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Your Name Here! March 5, 2010

Posted by Amir Roth in business.
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“Welcome to Google, Kansas! Population 122,000.” Actually, it would have been funnier if they changed the sign to “Welcome to Google, Kansas! Population 10100.” In case you hadn’t heard, Topeka is vying to become one of the pilot cities for Google’s “fiber for communities” program and changing its name to Google for a month is part of its campaign. In the strict sense, Topeka isn’t auctioning off naming rights for cash. But this begs the question … why not?

Many sports facilities and sporting events are named. I work in a University in which most buildings are named and in my own building, many conference rooms and lounges are named as well, as are several chaired faculty positions and even entire undergraduate programs. These are “permanent” names that acknowledge a specific founding or enabling gift. But why don’t cash strapped municipalities, organizations, or even individuals auction off temporary naming rights more frequently? Wouldn’t this be a nice revenue stream? Google probably has enough money to buy naming rights to a city in every US state. Instead of having a Springfield in every US state, we could have a Google. Don’t laugh, we were pretty close to having Iceland become a wholly owned GOOG subsidiary. Who knows, but the time I post again, I may be living in Pepsi, PA. Or maybe J.K. Rowling, PA. Although if you saw J.K.’s commencement address at Harvard, you know she wouldn’t do something so self-promoting. Maybe I will live in Brett Favre, PA.

And strapped municipalities aren’t the only ones that can play this game. Why not corporations and individuals as well? Rather than getting bailed out by TARP, AIG could have sold off naming rights. Who would want their name associated with AIG? And what positive public presence does AIG have to sell? And why stop at corporations? People could sell naming rights on themselves or their children. People are already selling advertising space on their foreheads! If you could get a couple hundred dollars for getting Yahoo! henna-tatooed on your forehead for a month, imagine how much you could get for naming your child Yahoo! Or Chrysler. Or Citigroup. Or Tostitos. Or Budweiser. Or ESPN. How much would it cost Anheuser-Busch (sorry, inBev) to plant a couple of thousand kids named Budweiser around the country? And if you think people wouldn’t actually go for this, you are kidding yourself. In this economic climate, many people are in financial survival mode and will do things they may not do under non-recession circumstances. And it isn’t like people are already giving their kids crazy names for free . Andre 3000 has a kid named Seven! What’s the difference between that and 7Up? Nic Cage’s kid is named Kal-El (that’s right, Superman). How far away is that from El-Al? For God’s sakes, Gwyneth Paltrow’s daughter is named Apple. I hope she at least had the sense to negotiate for a free iPad.

Anyways, look for the Philly Bluejay naming rights auction on eBay!

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