When it comes to art and luxury goods, a thing is worth only what someone is willing to pay for it. You can invoke subjective, abstract concepts like “quality” or “aesthetics”, but most of the time the difference between a sparkly ring you buy at Target, and one you buy at Tiffany’s, is your perception of the item: the belief that one is worth more than the other.
This is why Power Balance has been able to sell rubber bracelets with mylar stickers on them for $30 and to become an officially licensed product of the NBA. The sticker has a hologram on it– holography is just a printing process that allows the image to reflect light in such a way that it appears three-dimensional– and this sticker is supposed to be “programmed through a proprietary process, which is designed to mimic Eastern philosophies that have been around for hundreds of years”. This is nonsense. So is Power Balance’s claim to “optimize the body’s natural energy flow”. It’s a rubber bracelet with a sticker on it. If it does anything to increase your power and balance, it’s because you believe it will.
Facts haven’t stopped Power Balance from making lots and lots of money selling their rubber bracelets, and in their most recent PR move, from winning the naming rights to a sports stadium right here in California. As of February 2011, ARCO Arena in Sacramento, home to the Sacramento Kings, is now Power Balance Pavilion. Points for alliteration!
It’s too bad that Power Balance was found guilty of violating Trade Practices in Australia and had to admit that “in our advertising we stated that Power Balance wristbands improved your strength, balance, and flexibility. We admit that there is no credible scientific evidence that supports our claims”. This was followed shortly by a class action lawsuit here in the U.S. for purposefully misleading the public and falsely advertising and marketing the products. Whoops!
So now Sacramento is stuck with a stadium named after a company that might just have to send refunds to all its purchasers (like Opti-Grab). Will the owners (the Maloof family) rename it yet again? Will they stick it out until the contract expires and they contract with another company? Or will they wait until the Kings move to a new stadium and just close the damn thing down?
Naming rights to stadiums have a long history, including several, shall we say, “difficult” situations similar to the Power Balance embarrassment. Here are some highlights for your enjoyment.
- In 1986, Villanova University opened a new on-campus basketball arena, du Pont Pavilion; the facility was largely financed by John du Pont, a member of the wealthy and influential du Pont family. When he was found guilty of murder in 1996, Villanova stripped du Pont’s name from the facility, which is now known simply as The Pavilion.
- Major League Baseball’s Houston Astros faced a crisis in 2002 when Enron collapsed. The team had signed a naming rights contract to name its new stadium Enron Field, but hastily bought out the rest of Enron’s 30-year naming rights contract and went to great extents to remove all evidence of Enron’s presence in the park. For the rest of the year, the facility was known as Astros Field. The following year, the facility was renamed Minute Maid Park after a new deal was signed with The Coca-Cola Company.
- In 2004, the new basketball arena at the University of Missouri was renamed almost immediately after it opened. The facility was first named Paige Sports Arena after Paige Laurie, the daughter of two major donors to the university. After allegations of academic fraud against her at the University of Southern California (which she attended instead of Missouri) surfaced, her parents removed her name from the arena, which is now known as Mizzou Arena.
- Another example came when CoreStates Bank bought the naming rights to what had been known as “Spectrum II” that would serve as the home of the Philadelphia Flyers and 76ers in 1995. When CoreStates was merged into First Union Bank, it became the “First Union Center”, or was nicknamed “The F.U. Center” (perhaps fittingly for Philly’s hardcore fans). After First Union’s merger with Wachovia in 2003, the name was changed again to Wachovia Center, and changed again in July 2010 to the Wells Fargo Center due to the merger between Wells Fargo and Wachovia.
Ah well. You pays your money, you takes your chances. Here in the Bay Area, people still call that stadium Candlestick Park, and the one on the other side of the Bay the Oakland Coliseum, no matter how many times they’re renamed.
And if you think I’m kidding about the nonsense that is Power Balance, please watch this video and save yourself $30.