Wheaties, Nike, Red Bull, Oh My!

0 - Published October 7, 2013 by in Uncategorized

Since Paul Rabil was dubbed ‘The Million Dollar Man’ in lacrosse a few months ago, and in light of the recent Pannell sponsorship contract with Wheaties, I have been urged internally to bring some awareness to the subjects of player sponsorship, what it does for the sport and what it means for people in general. Numerous high status lacrosse athletes, such as Paul Rabil (Red Bull/Warrior), Rob Pannell (Wheaties), Kyle Harrison (Nike) and Max Seibald (Nike), get money for their support of certain brands; these athletes are paid money to advocate for certain brands for a certain period of time regardless of how their personal feelings about the brand may change over that time.

First, what does this do for the sport: in America, money gives you eyes, in politics, sports, everything, so, by having athletes being paid money by big brands that have a lot of money, lacrosse can attract more eyes through advertising, which can effect the lacrosse’s popularity because of those who recognize and accept a brand as quality, such as Nike, might end up paying more attention to lacrosse, in general, than they ever had before when they see Nike associated with lacrosse. This is the general idea: more people know about the game, then more people gain interest in it, which hopefully leads to more fans and players overall. The same model is being used on us, when we act as consumers, with the athlete being the common bond; large brands use athletes, who we respect and love for their ability and personality, to gain our eyes and, hopefully for them, get more of us interested enough in their product to buy it; this also plays on the innate trust we have in those we admire.

On the surface, this all seems well and good for both sides, except the focus for one side is totally different than that of the others. What lacrosse, as a community, gets is more members, which makes us all feel good! As it should! As a community, we have open arms to anyone who wants to join, which I believe makes lacrosse pretty special, for a couple reasons: the sport is dynamic enough, when factoring in stick skills and their utmost importance, that it allows players of almost all speeds and sizes to play it well if they are willing to put the work in, and, secondly, that the lacrosse community has these opens arms because they believe that anyone, with enough action and effort, can bring something positive to the game. The difference, on the other side, is the primary motivation for a sponsorship deal for brands, which is, and always will be in our current capitalist environment, money. Money is the main objective for any of these brands in signing on athletes that we admire; through them, we end up giving our trust to a brand’s product if we decide to buy it.

This should not be crazy news to anyone; this is how it works. But, when we go a little bit deeper into the specific brands at play, it makes me think about if what we are getting is a fair trade. Red Bull, a product which gives 97% of its website homepage to sports and their advertisements (you have to click on products up on the top right, then from a drop down list, then click to learn more about the ingredients, then click on each individual ingredient separately to learn about them, just to be greeted with many “has been known to’s”, and how different ingredients in Red Bull are also found in other foods and in our body {we also have urine and blood in our body, but we don’t drink that!}), spends most of their focus to building an image about what Red Bull can help you do after you drink it – think and run faster and better, although, from what we can see from my very long parenthesized experience on their website, they don’t spend much time focusing on the actual ingredients which are going into our bodies. Even on mainstream new sites, there are many causes for concern about Red Bull as a product: HuffPost article and NY TImes article about risks of energy drinks in general, UK-based DailyMail article on links to heart disease, FDA report on risks of aspartame (found in the sugar free version). Athletes like Victor Cruz, who sign on with Pepsi, have access to some of the purportedly best nutritionalists in the world in NFL nutritionalists; do you think he really drinks Pepsi? The lacrosse world is now becoming big enough for the larger brand players to play their sponsorship hands. How many Red Bull’s do you think Paul Rabil drinks in one day? Hopefully, none, if any of these health warning signs are true. Also, we can note the difference between the instant gratification of the effects which Red Bull highlights and the long term and hidden ‘side’ effects of the ingredients inside them.

Wheaties and Nike are also not without falter. Wheaties, which also has near the same percentage as Red Bull dedicated to sports and advertisement of them (you have to click on nutrition, then you can click on the top picture to find out what is inside {corn syrup, trisodium phos-what?} in minimized type on a JPEG of a label. Digital project manager side note (look out Wheaties Twitter community manager for a tip for your web team): the thumbnails of Wheaties’ inspirational manifestos simply open a new page with that JPEG sized up, except they have a code mistake and the “Eat the best, beat the best” uncharacteristically opens a new tab and a JPEG larger than the others, and the “Dreams don’t work unless you do” doesn’t allow the user to click on it at all. Back to ingredients. Besides them being hidden, all the ingredients in Wheaties are genetically modified, which a controversial topic that needs more of the public’s awareness. While it’s hard to determine which of the numerous scientific studies are true, the fact is that companies like the one that owns Wheaties (General Mills) contribute massive dollars in support of the suppression of GMO labeling – I ask myself, what is there to hide? The economic rebuttal about how much relabeling would cost with the minimal amount digital printers cost and with how much turnover these products have is an inconsequential argument. And, finally, Nike has admitted to some somewhat shady, depending on how you factor in cultural differences, things regarding child labor.

The matter of the fact is that, especially in our modern times, we need to really look at the purpose, cause and effect behind many of the things we automatically assume to be okay and cool. Of course, it is awesome if there are 5,000 more kids that sign up to play lacrosse next year because of Red Bull or Nike, but is it also awesome if that same amount of children start to develop heart disease or work more than 50 hours a week in a factory? Questions that are the hardest to ask are often the ones we most need to ask. Bob Marley had it right in Corner Stone:

The things people refuse
Are the things they should use.
Do you ‘ear me? Hear what I say!

Simply, I believe this means that where our minds are most refusing us to go, when we cannot even bear to think about something, is where we can learn the most about ourselves and how we see the world. And, because it is so easy for me to relate everything I do to stringing, I want to say that I believe this is what a lot of people feel about stringing a pocket – overwhelmed. I hope with greater transparency, more acceptance of the differences in others, more recognition of the sameness we share with others and better instruction on how to achieve through yourself that we can all help each other help ourselves. Seriously though, learning to string your own pocket is the same as finding out the truth about why certain things happen, except you find them out about yourselves – signing up with LAS is an awesome deal for an almost 3-hour long instructional, professionally shot and edited video series and a slew of member only content from guys who know what they’re doing in lacrosse.