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Advertising to Finance Mars Missions

written by Luciano Méndez on April 08, 2005 | contact me
number of views: 76976 |   printable version (text) (PDF)

Sponsoring would be a good source of income.  Here, an astronaut during a 100-meter sprint provides an excelent image for an advertisement of a world-known sport brand that also designed part of the equipment used during the test.
Sponsoring would be a good source of income. Here, an astronaut during a 100-meter sprint provides an excelent image for an advertisement of a world-known sport brand that also designed part of the equipment used during the test.
Credit: Luciano Méndez
In accord with the different approaches proposed for manned missions to Mars, there are interesting ways to finance this grand adventure (See Also: Focusing on Humans). Thanks to the exponential increase of the audience, advertising and broadcasting rights would become an important revenue source, and sporting advertising in particular would be the most suitable.

The consecration of physical and mental qualities of men competing against their own limits and the environment, is evidenced both in sports as in manned space exploration, in constant challenge to preserve the integrity of men in the most hostile environments ever faced. The drive to improve is a concept everyone wants to be identified with, and that includes world's leading sport brands. As in the case of the Olympic Games, a manned mission to Mars –broadcasted worldwide- will provide unparalleled opportunities for a company’s sales, providing a marketing platform based on ideals and values.

Sports industry – a 58-billon dollar business (for 2002) -- is one of the most important regarding investment for research, development, and according to Adidas it invests between 20% and 35% of its income in sponsoring and marketing, which yearly represents 10 to 20 billon dollars. Companies would pay millions for their logos to be posted on the astronauts’ suits, filmed and photographed during highly attractive sporting events, due to being performed on another world, with different conditions and a spectacular landscape.

Two astronauts competing against each other in a 100-meter sprint would capture as much public interest as the first step on Mars. In consecutive missions, the experience acquired would allow them to perform more difficult events. A 42-km marathon would be as physically demanding as a 15-km marathon on earth. The new generation of space suit under development, the “Bio-Suit”, provides augmented flexibility and movement capabilities, and will allow performing this kind of activities. Of course there would be other sports inherent in exploration such as adventure sports: trekking, rappel, and even mountain biking. Due to low gravity, a bike could work despite the dusty ground and be also very useful as a short and mid range support vehicle.

As in Formula 1 cars, all sorts of publicity could be stamped on the outside of Mars spacecrafts, vehicles and even inside the habitation modules. Every place taken by a camera would be a good place. Why not? Money sums for the Mars program coffers would be “astronomical”, and this tremendous financial power might achieve challenging project goals very quickly. Project successes lead to an increase in public interest and additional private sponsoring.

A joint study conducted last year by NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) shows that a human to Mars program based on the Mars Direct mission plan developed by Robert Zubrin could be implemented for an average cost of about $30 billion, for all hardware development plus the first mission, with each follow-on mission costing an additional $6 billion.

Considering that missions to Mars will become as relevant events as the Olympic Games, we could compare both. With a worldwide audience of 3.9 billon people, Athens 2004 brought in about 4 billon dollars revenue in broadcast rights (US$ 2.236 billon), sponsorship (US$1.339 billon) and merchandising. That is more than half the cost of a manned mission to Mars.

For the rights to televise the winter 2010 and summer 2012 Olympic Games the International Olympic Committee has earned $2 billon dollars so far, and it is expected to reach $3 billion. The tendency evidenced during the last 16 years would indicate that by the time the first mission gets to Mars, likely in 2020, the Olympic broadcast revenues could easily reach $6 billion dollars. On this basis, and taking into account the additional funding from sponsoring and merchandising, we could estimate that humanity’s arrival on Mars could be profitable enough to fully fund the second mission, starting a cycle in which each mission is financed by the broadcasting rights of the preceding one.

Thus, the human Mars program would become a self-financing, privately-sponsored economic enterprise with a strong financial base that would ensure the viability of the project for many decades to come.

Works Cited:

1) May 24, 2004– Nasa-Esa study shows Mars Direct affordable - MDCost.pdf
3) International Olympic Comittee
4) Atenas, el balance de las telecompetencias
6) Incrementos de la audiencia de las olímpíadas

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