Both DocInsider's Mark Rabinowitz and Spout Blogger Karina Longworth have weighed in with mixed reactions to Sidetrack's deal with Nike, so I thought I'd throw out a couple of thoughts of my own (biased of course).
Releasing a film - no matter how much we like to think otherwise - is eventually a business decision. Time and time again, acquisition executives, distributors, theaters will love a film, and time and time again they will not be able to release it because they don't see the numbers working. Now, thankfully new distribution methods are evolving that make the numbers work for films that may previously have been considered extremely, financially risky. However, even these new methods (whether driven by distributors or filmmakers) need to hit some baseline in order for the distributor/filmmaker/whatever to release another film/make another film/keep a job. Altruism mixed with business. It can't be escaped.
The same is true with brands. Only they are looking at different metrics. And many of the people working at brands have the same love of the arts that people working in independent film do. In fact - and this is purely speculation - I'd imagine that love and knowledge of the arts is one of the reason those people were hired. So is it really that different to get support from a major corporation like Nike than to get acquired by a major corporation like Viacom?
Actually, the debate over working with brands is actually a major part of Beautiful Losers. It's something many of the artists in the film struggled with, and their responses are widely varied.