Should the City sell the naming rights to its properties?
A few months after it was revealed that the TTC might be interested in selling the naming rights to its stations and subway lines at some point in the future, it looks like the City of Toronto might pursue a similar strategy in an effort to bridge the massive budgetary gap looming in 2012. A staff report to go before the City's executive committee this week proposes that council adopt "policies designed to enhance revenue received by the City through sponsorships and naming rights and to establish a fair, transparent and consistent review process for such proposals."
How exactly this will play out remains to be seen, but despite the open-ended nature of the report, we're (thankfully) not likely to see important civic buildings to take on corporate branding. Although the mayor supports the pursuit of "alternative revenue streams" like this, his (more vocal) brother indicated that there is a limit to how far the City would want to go with such a strategy. "Folks don't have to worry about Doritos City Hall," said Doug Ford. What he does think makes sense, on the other hand, is corporate sponsorships that would allow, for instance, the placement of signs and branding in Toronto parks.
This is a slippery slope. As much as these sponsorships might seem like easy money, if handled poorly, there's a real danger of losing something important here. Authenticity is a loaded worded if there ever was one, but one need only consider the recent renaming of Caribana to get a sense for the degree to which such branding can sound misplaced and silly. That's not to mention, of course, that parks are places that are generally free of corporate signage and so much the better for it.
There's no need to hit the panic button yet, but it's certainly worth asking if this is a road that we want to travel down at all.
Photo by BruceK in the blogTO Flickr pool.
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