And the nominees for this award which is sponsored by . . .

The Olivier Awards (London’s Tonys) announced their nominations last week.

If you didn’t catch them, click here to see the complete list.

And then let me know if you noticed anything . . . ummmmm . . . interesting.

A quick click on the Olivier Awards site will give you a giant clue.  They got a sponser.  And a huuuuge one, in Mastercard.

The Tonys have sponsors too, of course . . . like IBM, and Audemars Piguet, and even The Old Gray Lady, the NY Times .  . . but those sponsors stop at signage, speakers at the awards, and so on.

But Mastercard and the Olivier’s took their sponsorship one step further.

Take a look at that list of nominees once again.  Specificially the Best New Play Award.

Which is not the Best New Play Award.

It’s the Mastercard Best New Play Award.

Yep, MC got naming rights.  On an award.  An award that’s also named after Sir Laurence Olivier.  (throat clear)

It’s a big move, that obviously adds a lot of commercialization especially to something so prestigious and especially to something so British.  I mean, let’s face it, it seems like something Americans would do.  No?

So, I gotta assume that this big move came with a big check.  Or, the Oliviers really, really needed the cash.

And I gotta hope that we are never in the same situation.  Because the American Express Tony Award for Best Musical just doesn’t make me want to win one as much.  You?


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  • Michael Dale says:

    Notice how MC put their name on Best Play but not Best Musical. For the Tonys that would probably be reversed.

  • Two other sponsored/named awards at the Oliviers: The White Light Award for Best Lighting Design and the XL Video Award for Best Set Design. Plus there’s the BBC2 Audience Award, which is voted on by the public. But also worth noting: there are theatre awards in UK run by specific media outlets, perhaps most notably the Evening Standard Awards.

  • This is kind of disappointing, but I suppose it was a matter of time.

  • Stephen Buckle says:

    Oh dear Ken! is this sour grapes, one award in the prime sponsor’s name, isn’t this seen as more than acceptable and the norm? Big fat rich businesses sponsoring the Arts, could put taxes up I suppose and have the Gov’ meddling. ‘..come on down, the price WAS right’ one must assume the organisers ain’t stupid. The main dilution of kudos is that consumers are swamped with awards for everything one can think of – I’ve be planning my “UK £1-Shops Awards” (those suburban indie-shops that undercut the multinationals selling everything from peanuts to perambulators) but can’t get my lovely Turkish run operation in Sunny Sydenham enthusiastic about sponsorship. ={;-0)

  • Stephen Buckle says:

    PS: It’s outrageous that some tin-pot little monarchy of the west coast of Europe should dare to organise a theatrical awards spectacular that makes others around the World turn their heads, and comment.

  • David Merrick Jr says:

    Doesn’t seem so bad.

    At least it’s not the Summers’ Eve Tony for Best Musical.

  • Stephen Buckle says:

    David, guessed it was a USA personal product but had to google ‘being here in London, nice to have a few laughs on Ken’s blog. However, your post reminds me of the sad later-life of Rainbeaux Smith (d.2002 LA CA), star of the TV (or cinema) Twinkle Twat advert – a real product! ..and many B-movies. The ad’ was quite risqué and has Rainbeaux lying naked at the side of a pool extolling the virtues of her deodorant – amazing script. The ad’ may have been pulled at the time and I don’t think it’s freely available on the internet. An iconic advert and copywriter’s classic.

  • Lisa B. says:

    I know we haven’t sold naming rights to the awards yet, but the theaters are going fast (Americsn Airlines Theater anyone?)and I seem to recall a cruise ship featuring its production numbers during one awards show…

  • Pam says:

    Philly’s Barrymore Awards, while not as prestigious as the Tony’s or Olivier’s, have had sponsors for years: Garfield Refining Company Award For Outstanding Leading Actor In A Musical; PECO Award For Outstanding Lighting Design; etc. Considering banks & airlines have purchased naming rights to the houses, it shouldn’t have been so surprising. Ah, well. Hopefully it won’t be a trend since the award-winners have earned the right to stand alone in their spotlight without a corporate shadow.

  • I believe the Independent Spirit Awards have several corporate sponsors that are specifically cited in the award itself ….which always seemed so odd to me…. talk about oxymorons!
    Anyone recall?

  • Trevor C says:

    The biggest & most criticised difference between the Oliviers and the Tonys is that the latter rightly celebrate the work of key members of the creative, musical team in a show but the Oliviers do not recognise the contribution of music supervisors, musical directors, arrangers, orchestrators in musicals or plays at all. Appalling.

  • Stephen Buckle says:

    Trevor, an interesting point. On Tuesday I’ll be meeting a dear friend with a lifelong career in the West End, Clare will have some opinions on what you mention – which I have limited knowledge of. However, I’ve always been harsh and disparaging about back-slapping ceremonies for the one reason: they rarely reward the populi, the unsung heroes that make this World happen. Attendance at such displays of self-indulgence is avoided like the plague, however I do have to admit these gooey shows of ego massaging are an important focal and PR front for any industry. I wonder if renegade writer David Mamet is an attendee at these Conferences of Congratulatory Collective Conformity..?

    • Trevor C says:

      Stephen it would be interesting to hear Clare’s thoughts. The Oliviers are the biggest luvvie-fest in London and rightly celebrate the achievements of a lot of hard-working actors, creatives and production crew (and of course deep-pocketed investors)on their once year day.

      The Oliviers organisers SOLT – The Society of London Theatres (the owners of theatres)-have for far too long denied and resisted the musical teams any recognition for their work and their craft which is awful.

      No music; no musicals, no opera, no ballet, no choreography, just a bunch of performers moving around a stage – a beautifully designed and lit stage with perfect audio design – speaking the words.

  • Sharon Glassman says:

    As long as the corporate sponsor does not select the winner, I see little difference in sponsoring the event or sponsoring a specific award.

  • pmacbryde says:

    That’s Sir Laurence, not Lawrence.

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