Looking to plug their gaping budget holes, cities and states around the nation are selling off the naming rights at schools, parks, government buildings and even boat launches, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal.
Major sports complexes, hospitals and universities have long put the names of big sponsors in front of television cameras, but now corporations are adding their names to more public places. These deals don’t offer the sponsors the same widespread media exposure they can find in a television camera lens, but they do boost their local presence, the report said.
Hundreds of naming rights are up for sale, according to the Journal, and mass-transit stations are especially popular. New York has sold the naming rights to the Atlantic Avenue-Pacific Street subway stop in Brooklyn to Barclays, and AT&T recently paid Philadelphia about $3 million to rename the city’s Pattison Avenue terminus (named for a 19th-century Pennsylvania) AT&T Station, the report said.
Chicago is currently soliciting bids for naming rights to bus routes and train lines, and the Frank Gehry designed BP Bridge (image above) is one of several parts of Chicago’s new Millennium Park that has been renamed for corporate sponsors. Elsewhere, the “North Face” logo can be found on trail markers in public parks in Virginia and Maryland, while Nestle is building playgrounds in several New York state parks and displaying the name of its Juicy Juice brand, the Journal said.
Critics say putting a corporate name on a city’s subway station dishonors historic citizens and causes geographic confusion, the report said, while parents living in districts where schools are accepting corporate sponsorships argue that the deals reinforce the idea that everything is for sale.
But municipalities say they are simply trying to balance purism with pragmatism, noting that in the current economic climate it makes good economic sense to accept multimillion-dollar payments.