The Cost of Sponsorship in the Hunger Games

March 20, 2012 in Editorial

(Mild spoilers ahead. Read some spoiler-free coverage of the Hunger Games over here and here)

Hunger Game readers have probably found themselves frustrated at the fact that Haymitch and the other mentors don’t send their tributes enough critical supplies over the course of the game. How hard would it have been, really, to send Katniss a bottle of water during her first few days in the arena? Even in a post-apocalyptic dystopian future, water can’t cost more than a few dollars. Surely even the poorest in the districts could scrounge up a couple of bucks to send to their tribute.

The reality of the games, however, is that nothing is cheap. Prices are inflated to a point where many rich Capitol citizens would need to contribute for even the smallest of presents. This is why it was so important to get sponsors both before and during the games.

Sponsoring a tribute is very much like a corporate sponsorship of an athlete. It doesn’t cost millions of dollars to purchase a snowboard or a hockey uniform; instead the company is shelling out tons of cash for publicity purposes. By plastering their logo over everything companies increase brand awareness and revenue. In the Hunger Games, the incentive is not publicity, but instead winning big in betting pools, and (based on the culture of Capitol citizens) bragging rights for picking and supporting the victor.

Centives decided to model the price of the sponsorship along two primary variables. We know from the books that gifts sent later in the game are more expensive than those sent earlier in the game. This makes sense. The bidders are competing to sponsor a smaller number of individuals, and each individual has a higher chance of winning. Something similar happens in the world of corporate athletic sponsorship where advertising gets more expensive as sports leagues build towards the final.

The other factor that went into our calculations was how valuable the gift was. Just as it costs more to put bigger stickers on NASCAR vehicles, Centives reasoned that more useful gifts would cost more to send, since it gave the sponsor more attention and more bragging rights if the person they sponsor wins. On balance, a pack of crackers should cost less to send in than Kevlar reinforced body armour.

Based on this Centives produced the following chart:

The diameter of the circle is how much Centives estimates it cost to send the gift. In NASCAR, prices for ads range between $100,000 to $3 million. The burn medicine comes early in the game, but it comes at a time when Katniss desperately needs it. Moreover Katniss notes that the medicine must have required the contribution of several different sponsors. Therefore Centives estimated its value at about $1 million.

Next came bread. It was inexpensive bread that did not come from the capitol. Instead it was donated by a district. This can be compared to local advertising that can run as high as $100,000, although the citizens of district 11 would have a tough time putting together that kind of cash. Some of the money would likely have come from the sponsors that Rue managed to gain due to her success.

Then Katniss received broth. By the time she received the broth the number of tributes had decreased significantly. It was also much more important than the bread because of the condition of Peeta’s health. Its timing and its value meant that Centives estimated its worth at $500,000.

The sleep syrup came late in the game and played a critical role in Katniss’s progress at a time when there were only five tributes left in the arena. This makes the gift immensely valuable and expensive, and Centives gave it top billing with an estimated worth of $2.5 million.

After that Katniss received a picnic basket. While this was more of a reward than a critical necessity, by being the final gift of the game it is likely that is cost a substantial amount. Centives estimated its value at $2 million.

Thus the overall cost of the sponsored gifts that Katniss receives is around $6.1 million. If you were to buy them yourself? Burnol, sleeping pills, some bread and some broth with a picnic basket to put it all in wouldn’t cost more than $200.

So as you buy your ticket and suit up for the premiere, Centives hopes you all feel better about the overpriced popcorn and soda, because in the games it would have cost you significantly more.

Enjoyed this article? You might also enjoy seeing our look at Game Theory in the Hunger Games or in finding out the population of Panem. You can find those and other interesting things in our Editorials although if you want a selection of our most popular check out the Greatest Hits. You might also want to follow us on Twitter or Facebook to get the latest and greatest from Centives.