Brown's athletics department recently partnered with an outside company, Nelligan Sports Marketing, to increase advertising sales and sponsorships. The company has done well for us so far, bringing in corporate sponsorships from Dunkin' Donuts, AT&T, Domino's Pizza and Taco Bell. Sponsorship funding for the year has already surpassed the previous fiscal year's total. These early successes are encouraging, and will hopefully mark the beginning of a profitable partnership (the University has not yet broken even on the five-year deal).
We were somewhat perplexed, however, by the University's criteria for sponsors. In an interview with The Herald, Director of Athletics Michael Goldberger said Brown would never partner with alcohol or gambling companies. The restriction on gambling makes sense, given the University's interest in discouraging betting on sports games. We urge the University to reconsider its stance on sponsorship deals with alcohol vendors.
The University's refusal to consider alcohol companies as potential sponsors is misguided for several reasons. First, the policy is hypocritical given the background of Brown's largest benefactor. Sidney Frank, who contributed over $120 million to the University, made a fortune as a liquor tycoon selling Jagermeister and Grey Goose. The University, and the Office of Financial Aid in particular, benefited tremendously from his largesse.
There is much less money at stake with corporate sponsorships, but the same principle applies: Brown should not turn down free revenue, even if it comes from alcohol sales. Alcohol is not obviously worse than the products sold by Brown's other sponsors. From a health perspective, the obesity caused in part by companies like Dunkin' Donuts, Domino's and Taco Bell, is as problematic as alcohol consumption.
We understand that the University may want to discourage underage drinking, but we believe that a ban on alcohol sponsorship is the wrong way to address that concern. In the event of a sponsorship, drinks would still not be sold at sporting events. This makes it all the more unlikely that increased advertising for alcohol would increase student demand for alcohol. At worst, it might help them choose between brands. The University could take a more prudent approach by encouraging moderation. All advertising for alcoholic beverages at Brown events could, for example, carry warnings to drink responsibly.
The University should make every reasonable effort to increase its funding base, even if that involves resorting to untraditional means. In flusher times, the University could be pickier about its athletic sponsors. In the midst of the Great Recession, this is a luxury it can no longer afford.
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