No Logo: Nike’s sponsorship shows lopsided funding priorities

Celebrating Nike’s $10 million sponsorship package reifies the currently lopsided funding priorities we have not just in this town but all over the place, where anything to do with cars is automatically funded without any public conversation much less a vote, but when it comes to high-vis bike infrastructure (Sunday Parkways, Bikeshare – now BikeTown) we’re apparently out of luck, and the search for a corporate sponsor raises few eyebrows (how many thousands of taxpayer dollars were spent cozying up to that sponsor?).

Were any of you bikeportland readers in Seattle to protest the WTO in 1999? Do we even remember what those protests were about? One of the things they were about was corporations’ need to create, infiltrate, and dominate the emotional and physical landscapes we inhabit, convince us that their brand and the lifestyles we seek are one and the same. A few of these companies have become very good at it and very wealthy in the process. But in the post-manufacturing era there is fierce competition for this dominance. The remaining opportunities are few and getting fewer. Nike isn’t the only one who’d like to brand us, our aspirations, our (formerly) public spaces.

“Since many of today’s best-known manufacturers no longer produce products and advertise them, but rather buy products and ‘brand’ them, these companies are forever on the prowl for creative new ways to build and strengthen their brand images. Manufacturing products may require drills, furnaces, hammers and the like, but creating a brand calls for a completely different set of tools and materials. It requires an endless parade of brand extensions, continuously renewed imagery for marketing and, most of all, fresh new spaces to disseminate the brand’s idea of itself. […] I’ll look at how, in ways both insidious and overt, this corporate obsession with brand identity is waging a war on public and individual space: on public institutions such as schools, on youthful identities, on the concept of nationality and on the possibilities for unmarketed space.” (Naomi Klein, No Logo, 1999)

Once we accept that corporate sponsors are our best shot at getting what we want or need, any residual hopes that we could fix the spending priorities of our city government go out the window. Why would Novick and friends ever seek to reprioritize the spending of taxpayer funds we already have once Nike steps in and everyone congratulates each other? No elected official I’ve ever met is going to upset that apple cart.

Once upon a time, not so long ago, a consumer boycott was one of the recognizable ways those who rejected this sort of dominance or inequity pushed back. I realize that this has fallen out of favor, but I am chagrined to see just how far we seem to have drifted.

— by BikePortland subscriber 9watts

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8 years ago

Everyone who is outraged or lightly pissed off about the lack of funding for bikes, transit and walking should call me or come to the meeting This Sunday Dec 10th. 3pm at KBOO.FM at 20th SE 8th at Burnside Ave, Portland Or. My cell is (414) 465-8805. Boycotts, protests, meetings… Whatever it takes. I was not at the WTO in Seattle. That’s arrogant 9watts. We all have an activist in us. Do you feel it? Let it awaken.

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Hi 9watts and buildwithjoe… I’m going to offer some unsolicited advice.

When people scroll to a blog comment section with thoughts of potentially joining in, one of the things that makes them run away is when two people are arguing with each other like this. To encourage more people’s voices and more productive dialogue, I would highly recommend trying to frame your disagreements in a very sensitive/non-personal way. It’s extremely easy to be misunderstood on the internet. Every word you type matters. So… take care with your thoughts and especially take care in how you respond to someone elses. Thanks! Love you both.

8 years ago

I agree Jonathan. I also think we need to put the world crisis in context and tolletate online debate. Millions are homeless or dying in Syria because even our liberal lawmakers turned a blind eye to the known lies that began in 2001 and create military and corporate rule

8 years ago

9watts did not deserve to be called arrogant here. Demeaning others does not help bike advocacy, Joe.

8 years ago

I think you’re looking at only one symptom of private sector creep. Across the country, charter schools effectively sell naming rights. In Silicon Valley, the public problems of housing and transportation are “remedied” by private buses. Elsewhere, states privatize their highways and prisons. The list goes on.

As private wealth concentrates, the public’s is in decline. More and more, we lean on their benevolence, and the control that it buys. Paying less for more power: that’s savvy business. I don’t think there’s much disagreement about how to reverse that trend.

8 years ago
Reply to  Champs

“As private wealth concentrates, the public’s is in decline.”

I too have observed both, though it isn’t clear to me how or if they are causally related which I think you may be implying.

“More and more, we lean on their benevolence, and the control that it buys.”

I guess that was the chief criticism I was offering – our willingness not just to go along but to consider this trend an unqualified success.

“Paying less for more power: that’s savvy business.”

We agree.

“I don’t think there’s much disagreement about how to reverse that trend.”

Say more.

Chadwick F
Chadwick F
8 years ago

I for REDBULL one CHEERIOS am TOYOTA excited DISNEY for APPLE anything REVLON that SONY can NIKE get MCDONALDS us MONSANTO closer NABISCO to COMCAST our G.E. active MAYTAG transportation BESTBUY goals.

8 years ago
Reply to  Chadwick F

Damn, that’s hard to read, but I did it. Did I manage to filter out all the corporate names? Probably not, and that little bit is probably all they need.