Should the state, county or municipalities sell ad space on government-owned property?
Last month, the Caesar Rodney Institute put forth the idea as a suggestion for state government to consider in a paper outlining ideas on how to prepare for the 2010 legislative session. I’m glad to see that New Castle County is considering the idea and hope that other government entities consider it as well.
Selling the ad space is a terrific outside-of-the-box way of raising revenues and presents a viable alternative to other revenue generating measures.
Beyond selling ads, government should consider selling naming rights for publicly-owned property. Indeed, there are many instances where states and cities have sold naming rights to buildings, structures and land.
Most notably, government-subsidized sports stadiums have their initial costs offset by corporate sponsorships. Think of Lincoln Financial Field and Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia or M & T Bank Stadium in Baltimore.
Granted, Delaware doesn’t have a venue that would equate to these heavily frequented venues, however, we do have bridges, highways, parks and other property. And while the potential revenue likely won’t be in the tens of millions, every little bit helps in generating revenue, especially when such practices can replace economically detrimental measures such as tax and fee increases.
During the current recession, the idea of naming rights and selling ad space have become more popular. Recently, New York City’s M.T.A. requested bids for five-year term sponsorships of tunnels, bridges and roadways.
Is selling the naming rights of the Roth Memorial Bridge, the Indian River Bridge, the new rest stop on I-95 or Route 1 a reasonable way to raise funds? Why not? There really isn’t any downside to this as there aren’t negative public outcomes of such a practice.
However, it is recognized that private entities may not want to be a part of a roadway that is often congested or where a traffic accident has occurred, but to what degree…its hard to tell. One can envision the rush hour traffic report stating, “A five mile backup on the WSFS Highway,” or “another accident on the ING Bridge.” Would this be bad advertising and marketing?
Further, would folks buy into calling a landmark such as the Roth Memorial Bridge by a new name?
Again, its hard to say. At the very least selling ads in parks and on other public property is a step in the right direction and may be more palatable to the public.
More evidence on the feasibility of these ideas persist. A recent New York Times article on the renaming of four subway nexuses in Brooklyn includes evidence that advertisers may not get enough bang for their buck, as people need a connection to be effectively advertised to. Allan Adamson of the Landor Advertising firm said, “To be effective, the viewer needs to understand the relevance of the ad, to rename the 59th and Lex stop the McDonald’s stop — it ain’t going to work. I don’t think it will stick.”
This should not discourage any advertisers, though, as advertizing is less than a certain science.
Other precedents include a recent case in Rhode Island where state legislators have proposed the renaming of the Mt. Hope Bridge to stop the re-institution of a heavy toll for bridge use. Rep. Douglas Gablinske of Warren and Bristol counties said, “I don’t care if we call it the Mt. Hope Bridge, the GTech Bridge, the Dunkin’ Donuts Bridge, what’s important is that tolls not be re-instituted. I think that we could raise significant money by naming the bridge after corporate sponsors.”
The city of Wheeling, West Virginia sold the naming rights for its Wheeling Civic Center to Wesbanco, Inc. for $2.3 million for 10 years.
The Norfolk rail system planned to raise up to $29 million dollars to help with operational costs by selling naming rights to stations and rail lines.
San Francisco has talked about selling the naming rights for the famous rail cars. This coming after a nearly $140 million deficit from state and city authorities.
And, the previously mentioned New York City M.T.A. example where Barclays Bank purchased naming rights to subway stations in Brooklyn for $4 million August, 2009.
New Castle County is considering a wonderful idea. While the concept is not going to solve the problems we are currently in, it can be part of a solution for passing budgets and reforming government. It’ll be interesting to see the public’s reaction to the proposal and to see if this practice takes off in Delaware.
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