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This Soccer Team Is Now
Brought to You by Red Bull

OPINION features excerpts of pieces by columnists from the Op-Ed page and other sections of The New York Times. All columns from the last seven days are available at nytimes.com; Op-Ed pieces (by columnists and outside contributors), plus Editorials and Letters to the Editor, are at nytimes.com/opinion. Please let us know what you think of OPINION at upfront@scholastic.com.

Sports fans have long been accustomed to stadiums taking on corporate brand names. Consider the Washington Redskins' FedEx Field. But the recent purchase of a Major League Soccer team by the energy-drink company Red Bull has taken naming rights a step further. The soccer team formerly known as the MetroStars converted to the New York Red Bulls. Players don jerseys bearing the company's logo. Some marketers hope this will open a new front in the commercialization of professional sports. It is enough to make companies salivate at the advertising opportunities. But there are potential pitfalls. Some fans have shown disdain for the Red Bull name. And what if the brand, or the team, goes south? It may be decades before the practice catches on in the U.S., predicts the C.E.O. of a sports and entertainment marketing firm. As one branding expert notes, "No one's going to want to see the Coca-Cola Cowboys or the Kraft Singles."

Julie Bosman [3/22/06]