Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Defining Deviance Down

Thanks to Elizabeth for the catch of (my) day: private prison as stadium sponsor-- the GEO Group stumps up for a new stadium at Florida Atlantic University.  You know about Florida Atlantic?  It's a public (state) university built on land seized from Japanese farmers at the beginning of World War II; its first degree was an honorary doctorate to Lyndon Johnson. You know about  GEO?  It's the nation's second largest provider of private prison services, with headquarters more or less cheek by jowl with Florida Atlantic in Boca Raton.

Huffpost, where I'm reading the story, feigns bewilderment: Stadium sponsorships usually involve a product that a company wants to market to consumers. But:
GEO Group's customers are government agencies offering contracts. Prisoners don't have a choice of where they land behind bars. "It appears to be a charitable gift that is trying to be a marketing vehicle, and it just doesn't make a lot of sense," said Paul Swangard, managing director of the Warsaw Sports Marketing Center at the University of Oregon's business school. "To link themselves with an athletic department when their business is locking people up, it just doesn't connect to me really well."
 Okay, plenty of corporate donations can count as "marketing," narrowly defined.  And plenty of others qualify as a thinly-veneered indulgence of the CEO's private whim: a gallery for an artist specially favored by his wife, for example.  Or maybe a mix: a stadium that just might please the fans but will certainly give the CEO dibs on a skybox.  

I can believe that GEO's "gift" involves some such mix of motives. But there's more: I suspect you could read this as one (more) ploy by the prison to detox the prison industry; to make its business just as anodyne as the marketing of hairpins or chewing gum.  The one thing we can be sure: it has nothing to do with "charity."  Which is just as it should be: let management start actuallygiving money away for on a motive of disinterestedness, and the shareholders will be all over them like a cheap prison tattoo.

1 comment:

Jimbo said...

I think you have hit on it exactly. And it is sooo very Florida Cracker. There are plenty of stadia that have software, communications, and other sponsors that are far removed from sports but it takes a very special FL flavor to go to the private prison. In this case, we certainly don't have a failure to communicate, if you get the reference.