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Thread: Subway Sponsoring

  1. #1

    Default Subway Sponsoring

    July 27, 2004

    Now a Message From a Sponsor of the Subway?


    The Las Vegas monorail pulling into the station at the Las Vegas Hilton. Nextel Communications bought the right to name one of the trains for the city's new monorail system.

    Facing what it says could be budget gaps of more than $1 billion in the coming years, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the keeper of the region's mass transit system, is exploring selling naming rights to its subway stations, bus lines, bridges and tunnels.

    Transportation authority officials quietly issued a formal request for proposals this month from marketing firms that they would charge with landing sponsorship deals that could include anything from renaming historic stations to attaching corporate monikers to building projects like the long-awaited Second Avenue subway. Indeed, the authority's officials said they could easily imagine the Delta Times Square Shuttle or, say, I.B.M.'s adopting the Tarrytown station on Metro-North's Hudson rail line.

    That said, some industry experts, noting that subway stations do not quite resonate in the public imagination the way baseball stadiums do, said the authority might have a hard sell on its hands.

    "People don't have that same emotional connection with their subway stops," said William Chipps, senior editor of IEG Sponsorship Report, a publication that follows the sponsorship industry. "To be honest with you, most people don't have good thoughts about it at all."

    For the moment, the transportation authority is optimistic. And unashamed.

    Katherine N. Lapp, the authority's executive director, said that such an idea might offend some New Yorkers, but that the option was being considered as a way to avoid raising fares and tolls.

    "It's our job to figure out other ways to add revenue," she said, pointing out that any naming deal would have to be vetted by the authority's board. "Every dollar we get from these types of sources is one dollar more we don't have to take in fares or tolls."

    The corporate naming business has exploded over the last decade. As companies have struggled to be heard above the collective advertising din, corporate sponsorships have become a widely embraced, and wildly expensive, alternative approach to marketing. In Boston, the Celtics now play in the FleetCenter, not Boston Garden. The San Francisco Giants have SBC Park (formerly PacBell Park), with Candlestick only a memory. Elsewhere, there are FedEx Field, the Staples Center, Minute Maid Park, the MCI Center, Coors Field, the Delta Center, and on and on.

    The phenomenon has even spread to nonprofit institutions like hospitals and museums, as well as more and more financially troubled municipal governments. There is the Hasbro Children's Hospital in Providence, R.I.; the Ford Center for the Performing Arts in Chicago; and the General Motors Hall of Transportation in the venerable Smithsonian.

    San Diego even briefly had Chevrolet as its official beach patrol car. And here, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg has proposed selling naming rights to some of the city's public parks.

    How much money there is to be made in the naming of transportation hubs like Times Square - the busiest subway station in the country - or a historic landmark like Grand Central Terminal, is an open question the authority is now ready to examine. Companies might want to sponsor entire routes like the Lexington Avenue line - newly crowned as the city's best in a subway report card. Even the Queens-Midtown Tunnel, cursed every day by commuters, could be up for grabs.

    Since 1996, the transportation authority has more than doubled its advertising revenues by taking more creative approaches to using its space, allowing companies to monopolize entire subway cars or stations with their ads, and turning ad spaces above subway stations into blinking displays. Last year, the authority brought in $78 million in such advertising.

    "It stands to reason, doing the more creative sponsorship branding approach, hopefully, we would like to double that," Ms. Lapp said.

    When it comes to transportation systems, there are few precedents for this approach, and those have produced mixed results. In Las Vegas, Nextel Communications recently agreed to pay a reported $50 million over 12 years to plaster its name on a monorail station at the Las Vegas Convention Center and one of the nine trains for the new monorail system that opened this month. Sponsorships also help pay for the streetcar line in Tampa, Fla. But a few years ago, officials in Boston tried auctioning off naming rights to four historic stations there, only to attract no bidders.

    Don Hinchey, vice president of communications for the Bonham Group, a Denver-based sports and entertainment marketing firm that has negotiated eight naming rights agreements for stadiums and arenas around the country, said there could still be cachet in sponsoring a station that has a certain place in the public imagination.

