The backlash against those institutions receiving TARP money has taken on an entire new level of absurdity. According to today’s article (Corporations Take a Low-Key Approach to Event Sponsorship), a number of large financial institutions were sponsors of the US Open, but no one really knew because they kept it a complete secret. Yes, that’s right. They spent hundreds of thousands of $$$ to bring important clients and prospects to the event, wine and dine them at corporate sponsor tables and more, but only on the condition that their name never appear anywhere as an actual sponsor.
So, for example, guests of Goldman Sachs and Bank of America sat at $50,000 sponsored dinner tables, but no sign was posted as to whose table it actually was. Those attending the dinner were left guessing who the covert benefactor was. Wow… feels like a CIA operation.
Let’s be serious about this for a minute. Yes, any company that has received TARP funds needs to scrutinize its expenditures and should be made accountable by providing provide ongoing updates on its finances. But, this has really gone too far. When companies are forced to compromise the value of brand building efforts through paid for sponsorships (i.e. they can’t promote their brands at these events,) then the principle of what should be happening has become completely lost.
We’ve always done lots of work for financial services companies. It’s a fact that they win lots of business and earn more $$$ by wooing prospects and clients through these high level, prestigious professional sporting events. Like it or not, this is (and always will be) an important new business strategy for them. I think that Congress and the public at large needs to take a chill pill and back off on this issue because it isn’t helping anyone. By taking away the ability to promote their brand and name at these events, these companies waste a large chunk of the dollars they are spending. So in essence, because they live in fear of being singled out by Congress/the public, they are leaving a lot of value on the table. Thus, we are forcing them to throw away our money.
I know that I simplified an issue that is much more complex. But, hopefully my meaning is clear. We shouldn’t be forcing TARP funded companies to change their tried and true approaches to doing business (which, by the way, generates much needed income that will help them get back on solid ground.) I completely believe in accountability and transparency of where the money is going and how much is being spent. But, there is a big difference between corporate boondoggles that simply pamper the senior executives of these broken companies versus legitimate sales and marketing programs that truly generate business, goodwill and some ongoing brand rehabilitation.
It’s too bad that those who influence public opinion about these companies (like our politicians) pretend that this is a black and white, negative issue. Shame on them for not properly educating the masses versus continuing to fan the flames.