Friday, February 10, 2006

Ephemeral Essay #2: Will No One Sponsor Mardi Gras?

Because the work that I do (when not thinking about “St. James Infirmary”) often touches upon advertising and marketing, I’ve been keeping an eye on the scheme to land corporate sponsorships to raise a couple million dollars to help offset the costs of this year’s Mardi Gras events in New Orleans (such as police overtime, trash services, and so on). Or rather, I’ve been keeping an eye on the problems the city seems to have had on this front: The official parades start on February 18, and so far, apparently, the only sponsor to step up is the people who make Glad trash bags, who have offered an “unspecified six-figure sum” -- plus 100,000 trash bags, according to the February 6 Times-Picayune.

What the city really wants, and needs, is a “title sponsor” who will put up $2 million or so. To some extent this episode reminds me of a plan, some years ago, for the Superdome to sell its naming rights for $3 million – a plan I openly mocked at the time. But in this instance, I can’t understand why it’s not happening. First, no Mardi Gras is ever going to get as much attention as this one. Second, this particular Mardi Gras is not just a big party – it’s a cause. How often can a corporation get good karma points for attaching its name to weeks of shameless drunken revelry? What is the problem that I’m missing here?

I wasn’t sure what to say about all this, but now I’ve read that this year’s Zulu parade will apparently include 20 actual Zulus. From Africa. I really, really wish I could be there to see what these men make of float riders in blackface and grass skirts, throwing gold-painted cocoanuts to tourists. (Please see the essay "Zulu," in Letters from New Orleans, for more on this subject.) Anyway, the T-P story about this says it was arranged by Blaine Kern, the float builder. (“The Zulus will perform a dance in which they clash spears and stomp the ground, Kern said.”) So here’s the detail that interested me: Kern “said a company for which he is doing marketing work, Diageo Liquor Co., distributor of Captain Morgan Rum, is sponsoring the trip by the Zulus.”

Now that’s impressive. If Kern can get Diageo to sponsor Zulu warriors, I think someobody ought to get him involved in the effort to find a name sponsor for Mardi Gras itself. Immediately.

Meanwhile, here are some other recent links of possible, ephemeral interest:

New Orleans & the poor: Compelling NPR commentary by Michael Depp

Krewe of Muses donates $50k to city for Carnival expenses

N.O. gang wars move to Houston

Donald Harrison’s Mass based on Mardi Gras Indian music

NPR interviews Mitch Landrieu, who everybody seems to figure will be the city's next mayor

* NOTE * : The Ephemeral Essays will remain on this web site until I delete them. They will not be archived. Ephemeral, you see?