In the future, will athletes thank sponsors?

In NASCAR, it is customary to thank the money. After races, drivers name drop their sponsors, the ones who pay as much as $35 million, says NASCAR.com, citing Adweek, to turn race cars into advertisements that turn only left.

No other sport — for the purpose of this blog, we’re ruling that NASCAR is a sport — is so brazen about its corporate paramours. But it’s not dumb to think those other sports will catch up and auction their athletes’ voices with everything else — except uniforms, at least in the United States. European soccer and the WNBA (nobody cares) do it.

A Miller Lite patch would undercut the team brand, as well as whatever blessed cartoon logo — Viking horns, a little bird, socks, racist caricatures of entire ethnic groups — is stamped on the jersey.

Athletes are already expected to wear a sponsor’s gear. What hasn’t been sold is the players’ interviews.

NASCAR drivers thank the [sponsor here] [car maker here] for their good showings. It doesn’t seem unreasonable that baseball, basketball, football, hockey, etc. would follow. It’s about the last thing not for sale.

Monday night, more than 33 million people watched the college football national championship, presented by AT&T in AT&T Stadium, which featured the Taco Bell student section. It had an official song (“Centuries” by Fall Out Boy), an official telecommunications company (AT&T, duh) and an official everything else.

The 2014 Super Bowl drew 111.5 million viewers, about a third of the U.S. population.

Sponsorship of sports events isn’t new. Sports at every level are sold. Anything and everything is available to sate corporate lust and pleasure their IPOs. Why not the athletes’ voices?

One day, NASCAR may ooze all the way into other sports. Post-game, quarterbacks will thank [billion-dollar entity A here] for presenting the game; shortstops will thank [billion-dollar entity B here] for sponsoring the rally inning; power forwards will thank [billion-dollar entity C here] for how essential whatever non-essential product was in their double-double Tuesday.

“Verizon is really the best,” Series MVP says after winning Game 7. “Without their support, we never would’ve been able to send plays and game film between our iPads. And let’s not forget, thanks to Apple for providing us with the best tablets on the market.

“I personally visited their factories in Asia and can attest to the quality. You can’t get this kind of detail, this kind of precision without the tiny, malleable fingers of indentured Chinese children — and you wouldn’t believe the work ethic of these kids. Eighteen-hour days and they just get stronger as they go. It’s an inspiration. It really is. That’s what gave me the strength to step up down the stretch for the game-winning play — the one drawn up on the iPad 9, available this fall with a two-year contract for the price of one thousand dollars and a blood tribute.

“Any questions?”

Opening statements could be reserved for product placement and corporate-partner exaltation. Networks, team-owned and otherwise, already broadcast post-game press conferences. That’s valuable ad time not maximized. Having an athlete spout poetic (some are more capable than others) about Coke, Burger King or Marriott Hotels could be an effective way to move inventory, especially paired with a sponsor-spattered backdrop and a bottle of Gatorade — fulgent, splendid, erect with electrolytes — by a mic stand.

They could tell reporters that today’s media availability is brought to you by Pepsi.

Players have endorsement deals, some of which do conflict with their league’s interests. Bose provides the NFL’s official headphones, but many players prefer the trendier Beats. Those who do not abide are fined. But it can’t be that hard to work around conflicts, especially if this sort of sponsorship becomes common. They could just ask NASCAR.

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