Monday, July 13, 2009

"Naming Rights" Goes Wild

What’s this with naming rights?

All over the U.S., financially-pressed governments especially have been selling what are called “naming rights”—rights sold to a corporation to have a building or road or a park named after it.

Last week’s funeral for Michael Jackson at the Staples Center is an example of how a corporation can really get its name out there by buying naming rights.

Staples, the office supply company, spent $100 million – yes, $100 million—to have the Los Angeles arena carry its name for 20 years.

Here on Long Island, Suffolk County has a 10-year $2.3 million naming rights deal under which the arena the Long Island Ducks call home is called Citibank Park.

And in New York City, last month the Metropolitan Transportation Authority began selling the naming rights to subway stations. Yes, subway stations.

The MTA approved a $4 million deal with Barclay’s Bank to have its name added to the the Atlantic Avenue/Pacific Street station in Brooklyn.

An WNBC-TV report asked: What’s next? Coca-Cola 59th Street-Lex? Pepsi Fifth Avenue—53rd?

In Nassau County, earlier, an $86 million, 20-year deal was reached with Clear Channel Communications to let it place 65 digital signs outside six Nassau County parks.

And Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy in March launched a pilot program that he said could lead to a wider effort to make county buildings and properties available for advertising. He stressed targeting advertising. He said it would be “more productive" for a Petco or Coleman "to have a Petco [county] dog run or a Coleman campground” rather than they having to “haphazardly” place ads.

At the same time, the Suffolk County Legislature passed a bill to have the county sell “naming rights” to “suitable county facilities” including roads and parks.

The bill declared that Suffolk County has “experienced budget shortfalls due to a weak economy, requiring budget adjustment measures, and therefore must actively pursue other sources of revenue.”

Environmental groups expressed concern about selling “naming rights” to parks. Said Adrienne Esposito, executive director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment: “It gives a commercial or corporate image to something that is supposed to be public space.”

And Legislator Jay Schneiderman of Montauk said that although the county “needs every dollar…the county shouldn’t be for sale to the highest bidder.”

That’s quite right as the “naming rights” push gets pretty wild.

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