September 20, 2009, was a watershed day in the annals of popular culture. Not only did the wickedly brilliant comedy “Curb Your Enthusiasm” return to HBO after a two-year hiatus, with Larry David as deliciously kvetchy as ever, but the Dallas Cowboys unveiled their brand new football palace. Immediately, fans and the media dubbed it “Jerry World” in tribute to team owner Jerry Jones (either sincere or derisive, depending on your attitude towards “America’s Team”). And this gridiron Xanadu had much to either love or loathe, depending on your appetite for wretched excess. Costing Jerry $1.2 billion, the new Cowboys Stadium seats over 80,000 and has standing room for many thousands more. It supposedly boasts every conceivable amenity, endless choices of food and beverages, lavish luxury boxes, and even ample bathroom facilities. Topping it off is a retractable roof that, when open, echoes the old stadium’s signature architectural feature: a semidomed roof with a rectangular opening through which, as Cowboys fans liked to claim, the Big Fan in Heaven could watch His team play.
The centerpiece of the House That Jerry Built is a massive video-replay monitor. It spans almost the entire length of the fi eld, weighs over 600 tons, and has a crystal-sharp, high-def display that seems more lifelike than reality itself. The $40 million video-board confi guration has 30 million light bulbs and 25,000 square feet of video displays. And, oh yes, this eighth wonder of the world adds another dimension of risk to the mayhem on the fi eld. Due to a design fl aw, the screen hangs just low enough to defl ect particularly well-struck punts as they reach the apogee of their booming arc. Well, as might be imagined, the TV announcers could barely contain their childlike awe. Before a TV audience of more than 25 million viewers, the broadcast team prattled breathlessly about that magnifi cent monitor, referring to it by the brand name JUMBOTRON. What great exposure for the manufacturer! The game, between arch NFC East rivals the Cowboys and the Giants, was a tense and entertaining affair that drew the largest TV audience for a Sunday night game in over a decade. Talk about prime product placement! You might think the manufacturer would be overjoyed. And you’d probably be wrong. You see, the screen’s manufacturer is Mitsubishi Electric Diamond Vision. JUMBOTRON, however, is not a Mitsubishi trademark. It’s Sony’s. So, all that adulation and goodwill-generating acclaim—and its potential to drive the TV audience to their nearest big-box retailer to pick up a new HD fl at screen for the rumpus room—was misdirected due to announcer-based brand error or ignorance. That the New York Times and other media outlets later exposed the gaffe is cold comfort for Mitsubishi, which missed out on a prime-time opportunity to have its name recognized as one of the state-of-the-art leaders in stadiumvideo technology. Perhaps the miscue will be corrected in a future broadcast, and all will be forgotten. But this episode illustrates the perils and pitfalls that can arise when one company’s brand becomes synonymous with an entire product category either through fame or by default. To borrow some choice sports cliches, Mitsubishi gave it 110 percent, but still came up a yard short. From a branding point of view, “they was robbed!”