    "Times Square, that would be a plum," he said.

    In New York, officials with the transportation authority, in an internal presentation on the sponsorship program, argued that the authority's assets compare favorably with stadiums in their attractiveness to sponsors, because of the large number of people who use the authority's transportation network every day.

    To put it in perspective, the officials asserted in the presentation, more people ride with the authority in 11 weeks than fly airlines in an entire year, and every three years the authority moves the "equivalent of every man, woman and child on the planet."

    And in the request for proposals itself, transportation officials point out: "The demographics of M.T.A.'s customers cover the full range of contemporary U.S.A. This is an audience that has elected to be on board."

    But stadiums, Mr. Hinchey said, have the added attraction for companies of having their names on television and in print countless times, increasing exposure exponentially.

    "I would be very guarded in my estimate of potential revenue," he said. "I would not describe it as a big money-winner. I would see it as an opportunity to generate incremental income."

    Another challenge for governmental institutions seeking sponsorship deals is public acceptance. In Boston, Ralph Nader and an organization he helped found to fight the spread of advertising in America, Commercial Alert, lobbied vigorously against the plan to add corporate sponsors to the names of subway stations.

    "This is part of the decline of American values," said Gary Ruskin, the group's executive director. "We used to name things after people who were heroes, people we were proud of. Now we name things after the corporation with the deepest pockets."

    "How low will New York sink?" he said.

    Although renaming a subway station or bridge or tunnel may seem harmless, there are subtle but important effects, said Siva Vaidhyanathan, an assistant professor of culture and communication at New York University, who has written about the cultural impact of trademarks.

    "The moment you slap any sort of private trademark on a public institution, you're reducing the sense of public investment," he said. "I feel less invested in the quality of Verizon Grand Central Station or Eddie Bauer Central Park."

    Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg has drawn ire for aggressively pursuing corporate sponsorship deals for the city, including a five-year, $166 million exclusive arrangement with Snapple to sell its drinks in city schools. Mr. Bloomberg has also hired a former New York Yankees executive, Joseph M. Perello, to be the city's chief marketing officer.

    Although the transportation authority's request for proposals highlights some of its high-volume stations, like Times Square, Herald Square and Grand Central Terminal, as among its prime assets, Doug Pirnie, senior vice president of sales and marketing for International Management Group, which handles many sponsorship deals, said it might be more effective for advertisers to choose more subtle opportunities to get their names out there to riders.

    When it comes to sponsoring public institutions, he said, the best approach is not necessarily starting off by trying to get a company's name on everything.

    "They want to do something that contributes to the overall public good and can be perceived by the public as a contribution to their better way of life," he said.

    One idea? "I don't know what the M.T.A. spends on maps," he said. "They could have a company pay to print those maps. In return, they could put its logo on the maps, or if they have business outlets around the city, show them on the map."

    Gene Russianoff, a staff lawyer for the Straphangers Campaign, a transit advocacy group associated with the New York Public Interest Research Group, was cautious when asked about the possibility.

    "We're not dogmatic on the topic," he said. "Having said that, any sort of major naming rights, like a subway station, is something I think they would have to go slowly on. At minimum, they should poll the riding public on its views."

    He pointed out that some stations already include names of important institutions located nearby, like 116th Street Columbia University, or 47th-50th Streets Rockefeller Center.

    Perhaps the most obvious existing example of a corporate name on a subway station? Times Square, formerly Long Acre Square, renamed in honor of The New York Times a century ago after the company moved its headquarters there.

    They Want to Do What? Subway Riders Are Nonplussed


    If your subway station were named for a company, what would it be? The question seemed to stump even the most passionate supporters of the city's plan for corporate branding of its transportation system.

    There were a few ideas. The East Broadway F train station would be the Ramen station, to preserve its association with Chinatown. The Carroll Street stop on the F and the G lines in Brooklyn would be a nonprofit, and 96th and Central Park West would be a bank.

