The edifice complex
Why do banks spend so much money on marble lobbies, high ceilings and yes, $400 million to name a baseball stadium?
Why do marketers buy TV ads that don't increase sales in the short run?
Why have a receptionist and not just a house phone where you can call the person you came to see?
For the same reason that so many people have a green front lawn.
It's organized waste. Profligate spending designed to communicate confidence and just a bit of hubris.
Do you really want to invest money at a bank run by a guy with nothing but a bridge table and a cheap suit? Probably not. At some level, we like the confidence that we get from that big lobby. We are more likely to perk up when the reporter has her cameraman aim a huge black video camera (with lights!) at us, even though the little hand held camera might work just as well...
In times of financial stress and bailouts, the obvious solution (eliminate all the waste!) is not the one that works. In fact, in these times, we're more likely than ever to be nervous about the status of the organization we're working with.
I'd replace the expensive sponsorships and buildings with something more valuable, quicker to market and far more efficient: people. Real people, trustworthy people, honest people... people who take their time, look you in the eye, answer the phone and keep their promises. Not as easy to implement as writing a big check for the Super Bowl, but a lot more effective.