Is nothing sacred in the world of corporate sponsorships?

Today it was announced that the world-famous Tournament of Roses Parade, held on New Year's Day in Pasadena, California and broadcast across the globe, will change its name. Come January 1, the new name will be 122nd Rose Parade Presented by Honda. A new event logo is currently in the works, which will incorporate the Honda logo. Honda has also laid claim to the lead float in the parade.

I'm a traditionalist in many ways. And, a 121-year-old parade has a lot of tradition. Sure, it has evolved over the years, but it's basically remained unchanged in the major ways. As for acquiring a sponsor, I understand the necessary evil. It's an expensive event and a little corporate money is no doubt going to ease the stress on the organizers. However, incorporating the Honda logo into the parade logo is too much (the new logo has not been unveiled yet, but I anticipate a train wreck).

In addition, I have to question the change in the event title. Why not just leave it as the Tournament of Roses Parade (and then add "Presented by Honda)? The event headquarters in Pasadena is even called Tournament House. Or maybe it will seek a corporate sponsor and undergo a name change, too (El Pollo Loco House, perhaps?).

The next issue probably isn't PC to say, but I'm going to say it anyway. The parade is a long-standing American tradition which is now being sponsored by a Japanese company. Is it just a matter of time until tourists in Washington D.C. will enjoy "The White House Tour, Sponsored by Toyota"?

Please don't misconstrue that as a racist remark, it's not. It's just pro-American (and, yes, there is a difference). During this terrible recession, with so many people out of work and running low on self-esteem, Americans need to feel proud. The Tournament of Roses Parade is one event that unites us all on a day that represents hope and new beginnings. To have one of this country's most popular events sponsored by a company in another country, well, that's just sad.

I understand how event sponsorships work and, generally, it boils down to an issue of money. How much is a company willing to pay to be associated with an event? How much does the event want, or need, the company's moola?

I know I'm old-fashioned on the issue of sponsorships (really, I do know). Heck, I've lived in Los Angeles my whole life and grew up attending events at The Forum. When Great Western Bank secured naming rights on the facility in 1988, which lasted until 2003, I refused to call it The Great Western Forum. First off, tradition trumped sponsorship and it would always be The Forum to me. Secondly, Great Western wasn't compensating me to advertise for them, so I wasn't compelled to do so by using their name when I referenced the venue.

So, am I the only one bothered by The Tournament of Roses' new name, new logo, and new sponsor? I need a reality check.

Plancast: Your new social calendar

The day of Filofaxes and email calendars has gone. Evites are passé and even Meetup invitations are becoming less common. Today is the day of Plancast.

Plancast is a useful site that allows you to interact with your social network in a whole new way. Forget the formality of "inviting" people to an event or having to RSVP if you'd like to attend. When you sign up for Plancast, you are essentially announcing your plans to your social circle. It's an implied open invitation for your friends to join you.

Get started by connecting with your friends who are on Plancast (or invite them to join), add your plans to your profile, see what your network is up to, and then hit the road and have some fun! You always have the option of tweeting your plans out to your Twitter followers or posting them to your Facebook wall. Plancast can also be synced with Facebook so your Facebook Events are displayed with the rest of your plans.

Your EventBrite invitations can also be imported into Plancast (see the option under settings > external services) and you can also export plans to another calendar (e.g. Yahoo!, Google, Outlook, etc.) or get them via RSS feed.  Lastly, if you don't want the world to know where you are, you can lock down your account so your plans are only visible to people you approve.

In addition to an easy user interface, Plancast is continuing to add new features. It updated its homepage this month and now you can see local events that are happening outside of your circle. This opens up a whole new world. With a feed that is targeted to your city, you can connect with new people and discover events that you and your friends may not know about. 

I, for one, have become quite dependent on Plancast. It's easy to use, efficient, and a great social networking tool (and, no, I'm not being compensated to say so).

Already on Plancast? Share what you think with the newbies out there. Not on Plancast yet, why not give it a whirl by creating your first plan today!

FOX embraces citizen journalism

Even the dimmest network executive knows that people blog, tweet, and text about the TV shows they enjoy. Who cares what the high-paid TV reviewers say anymore. Nowadays, it's all about what you and your social circle think. FOX gets this and has taken its marketing to a whole new level: empowerment.

In conjunction with Klout (a website that measures your influence on Twitter), FOX launched two campaigns to get people talking about its new show Lone Star, which premieres tonight (to qualify, you had to be considered influential, as determined by your Klout score).

1) FOX hosted an exclusive pre-screening of Lone Star for social media influencers at its Century City lot in Los Angeles. The party, of course, included fancy food, lots of drinks, and high-quality networking.