    But most riders interviewed yesterday evening were simply too surprised to say what their station would be.

    "That's insane," said Wesley Hattan, an East Village resident who saw in the plan a creeping corporate conspiracy.

    "It's a steppingstone," he said while waiting for the F train at the West 4th Street station. "They'll get us used to branded subways, and next will be the Statue of Liberty brought to you by Microsoft."

    An A train rider, Kerry Glamsch, opposed the plan on the same principle. "It seems like the whole world is branded now," he said. "Eventually, they'll be naming planets after them."

    Even those who were not opposed to corporate sponsorship said that private branding of the public subway would erase a small bit of history from New York City neighborhoods.

    "These stations have history," said Nickee David, a makeup artist who lives near the Second Avenue station on the F line. "The Listerine station? I don't think so."

    Then there were the practical questions. Would company names totally replace those of the subway stations? If so, what would become of tourists, who rely on the stations' names, which are often geographical locations, to navigate the vast underground web.

    "It's a confusing idea, particularly for out-of-towners," Mr. Glamsch said. "Meet me at the ExxonMobil station, just past the Home Depot station."

    Some mused that it could be bad for the companies, particularly if they choose to sponsor stations or lines that function poorly.

    "I'm not sure people have emotional attachments to their subway stations," said Steve Feltes, a Brooklyn resident waiting for the C train at West 4th Street. "It's not like I'm cheering for my team."

    Supporters of the idea hoped a branded station would be cleaner and function better.

    "I would hope that I could call them when stuff goes wrong," said Dana Carroll, whose stop is Nostrand Avenue on the A line.

    For Pinky Weitzman, 27, a software saleswoman, it was a matter of taste.

    "It's tacky," she said, standing in the East Broadway station, which she said should be named after Ramen noodles, if it had to be renamed at all. "I'd just laugh,'' she said. "I think people would stick to the old names."

    Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

  2. #2


    Well, they need to do something. If the MTA is running low on funds, we can't just let the subway system go downhill after all the improvements that have been made over the years.

  3. #3


    Why don't we just auction off the entire city on eBay?

  4. #4
    Forum Veteran
    Join Date
    Jan 2002
    West Harlem


    The only way I'd support this is if companies were required to pay enormous amounts of money, upwards of $100 million a year, to put their names on things.

    Corporate naming is getting really irritating. I was unpleasantly surprised two weeks ago being shown the Nissan Play of the Game after a game at Shea. Some of this stuff is getting really stupid and ruining chances of going somewhere to relax and not be harassed by corporate promotions.

  5. #5


    The city doesn't own the subways anyway, there's not much that can be done about it.

  6. #6


    July 28, 2004

    Rename the Subways? Is Nothing Sacred? (5 Letters)

    To the Editor:

    The Metropolitan Transportation Authority's plan to sell naming rights to its subway stations, bridges and tunnels ("Now a Message From a Sponsor of the Subway?," front page, July 27) is among the worst and most insulting ideas I've heard in a long time.

    It is not only a bellwether of the creeping corporatization of our society, but it also represents a failure in state transportation policy.

    Instead of selling our landmarks to the highest bidder to close a budget gap, officials should place tolls on the East River bridges and raise gas taxes, and dedicate this money to mass transit.

    Michael J. Infranco
    New York, July 27, 2004

    To the Editor:

    I wholeheartedly endorse the idea of corporate naming rights to subway stations. May I suggest the Spic and Span 23rd Street station on the Eighth Avenue line? Perhaps the sponsor would be shamed into cleaning it up; it's disgusting sometimes.

    Bruce Wolfe
    New York, July 27, 2004

    To the Editor:

    Your July 27 front-page article about the possible sale of corporate naming rights by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority mentioned the Minute Maid Park in Houston as an example. But back in 2000, I attended a Houston Astros home game at the same ballpark - with a different name.

    That name, which illustrates the considerable pitfalls to naming valuable public amenities after big-money advertisers, was Enron Field.

