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Kulikowski: Boston Bombing Tests Corporate Sponsorships

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Are corporate sponsorships of big sporting events still worth it?

While federal authorities and the city of Boston still figure out exactly what happened at the Boston Marathon on Monday in which two explosions left three people dead and more than 100 injured, one has to wonder -- even in the early days -- is it worth it to be a backer of a big event when a major tragedy like this hits?

The bombing, which is now officially being treated as an "act of terrorism" by the Obama Administration, isn't exactly the kind of press a corporate sponsor wants at an event it's backing.

Major sponsors of the Boston Marathon include: John Hancock Financial, the event's longtime main sponsor and a division of Manulife Financial (MFC), AT&T (T), JetBlue (JBLU ), Samuel Adams (its parent company is Boston Beer Co. (SAM)), Gatorade, a division of PepsiCo (PEP), EarthLink (ELNK), Nissan Motor Corp. (NTANY) and Adidas.

So far there isn't much talk about corporate sponsors backing out - the corporate line from several companies was mainly of support, condolences and making sure their own employees at the event were accounted for and safe.


In fact, the high-profile marathon is likely to attract even more sponsors next year, if only to show their "support" to the city and the event itself, experts say.

"Will people come back next year [for sponsorships]? Probably more so," says Dr. George Belch, marketing professor and department chair at San Diego State University. "In many ways it will probably be a more valuable sponsorship opportunity. I don't think you will see anyone dropping out. The publicity from dropping out could be even more negative ... at least in the short term."

Longer term, without the proper security controls and contingency plans in place, companies are likely to take a closer look at the percentage of their ad budgets spent on major sponsorships, experts say.

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