2) If you were unable to attend the screening, you could have a party pack shipped to you (pictured above). The kit included a DVD of the premier episode of Lone Star* and everything you'd need to host a screening for you and your friends (e.g. wine glasses, beer mugs, ice bucket, popcorn, Beer Nuts, napkins, bottle opener, cooler, poster, t-shirt, and Godiva chocolatemy kit was missing the chocolate, nuts, and ice bucket, so a big, fat thumbs down to the guy who put my kit together!).
    By giving those who are active in the social media space a sneak peek at Lone Star, FOX got a jump on creating buzz around the show. The network didn't just wait for people to start talking, they empowered them to start talking. That is major.

    As marketers scramble to evolve in the new media space, and TV networks are suffering declines in viewership, I think FOX's Lone Star campaign is a great example of what's to come. Traditional media needn't be afraid of social media. Social media is the future and citizen journalism is powerful.

    So, welcome to the decade of the most influential people out there, Average Joe and Plain Jane. We're here to stay and we have opinions. Speaking of opinions, what are your thoughts? Sound off below (you know you want to).

    * My two-cent review: Lone Star is a solid drama that's different from anything you've seen on network TV. When the show hit the five minute mark, I could tell I was in for a ride. In the closing minute of the show, I realized that ride was a roller coaster. Two enthusiastic thumbs up!
    DISCLAIMER: As indicated above, I did receive a party pack from Klout/FOX. That in no way influenced what I've written in this post (especially since I didn't get the chocolate).
    PHOTO CREDIT: Shannon Smith (That is her party pack, not mine, as evidenced by the ice bucket. Really, I'm not bitter. I just had to hold the ice in my lap during the screening, but whatever...)

    Do you have #Hashtagitis?

    Out of all the social media platforms, Twitter is my most favorite (#TheLittleBlueBirdRules). Aside from meeting new people (#MixingAndMingling #OnlineCocktailParty), forming great relationships (#LifelongFriendsAndContacts #NoIDoNotMeanBootyCalls), and learning lots of good info (#InterestingArticlesMixedWithTimeWastingYouTubeVideos), the unexpected perk of tweeting is, wait for it (#BarneyStinsonRocksMyWorld), fun with hashtags!

    When I train clients on how to use Twitter (#WayTooMuchProBonoWork), I tell them how to use hashtags for events, trending topics, chats, and more. The lesser known benefit of hashtags is just downright silliness (#KnockKnockWhoIsThereSamAndJanetSamAndJanetWhoSamAndJanetEvening #SomeExchantedEvening #GetIt?).

    Fortunately for me, I've discovered some other tweeters (yes, @staceysoleil, #SpandexQueen, is one of them) who share my love of all that's flip and sarcastic (#SmartAleck). Expressing yourself in 140 characters can sometimes be a challenge (#Impossible), but incorporating hashtags into your tweets can be quite effective (#WorthlessButFun). As a matter of fact, they can be quite liberating (#YouCanUseIdiotAsAHashtag).

    A clever hashtag can be just as revealing and insightful as the content of the actual tweet itself (#SaidInMyMostTrustworthyProfessorVoice). They are also a way to show more of your personality (#DrJekyllOrMrHyde). The problem is that I now dream in hashtags (#MrSandmanSendMeATweet). I think in hashtags (#PleaseInsertACartoonBubbleAboveMyHead). I have to refrain from inserting hashtags into business emails (#MeetTheDeadlineOrDie). It's become a real problem (#PleaseSendMeMoneyForHashtagitisMeds).

    Am I suffering in this alone (#CanWeFormASupportGroup)? Do you know my pain (#DoNotBeAfraidToStepForwardAndAdmitYouAreAfflictedToo)? Do YOU have #hashtagitis (#CanIGetAnAmen)?

    Admitting your addiction is the first step on a long road of treatment (#FellowHashtagAddictsUnite). We can fight this together (#PowerInNumbers #HashtagRoyality). Sometimes I suspect I might be a lost cause (#GiveMeHashtagsOrGiveMeDeath), but I really think I can beat it (#NotAChanceInHEDoubleHockeySticks).

    Can you relate? Let's talk about it (#DrAmberIsInTheHouse). Hello. My name is Amber and I have #hashtagitis (#InsertWordsOfSupportInTheCommentsBelow).

    A bad case of tunnel vision

    I love a smart ad. I watched the video below and after I answered the first question correctly, I was feeling pretty cocky. When the second question came, I felt more dense than cheesecake made with double cream cheese.

    Let me know how you do...

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