Sponsorship’s a Gold Rush for Dems in Denver

The Democratic National Convention is shaping up to be a mega-platform for corporate sponsors. Consumer brands are jumping on board for deals that fuse celebrity with politics and consumer products.

Consider the deal between actress Virginia Madsen, the League of Women Voters and Botox. Madsen, who is a spokeswoman for Botox, traveled the country, taped a public service announcement and gave extensive media interviews to promote voter registration on behalf of the League of Women Voters. Botox is supporting a get-out-the-vote message, along with a Freedom of Expression Through Film cause, which is part of LWV’s 411Vote initiative. This is an important fine point. Sponsors want a presence in Denver, and are mashing up their messages with “activism” because it’s culturally relevant–but they are careful to eschew Party preference.

In other deals, Pizza Hut, Mountain Dew, McDonald’s, MTV, IFC and Lifetime have entered into the conventions’ mega-public square to promote voter involvement, but careful not to endorse any candidate. Clearly, corporate sponsors see the election as way to link their brands to the “change” dynamic that is generating avid interest among voters, most especially Gen Y’s, women and African-Americans. A sprinkling of stardust kicks the opportunity over the top as a branding ploy.

Dems are also winning more deals and ostensibly more dollars. A report from the Campaign Finance Institute shows more than 80 corporate sponsors for the Denver host committee compared to 52 for the St. Paul committee.

Progressive causes are also attracting sponsors. A Denver bash for Bono’s nonpartisan ONE campaign, with Walt Disney Co. and Viacom. And in true Hollywood fashion, corporate sponsors will donate dozens of items for schwag bags — emblazoned with the Coca Cola and AT&T logos. (The recent passage of telecom immunity legislation makes many citizens wonder if there isn’t a conflict of interest in taking sponsorship fees from telecoms.)

If the number of sponsors is any indication, the Democrats are ahead, at least in fundraising. But it also reveals a marketing savvy that has in previous elections escaped the party. The “change” message has pulling power. It’s not clear if television impressions are a part of the packages. If so, it will make history to link brands visually with a national political convention the same way sports packages do. Times they are a changin’.