    Christopher Browne
    Santa Fe, N.M., July 27, 2004

    To the Editor:

    In your July 27 front-page article, a transit advocate notes that some subway stations already include the names of institutions located nearby, like 116th Street Columbia University or 47th-50th Streets Rockefeller Center. Is this supposed to mitigate the disgust I feel at the thought of offering subway-station naming rights to the highest bidder?

    Those stations are named for institutions located in the immediate area that are identifiable, integral parts of their neighborhoods. I see a distinct difference in naming a station for a faceless corporation that does nothing to interact with its surrounding community.

    The Metropolitan Transportation Authority may be facing a large budget shortfall, and it may be reluctant to explore other financing options like raising fares again or revisiting the city's tax structure. But selling the naming rights of public spaces to the highest bidder seems like a particularly sad and soulless Band-Aid.

    Dana Goldberg
    San Francisco, July 27, 2004

    To the Editor:

    In a few years you'll be able to get a $20 rebate on your taxes if you allow the government to tattoo a corporate logo on your forehead!

    Jack Ballinger
    Brooklyn, July 27, 2004

    Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

  7. #7
    Forum Veteran krulltime's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    Manhattan - UWS


    MTA boss has different train of thought on sponsorship


    The region's top transit official yesterday said selling corporations the naming rights to major transportation hubs like Grand Central Terminal would be way off track.

    But Metropolitan Transportation Authority Chairman Peter Kalikow said the MTA will consider ways to increase revenues through corporate sponsorship of its properties on a lesser scale.

    And he didn't completely rule out the possibility of corporate names being attached to smaller subway stations - but did say changing station names could be confusing to riders.

    "You're not going to see Grand Central Station or the Triborough Bridge named after Kmart or Sears," Kalikow said. "What we envision is that [for] our major facilities, we reserve the naming of that to people who over the years have made contributions to both the system and the city."

    He noted the Michael Quill bus depot, which is named after the famed labor leader.

    His comments came a day after MTA officials acknowledged they are seeking marketing firms to explore corporate sponsorship of MTA properties in abid to raise money. Officials said options could include placing corporate tags on subway and commuter rail stations.

    Among the possibilities Kalikow said he would consider is having a corporation pay for the right to place a plaque on the side of a subway car.

    "To the extent that the naming opportunities will present themselves, they're going to be on a minor level," he said.

    Buses will not be so wrapped with ads that people think their bus is a "Coca-Cola truck coming down the road. ... It's going to be on a much smaller scale, a much more subtle scale," he said.

    Originally published on July 28, 2004

    All contents © 2004 Daily News, L.P.

  8. #8


    August 1, 2004


    This Station Is Brought to You By


    LAST week, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, facing budget gaps of more than $1 billion, announced that it was exploring the idea of selling naming rights to its subway stations, bus lines, bridges and tunnels. As far as I'm concerned that's a terrific notion. When governments are hard pressed to maintain basic amenities, private sponsorship of public services is a creative solution.

    First, let's note what this proposal is not. It's not privatization. The public entities now overseeing such amenities will retain ultimate control, while private sponsors will have to conform to government-dictated guidelines.

    Nor is this concept new. For years, private and quasi-private parties have helped subsidize and operate public and quasi-public amenities. In the 1980's the Central Park Conservancy started the revival of that great, decaying treasure. Likewise, business improvement districts (financed through government-authorized assessments, but privately administered) do yeomen's work in sprucing up the city.

    Is it unreasonable to expect sparkling, brightly lighted, well-ventilated subway stations with intelligible public-announcement systems and working toilets? If the M.T.A. can't provide them, let's give private sponsors a chance.

    Private sponsorship provides opportunities to improve public amenities without increasing public expenditures. Take sports teams. The Mets want taxpayers to foot much of the bill for an $800 million park. FedEx paid $200 million for the naming rights to the Washington Redskins' stadium. If a sponsor wished to pay $400 million to have its name on any new stadium, we'd be halfway home; the Mets can finance the rest, and fans can enjoy their new digs.

