Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Naming-rights deals, suggests law professor, are "transparent efforts by dubious enterprises to buy goodwill by permanently associating themselves with famous landmarks"

In a 7/19/12 Boston Review essay headlined Names, Trains, and Corporate Deals: Why Public Transit Shouldn’t Sell Naming Rights, law professor Frank Pasquale writes:
Present-day plutocrats, from Berlusconi to Bloomberg, have focus-grouped more alluring slogans: “public-private partnerships,” “strategic plans,” and “entrepreneurial philanthropy.” Whatever these PR platitudes are trying to convey, these deals need to be recognized for what they are: exploitation of the public sphere by corporate interests.
• • •
Many naming-rights deals are not merely advertising. Rather, they are transparent efforts by dubious enterprises to buy goodwill by permanently associating themselves with famous landmarks....

Barclays also purchased the rights to name the New York Nets’ future home, for more than $300 million. The right to name the subway station next to it cost a mere $4 million, to be paid $200,000 per year for twenty years. There is poetic justice to naming professional sports stadiums after Systemically Important Financial Institutions, to use the Dodd-Frank locution. Both mega banks and mega sports franchises have benefited from sweetheart tax deals, exemptions from antitrust regulations, and other government backing [PDF]. Both feature immensely overpaid stars.
...What Barclays now stands for—rapacious financialization and outright fraud—directly offends the values that public transit represents. Perhaps its yearly $200,000 payments can fund two or three union jobs. But if we were really serious about both raising employment and reducing inequality, we would tax our cash-hoarding corporate behemoths, not beg them for ad money.
Clarifying the record

My comment aimed to clarify the record:
Actually, Barclays did not buy naming rights to the transit hub. Forest City Ratner, the developer building the arena, did.

Why? They didn't explain publicly, but it was likely part of the renegotiations regarding the naming rights deal for the arena.

New York state (nominal owner of the arena) gave away naming rights to Forest City to sell. Forest City made a deal with Barclays for a reported $300 to $400 million. That was for an arena designed by Frank Gehry, and supposed to open in 2009.
Ultimately, Gehry was dropped from the project, the arena was delayed, and the naming rights deal was reduced to $200 million (plus unspecified other payments). Forest City brought Barclays in on the arena bond deal (one carrot) and bought the station naming rights (second carrot).

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