Biting the Hand That Feeds

With all the “occupy” protests and recent griping at the University of Saskatchewan about corporate influence on post-secondary education, I have become concerned.

Last spring, I expressed feelings about Enbridge being asked by some to withdraw its sponsorship from a national arts exhibition by a few protesters in the arts. In our society, thank goodness, there will always be the right to voice our opinions without fear. I believe this is right, as we all do.

But when it comes to misinformation and failure of protest groups to work within the framework of civilized society, I become concerned. When they fail to understand the economic impact, I become concerned. The call for sponsorship monies or donations of “energy companies” to be rejected on the grounds that they have a harmful impact on students and exercise influence as such is going too far. Funding of homeless people, revenues to support education and research, and support of minor sports by brands through sponsorship is critical. The jet fuel and automobile gasoline to travel to protests, the plastic in the tents to “occupy” public land, the fuel for heating, and so much more come from those organizations that are being protested against. School curriculum (elementary, secondary, and post-secondary) is not being defined or constrained by corporate sponsorship dollars. Instead, these dollars provide enhanced research and better education for our youth.

I worry that the “hand that feeds” is being bitten. The protesters need to look beyond the superficial and idealistic world they want to live in and recognize the difference between what is idealistic and what is realistic. Each day, I work with organizations seeking money through corporate sponsorship to ensure women are treated fairly here at home and throughout the world, that children’s athletics are available to fight obesity issues in our society, that we are blessed with the arts in all our communities, and that education at all levels can be delivered in the most cost effective and efficient manner possible to ensure bright minds and bright futures. These enhancements do not come from higher tax dollars alone. They do not come from hopes and dreams. They come, in part, from corporate sponsorships and contributions.

I also work each day with brands that support the arts, homeless people, youth, health care, and education. They want to make a difference. They care about the communities in which they work and live. They support these things to ensure that, one day, we will not have to grow moustaches in November, that homelessness will not be an issue, that the arts can thrive, and that the best students possible will rise to the top of our educational ladder without their socioeconomic background being a determining factor, while at the same time ensuring all our youth have access to top notch education from kindergarten onward. They also ensure that our youth have access to sports. That is why these companies invest in the community. They know that a healthy community fosters healthy companies. And yes, it is about healthy profitable companies. Because if companies are not profitable, they cannot provide the billions of dollars they contribute annually to ensure that the arts are here to stay, that homelessness becomes a choice and not a situation, that walks and runs for health causes are no longer needed, and that students can thrive in a well-balanced and highly enriched learning environment.

2 Comments

  1. Should McDonalds start sponsoring sports teams to encourage kids to get out and wear off the “french fried love handles”. That Wii was invented was really clever, getting people to do exercise with their computer!!!! I hope that holding the little wii things won’t lead to cancer of the hands. With 12 teaspoons of sugar in each 16 ounce bottle – should Coca~Cola sponsor sports for diabetic kids? It is like a drug czar supporting drug rehab. You make it, you break it, you fix it, who is paying for that, does anyone learn? Or is that too big of a question to answer?

    Just one woman’s opinion, but if you do some research you will find out that there are a lot of us out here yelling that the empress’s dress is on backwards, the sky is falling and we have cooked up Chicken Little to feed the hungry.

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  2. Vivian,

    Thank you for your email and response to the commentary. I appreciate the feedback and appreciate you reading. I agree that you are not alone. I think that there is an issue with irresponsible sponsorship. I think the brands that make errors such as what KFC did recently with Juvenile Diabetes offering their big Pepsi drink (56 spoonful’s of sugar) with one dollar going to JDF was wrong. KFC should know better (especially after their pink buckets of chicken breast cancer fiasco last year). But they will feel the brunt of it in brand appreciation. At the same time I think there is some responsibility (actually a lot) on the selling property as well. If they are looking only at the money, they are wrong. They need to weigh and balance. Most airlines do not sponsor auto racing events due to tragedies. They do not want to be aligned with death. So there is the responsibility of the brand and the property to stand up for what they believe in. I know a lot of cancer organizations who will not accept ,money from tobacco companies. Good on them. They made a stand. But they have proof that smoking cigarettes causes cancer and refuse to accept money from them as a result.

    You probably won’t like my upcoming commentary about Tim Horton’s, but their sponsorship of soccer gives kids in Timbit soccer (in certain provinces) the right to come in and ask for a free juice or milk. They don’t get pop, they get milk or juice. And this is where I think there is a third level of responsibility. This lies with the parent. If the parent does not want the child to eat food they think is no healthy, they are the control factor. Not the sponsor or the property solely. I have a six year old daughter. She has never had a carbonated beverage. Ever. When asked at a party or event if she would like a pop she says no thank you, water please (or milk.) She has had two donuts in her life. Two, but she has been in a Tim Horton’s. When parents take some responsibility versus blaming McDonalds, Coke or so on, then the system will work. The sponsor, the property and the parent all have a responsibility in the process. When and occupy person flies in from another city, drives to the occupy location in a non-electric car (by the way the electricity had better not come from coal!!) and sleeps overnight in a tent made from oil by products and asks a big corporation who owns the land to let them stay there, I have a concern. That is hypocritical.

    Big business, the environment and health and safety can all work together and meet goes an objectives. But when one or more groups fails to work “with” the other and instead “against” them, then you have chaos and trouble.

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