    That would be good even if the ballpark were plagued with one of those ear-jarring corporate names like DaimlerChrysler North American Truck Division Stadium. While not as sweet-sounding as Shea or Fenway, the name would give us a modern stadium without cost to the taxpayer. And besides, fans care less about what a stadium is called than whether their team can hit.

    In an age in which garish advertising relentlessly assaults us, some critics fear the potential for unseemliness. And there's no question that putting advertisements on Yankees uniforms and the recent attempt to turn bases at Shea and Yankee Stadiums into promotions for "Spider-Man 2" were over the top.

    Still, do our subway stops fall into any "American Heritage" category? Mine's stifling hot, pockmarked by blobs of chewing gum, ill lighted, noisy, with an inaudible P.A. system and nonworking toilet. Hardly Xanadu, and unlikely to change since the M.T.A. announced that it might have to raise fares or cut services or both. If a private company agreed to assume responsibility for upgrading my stop, it'd be a godsend. And if the company's ulterior purpose were to generate commercial good will, I'd happily patronize it.

    Furthermore, having commercial names associated with subway stops is not historically unprecedented. For instance, there's the Woodhaven Boulevard-Queens Mall stop, and the 47th-50th Streets stop carries the Rockefeller Center name, and Times Square takes its name from The New York Times. The only difference is that the M.T.A. didn't get any money for using these corporate names.

    Even great monuments need help. In 1994, I sued the federal government to compel it to refurbish a badly deteriorated Grant's Tomb. The National Park Service claimed it didn't have money to maintain the site. When I offered to raise private funds to help, I received a "deer in the headlights" look, as if using private money to support public works were an alien concept.

    Earlier in the 1980's, when I sat on Community Board 5, I sadly voted to endorse the demolition of the Naumburg Band Shell in Central Park because it had become a derelict wreck - a lawsuit waiting to happen. The proposal was defeated, and I suggested that we find a private sponsor to repair and maintain the band shell. A fellow board member mockingly suggested the site should be renamed after Tower Records, to which I responded, "Why not?"

    The Parks Department decided to knock the shell down anyway, but a lawsuit stopped it. The Naumburg Band Shell still stands and while it has been cleaned up a bit, it's essentially unusable for its intended purpose.

    Given the ills of many public schools, some suggest corporations and troubled schools enter into partnerships. Others, wary of commercialism, object to schools being named after sponsors. Object? I'd insist the corporation's name go on the school because no chief executive worth his salt would let a school bearing his company's name tolerate failure. A corporation would say to parents, teachers and administrators: "We'll give you books and computers, but we expect fiscal accountability and a product that improves each year. And if those expectations aren't met, we'll demand change in the way you do business."

    Given our schools' current failings, wouldn't that be a better approach?

    Others dither at acknowledging generosity if a sponsor might financially benefit from its largess. When Bill Gates made a generous gift so poor children could learn essential computer skills, some critics objected to acknowledging Microsoft because they worried that Mr. Gates made the gift largely to create Windows customers.

    Such myopia reminds me of a joke I heard a few years ago. A tourist in Jerusalem, noticing a library named Goethe Hall, remarks how kind it was that Israel named the building after Germany's greatest writer. The guide says that in fact the building is named after Izzy Goethe of Miami. When the tourist asks what Izzy Goethe wrote, the guide says, "A big check!"

    Let's hope that all potential private sponsors of the subway will make like Izzy and grab their checkbooks.

    Ed Hochman is a lawyer involved with historic preservation.

    Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

  9. #9


    March 5, 2005

    This Space for Sale, Even the Space You're Sitting On


    Advertisements for HBO's "Deadwood" can be seen covering walls, seats, ceilings and doors of the 42nd Street shuttle.

    aving spent nearly half his life as a transit worker, Ray Volsario is used to his subway cars looking a certain way.

    But on Monday, Mr. Volsario, 50, entered the 42nd Street shuttle, the line where he works as a motorman, and noticed that none of the yellow and orange seats seemed normal. He assumed the seats were dirty.

