of that comic book that had the cover illo of a gorilla pulling a gun on a librarian. Fair warning: It’s a really weak story, nowhere near as good as the cover design. But if you insist, I scanned the story for you. … Hey, you can still buy square-toed kicking shoes. Who knew? (HHH knew, that’s who.) … Here’s what Tiger Woods will be wearing in the Masters. … Here’s more about the slowly decaying Astrodome (from Matthew Bradford). … In a bizarre case of cultural imperialism, NHL jerseys have become status symbols in Africa (from Chris Bisbee). … Virginia Tech football will be wearing G.I. Joe helmets on Sept. 22. The article says this will be a Wounded Warrior Project game, which is interesting, because WWP has previously worked only with Under Armour schools … Braves catcher Brian McCann has switched to the hockey-style mask (from Michael Rich). … Reprinted from Friday’s comments: Jason Terry lost a bet and played the first half of Friday’s Mavs/Magic game without his usual headband and high socks, supposedly for the first time in his career. But that’s demonstrably untrue: Here’s a shot of Terry sans headband in 2002. … Southeastern Louisiana baseball looks a lot like the A’s, past and present (from James Breazeale). … Kent State baseball wore throwbacks over the weekend (from Dylan Buell). … Speaking of college baseball throwbacks, check out these Notre Dame beauties (from Dan Cichalski). … Why would a sign for St. Louis Blues parking have an illustration of a New Jersey Devil? (From Brian Rich.) … Don Montgomery notes that several Kentucky players wore a Final Four patch in the first half but not the second half on Saturday. … Michael Platt took an old Brewers bobblehead of CC Sabathia and repainted it as a Yankees bobble. Only problem: Uni isn’t nearly baggy enough. … This isn’t new, so maybe you’ve seen it before, but I don’t watch much TV and only saw it for the first time a few days ago: Delta Faucets has a cool commercial in which people literally wash uniforms off of their bodies. (See, I told you I don’t hate all advertising.) … Several readers have asked me why Baylor’s football and basketball teams are outfitted by different companies (Nike for football, Adidas for hoops). I put that question to Baylor associate athletic communications director Chris Yandle (a Uni Watch fan, as it turns out), who responded, “The main reason is that it’s more lucrative for each sport to have its own apparel deal. For instance, Baylor football and women’s basketball are Nike; men’s basketball is Adidas; men’s and women’s golf are Ping; I believe track and volleyball are both Nike; soccer, baseball, and softball are Under Armour. As I understand it, each sport gets a better individualized deal with its respective apparel provider. And those sports with differing suppliers have developed relationships with those providers and prefer to maintain them.” Fair enough. But if it’s that simple, it kinda makes you wonder why other schools don’t do it that way. … Very nice article about Roberto Clemente, using his batting helmet as a point of discussion. … Aston Villa captain Stiliyan Petrov was diagnosed with leukaemia last Friday, so Villa players wore T-shirts in support of him prior to Saturday’s game with Chelsea. And hey, what would a heartfelt gesture be without a corporate signpost? “A new low for logo creep,” says Denis Hurley. Douchebags, sez I. … Latest reason to love Joe Maddon: Check out the shorts he wore the other day (from Ryan Lind). … Want a Seahawks-themed car? There’s one for sale on Craigslist (from Daniel Klempner). … There’s a push in South Carolina high schools to make bass fishing a varsity sport — complete with NOB jerseys. Feels like an April Fool, I know, but the story is actually dated March 22, so it’s legit (from Jason Hillyer). … Anyone know the story behind the cap that Ricky Nolasco’s wearing in his 2012 Topps card photo? (From Sidney Helfer.)
As for tomorrow: I’ll be watching tonight’s KU/UK (palindromic!) game at an authentic North Jersey beefsteak taking place in a VFW hall. Won’t get home until late and, realistically, won’t have any coverage of the game tomorrow morning unless there’s a major uni-related storyline. But I’ll eat some extra beef for you.
The Nike/NFL unveiling event is set to commence tomorrow at 11am Eastern. I plan to cover it by making extensive use of a communication tool I rarely employ: Twitter. I’ll have a widget of my Twitter feed installed here on the site tomorrow, so you can follow my reactions and photos as I post them during the event. Afterward, I’ll run home and summarize my thoughts in an ESPN column that’ll be published at some point in the afternoon. And then maybe I’ll have some additional thoughts here on Wednesday. Or maybe not. We shall see.