How Much Is Sucking Up To The Government Worth in the Corporate State

One potential gauge can be seen in, of all places, advertising during the Masters golf championship.

I am not a huge golf fan, but enjoy watching the Masters and the British Open (if you have never been in Britain during the Open, it is a fun experience -- people are in bars at 9AM watching).  The Masters is unique among sporting events in that it eschews getting the maximum advertising check, and instead only accepts a tasteful 2-3 corporate sponsors, who run just a few minutes of advertising an hour.  This year the sponsors were AT&T, IBM, and ExxonMobil.

AT&T and IBM had generally non-specific ads that played up their companies' innovativeness, telling well-heeled golf viewers that they would be a good business partner on technology issues.  Exxon did something very different.  They ran ads over and over about how much they cared about education, and in particular in support of common core curriculum.

In our modern mixed economy, the worst thing you can have as a corporation is a bad image.  It means that politicians will look to score points for the next election by gutting you like a fish.  ExxonMobil is the perennial leader on this dimension, though Walmart occasionally grabs the number one spot.  So one purpose of the ads is clearly to improve its image and make people like it.  It is telling that ExxonMobil does not bother to do so in its core business.  There is a great story to be told about how much technology and capital must be invested over long time horizons to get gasoline as cheap as three or four dollars to the pump, but ExxonMobil has obviously given up on this message.  Instead, it works to be liked on a subject, education, largely tangential to its core business.

But its strategy at the Masters seemed to go further.  By actively shilling for the common core curriculum, an Obama-favored initiative to further Federalize k-12 education, they are essentially sucking up to this administration.

I and most of my family worked for Exxon.  I only worked a few years at Exxon (in beautiful Baytown, Texas) but members of my family worked for Exxon their entire lives, and I have known and still know a number of Exxon execs.  And I can say with good confidence that few if any of them really believe that shifting control of education from local agencies close to parents to Washington is really going to help education very much.

So, if you watched yesterday, you saw a multi-million dollar suck-up. And the pathetic thing is that it was probably a useless exercise. The bullied often try to end bullying by sucking up to the bully -- it seldom works.


  1. stan brown:

    Same ads ran last year. The suck up was specifically directed at teachers. Teachers unions are the most powerful special interest in the Democratic Party.

  2. mesaeconoguy:

    Most of corporate America is doing this now – PR/image reflecting “common good” or “community service” or some other leftist cause.

    It’s even worse with social media.

  3. Jeff Graham:

    Could not agree more. I really enjoyed this year's Masters....what a great competition. As I sat and watched the Exxon ads I just scratched my head. If I did not know better I would have guessed they written by the WH and NEA. Agree that this pandering does not change people's minds. There are too many movies, magazines and blogs that demonize BIG OIL. These silly commercials won't make a significant dent in that which means Exxon was really pandering to the White House ( current and future, as in Hillary?)

  4. nehemiah:

    The common core initiative is dangerous to liberty. The kinds of things that come from it are people saying our children belong to the community, not parents. Or students being taught to write things like, I'm wiling to give up some of my constitutional rights to be safe. The progressives are on a roll now and aren't even trying to disguise what they are up to.