Even with the devestation from Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans officials hope that their plan to sell the rights for $2 million USD to be official sponsor of the next Mardi Gras will provide enough funds to keep the party on this February.
New Orleans officials have ruled out offering a title sponsorship, in which a company's name would appear before the words "Mardi Gras." And corporate names won’t appear on floats. "We plan to handle that in a discreet way that doesn't compromise the cultural significance of Mardi Gras," says Ernest Collins, the economic-development office's executive director of arts and entertainment, who drafted the sponsorship proposal.
But opening Mardi Gras, long billed as the "greatest free show on earth," to sponsors is likely to increase criticism from traditionalists who cherish its status as one of the few major U. S. sports or cultural events that are essentially devoid of advertising.
"Once you commercialize, then the fun leaves," says A. Pete Sanchez, Carnival activities chairman for the Krewe of Zulu, the oldest and largest black Mardi Gras club. "The corporate sponsors will have all their rules and regulations, and before you know it, you have a three-ring circus, with all the hoops we'll have to jump through."
There are other smaller sponsorships that will aslo be available to advertisers as well.