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