Monday, April 24, 2006

From the Dept. of Are You Shitting Me?:
Sellin' Out

Been meaning to write this for a couple of weeks, and for some reason I keep forgetting. Actually Brain hipped me to this last summer in an email, and I either forgot or have been trying to subconsciously blot it out ever since.

The Kentucky Derby is the oldest sporting event in the United States, and the one with the most tradition. This year is the 132nd running of the Derby, and it has always gone out of it's way to market/promote/cultivate it's image as a historic southern tradition full of dignity and elegance. When The Masters, another event with a rich tradition, started in 1933, The Derby had already been run annually for 58 years. When you go to Churchill Downs on Derby Day, you can feel the history and tradition dripping all over the place, and you are overcome with the really cool feeling that you are experiencing someting very similar to what your grandfather and great grandfather before him experinced. I have felt this at Fenway park, and at Augusta National, but at the Derby you feel it moreso just because the same race has been run at the same track since 1875.

CD before renovation: Spires towering & dominant

It was one thing when Churchill Downs decided to modernize and do a huge renovation and expansion 2 years ago, resulting in high rise luxury boxes and whatnot that drastically reduced the striking appearance of the famous twin spires, which are original from 1875 and the signature feature of both Churchill Downs and The Kentucky Derby. Traditionalists winced that the imposing spires were now engulfed by high rise boxes on either side, (think lots of big corporate tents at Amen Corner during the Masters, behind the 11th, 12th, and 13th greens), but everyone acknowledged that the renovations were long overdue and made for a much better experience for the high rollers who are Churchill Downs most valued customers.

CD after renovation: not so much

But this is just too damn much. The Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands? It's not so much that they decided to sell out and allow a presenting sponsor. I mean the Rose Bowl is presented by AT&T, which is acceptable because it has been done kind of tastefully and AT&T is an old blueblood company which does not go against the whole ethos of the Rose Bowl. But Yum!Brands? Are you shitting me? Was Chuck E. Cheese not available?

The name Yum! Brands on this event makes The Outback Bowl look like Wimbledon. Hell, it wouldn't even be so bad if it was simply Yum Brands, but Yum! Brands? Fucking horrible. In the past Derby corporate tie-ins have been with old school companies that exude a similar tradition to the track/event - Woodford Reserve, Crown Royal, etc. When VISA came on board as part of their sponsorship of the Triple Crown that even seemed to be pushing the envelope a bit for the traditionalists. Now we have the equivalent of the bowl, except if this is what the Rose Bowl was renamed as.

Hey Yum! Brands - I understand that you bought KFC, Pizza Hut & Taco Bell from PepsiCo and that you also own Long John Silvers and A&W. I also understand that you are doing very well as a company, especially in the emerging Chinese economy, but your name is just too damn silly to be taken seriously by anyone, anywhere, let alone Churchill Downs on the first Saturday of May. You should be sponsoring NASCAR not the Derby, even if your corporate headquarters is in Louisville. And you, Churchill Downs, what the hell are you thinking? OK, you see a business opportunity to get some corporation to write you a check with eight zeroes before the decimal point. But why the hell didn't you do this with a corporation a little farther towards the other end of the brand image spectrum as Chuck E. Cheese?

Twin Spires with famous sign between

Worst of all, their plan to try to do to the Derby what Tostitos has done to the Fiesta bowl called for an enormous Yum! Brands sign to be placed between/below the twin spires and directly above the famous sign that shows that the Derby has been run here every year since 1875. Thankfully this plan has been called off because so many people have complained, or according to the official spin just becuase they changed their mind at the last minute for no apparent reason.

"Hmmm. A giant Yum! Brands sign here
would really complete the room..."

As horrible as this is, I suppose I should take solace in the fact that in 12 days I will be attending

The 132nd Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands

and not the

The 132nd Yum! Brands Kentucky Derby

And yes, unlike Pamela Anderson, I am still going . And yes, I'll drink several juleps, see thousands of beautiful women in their sundresses and hats, play the ponies, and have a blast with my buddies. But still, this is flat-out hideous.

If you are silly enough to give your corporation such a stupid-ass name, you simply should not be allowed anywhere near an event like The Derby.

End rant.


Brain said...

Kanu, Yum! brands, being a Louisville company, is a no brainer to sponsor Louisville's main event. That being said, Yum! does have the gayest brand name in business and will not look good stapled all over like the Sunkist, er... Tostitos Fiesta Bowl. I think the TV coverage will have no choice but to suffer. We in the Downs however, will not be effected that much. Imagine the Humana Distaff or the Crown Royal Stakes, this does not effect me at all at the races. The cool thing to me is that it seems to have no effect on the Kentucky Oaks ran the day before. Also known as Louisville's day at the Downs. You have brought me kicking and screaming into Futbol Proper and the thing I've noticed there is that "signage" is freaking everywhere. If TH14 could have O2 tatted to his forehead for a good profit, those cats would do it. I think corporate "invasion" on to our games and events that we hold so dear will continue and grow. The little "Coke is it" in our program when we went to our first college game has been practically replaced with the flag girls in the band waving COKE banners at halftime. If YUM!'s sponsorship means we don't have that trick Pam Anderson all up in my business again at my event, I say bring it on gang! As a side note, Orson and Stanko need to experience DERBY 133. You need to get the guys from EDSBS involved next year.

Kanu said...


1. Let's be clear about one thing: I, nor any other mere mortal man, could not possible drag you kicking & screaming into anything.

2. You can take solace in the fact that O2 will no longer be Arsenal's shirt sponsor after this year. Starting next year you can look forward to the "Fly Emirates" tatoo on Henry's head (assuming he stays that is).

3. You would love Barcelona - they are the only major or minor club left in the world that does not have a shirt sponsor - they have sepcifically given up millions on general principle in fact, repeatedly tuning down offers to stay 'pure' if you will

4. Yes, but they would only be allowed in the infield - don't think they let Jorts in the paddock or anywhere else on the grandstand side.

Brain said...

All statements are, as Budwieser says, "True". These comment brought to you by Microsoft. Microsoft and Bill Gates would like to thank you for wasting your valuable work hours blogging and remember don't blog and drive.

OMAA said...

I can think of a certain college arena devoid of mezzanine signage.

Kanu said...

So Brain-

On Friday, are we going to The Pork The Other White Meat Kentucky Oaks, or playing golf?