    Mr. Volsario was "all set to call a car cleaner to clean the seats off," he recalled, when he looked closer and realized that the seats were part of an elaborate advertisement for "Deadwood," a television series.

    HBO, the cable network, paid about $100,000 to cover the interiors of three subway cars - including the walls, seats, ceilings and doors - with plastic wrap promoting the show, which begins its second season on Sunday.

    Riders who board the shuttle at Grand Central Terminal and take the 90-second trip to Times Square were confronted this week with another series of advertisements - these applied directly to the white tiled walls, and wrapped around the stanchions, near the shuttle platforms.

    The advertisements portray a flock of birds against an angry red sky, with a single phrase: Omnium Finis Imminet, Latin for The End of All Things Is Near. The advertisements, for Steven Spielberg's movie version of H. G. Wells's "War of the Worlds," cost about $50,000. The film is to open in July. The two sets of advertisements are likely to reopen the debate over the degree to which public space should be protected from commercialization. Most shuttle riders seemed to react to the "Deadwood" advertisements with surprise or amusement, but others viewed the advertisements as an intrusion.

    "I think it's creative, but it really imposes on our privacy," said Andrea Sage, 42, a real estate lawyer who lives in Chelsea and rides the shuttle every day. "It's disorienting. It's really going to wear thin after a while."

    Kent L. Barwick, president of the Municipal Art Society of New York, an organization devoted to urban design and planning, also criticized the advertisements as excessive.

    "It was one thing when they decided to sell all the advertising in a car to a single advertiser," Mr. Barwick said, "but it's a quantum leap to actually convert a public conveyance into a stage set in which I am now totally captive."

    A spokesman for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, Tom Kelly, defended the advertisements but acknowledged that money is a driving factor. "This is our attempt to experiment, to find different ways to seek advertising revenue to go back into the system," Mr. Kelly said. "Remember, this is one campaign."

    He added: "Should someone else come along with another campaign, obviously, considering the financial condition that we're in, we'd give it serious thought. But it would have to be something that is tastefully done."

    The "Deadwood" advertisements produced strong but divergent reactions from riders.

    Andy Elbery, 31, an architect from Jersey City, gazed admiringly at the plastic-covered seats, which resembled cushions. "It's beautiful," Mr. Elbery said. "I love the textural feeling, with no material."

    Annie Kirby, 25, a graduate student from Park Slope, Brooklyn, said there are few spaces where New Yorkers can be free from commercial messages. "That's one of the difficult things about living here," she said, adding that the movie advertisements try to "direct our fears away from real problems."

    The Spielberg advertisements seemed to attract less notice. When James A. Venable, 52, a subway conductor guiding shuttle passengers to the correct platform, was told that the end is near (at least in Mr. Spielberg's film), he replied: "Yes, it is near, but we don't know how near."

    Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company

  10. #10


    Quote Originally Posted by Kris
    July 27, 2004

    And in the request for proposals itself, transportation officials point out: "The demographics of M.T.A.'s customers cover the full range of contemporary U.S.A. This is an audience that has elected to be on board."


  11. #11


    Excuse me? Since when does taking public transportation mean that you're begging to be assaulted with shills from private companies?

  12. #12
    Banned Member
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    Dec 2002
    Park Slope, Brooklyn, NY


    The bombardment of the senses and over commercialization of everything serves to desensitize us and, as stated by others, shift attention from real issues.

  13. #13


    Quote Originally Posted by Schadenfrau
    Excuse me? Since when does taking public transportation mean that you're begging to be assaulted with shills from private companies?

    exactly my point. I only quoted that excerpt to show the shallow absurdity and callousness of marketing.

  14. #14


    Sorry, I meant my last comment to be a response to the quote. I completely agree with you.

  15. #15
    Chief Antagonist Ninjahedge's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2003


    I wonder if anybody is going to buy that refuse bag that the body parts were found in.....

    maybe an HMO will "pick it up". :P

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