Normally, awareness of viscous spills at a ballpark is limited to globs of nacho cheese under seats and on the concourse. But as the Crosstown Cup was unveiled at Chicago's Wrigley Field over the weekend, there was no escaping mental images of the British Petroleum oil slick wreaking ecological havoc in the Gulf of Mexico. That's because BP serves as title sponsor of the Cup, a first-year celebration of the six interleague meetings between the Cubs and White Sox.
BP's ties to the FIFA World Cup, the 2012 London Olympics and the United States Olympic Committee have come under scrutiny of late, but the company hasn't shown many signs of abandoning its sports sponsorship strategies. In fact, since the spill, which threatened to shut down something called the Mississippi Deep Sea Fishing Rodeo, BP agreed to sponsor the event - slated for July 1-4, clean waters permitting.
The energy giant did lower its profile in the Windy City, including a scaled-down corporate presence and trophy presentation (which fans booed, anyway), but its logo remained a part of all Crosstown Cup signage. Both teams voiced support for their new partner, which they signed to the multiyear sponsorship deal earlier this year. "We're trying to stand behind our sponsor, but at the same time be respectful of what's happening off the field," said Cubs spokesman Kevin Saghy. Added Sox senior vice president of sales and marketing Brooks Boyer, "Just like we have tough seasons, our partners have tough times and we aren't going to turn our back on our partners."
Some foresee a silver lining for BP in the three-foot-tall, silver-plated Cup. Jim Biegalski, vice president of The Marketing Arm - a sports, entertainment and event promotions firm with offices in Chicago - told the Chicago Sun-Times, "If BP manages to get everything under control in the Gulf, it could come back a year from now and use the BP Cup as a great platform to help get out the message that they have successfully handled the problem."