Strapped for Cash, Cities Consider Corporate Sponsorship

 

It’s a choice that Baltimore officials never thought they’d have to make: advertisements on the sides of fire trucks, or no fire trucks at all? But for Baltimore and other cities struggling to make ends meet, corporate sponsorship may be the only way to raise much-needed funds. Even if Baltimore’s fire trucks don’t end up emblazoned with a company logo, their city buildings, recreation centers and parks may soon have corporate names (as strange a notion as Canada’s physical activity program, ParticipACTION, partnering with Coca-Cola).

It sounds like a scene out of Infinite Jest, David Foster Wallace’s futuristic novel, where even the names of years in the America of tomorrow have been sold out to corporate interests (the story is set in The Year of the Depend Adult Undergarment). But in fact, according to the New York Times, before the recession hit, one city was allowing supermarkets to advertise on the backs of police cars, while in another, anti-smoking ads graced the hose covers of fire trucks. As the economic downturn began to pinch cities’ pocketbooks, more officials began to consider selling the naming rights to public places. Many transit systems (including the Chicago Transit Authority and New York City’s Metropolitan Transit Authority) are already taking the plunge, allowing companies to rename train or subway stations.

Advertisers, too, are excited about the prospect of promoting their wares through new media. In the age of TiVo, it’s more difficult to get consumers to pay attention to commercials, but the name of a local park or an advertisement on the side of a police car is harder to tune out. And perhaps most importantly, parents will no longer be able to decide when and where their children will be exposed to advertisements. The neighborhood public school could be sponsored by Coca-Cola, while every fire hydrant is plastered with an ad for KFC.

This practice raises several questions. On the one hand, it looks like the meager amount of money cities can raise would do little to fend off the tide of lay-offs and city bankruptcies. Perhaps more importantly, though, if we are selling off naming rights for public schools and fire departments to soda and fast food companies, what kind of message would this send to our children? This would signal that not only is it normal to eat monstrosities like the KFC Double Down, but also that childhood heroes like cops and firefighters endorse it. Indeed, it can be tempting to focus exclusively on the bottom line (especially in hard economic times), but often that monomaniacal focus on economics can lead to immoral practices.

 

Related Stories:

ParticipACTION Sells Out to Coke

BP Hailed as “Sustainability Partner” in London Olympics

Is Pop Music Driving Teens to Drink?

 

Photo Credit: navifotos

31 comments

Dale Overall

A pathetic and disturbing idea. It is akin to being pushed down a gloomy and dark abyss, the light of hope being dimmed forever.

Only under a Harper government would Participation ally itself with Coke, this is the most ridiculous thing around. What next, Harvey's hanging ads from the roof top of the Department Of National Defence? Or KFC having its logo splashed across OC Transpo's fleet of buses in the city of Ottawa?

Perhaps Dallas will have Pepsi's logo flashed across its evening sky along with NYC, in a Gotham City like rendition of Batman being summoned before the populace is permitted on the city streets after eight in the evening. Who knows!

Ruth R.
Ruth R.3 years ago

EACH MAN, WOMEN, AND CHILD ASK -- WHAT CAN AND WILL I BE CAPABLE OF DOING WITHOUT CASH, AND THEN GO DO THE SUSTAINABLE ORGANIC NON-GMO, NO HERBICIDE, NO PESTICIDE EXCEPT NON-TOXI NATURAL, PLANTING AND HOMESTEADING OR HELPING ANOTHER MAN, WOMAN, OR CHILD THAT YOU CAN DO. GOUPS OF PEOPLE HAVE LIVED OFF THE LAND AND MADE IT WORK -- OR WE WOULD NOT BE ALIVE TODAY -- SO IF WE DO WHAT WE CAN AND WILL DO, WE MIGHT FIND THAT THERE IS ANOTHER THING THAT WE CAN AND WILL DO.

Michael C.
Michael C.3 years ago

The time arrived that you must show that you are a true, American Citizen, of course, it is true that you possess some shallow document that proclaims your rights to this dominion, this Republic.

It is BULL.

Thomas Jefferson would never have spent a part a long period of his life writing the framework of what has come to be known as The Declaration of Independence.

I close by asking this question...How many of you possess a copy of this wonderful document?

Martha Eberle
Martha Eberle3 years ago

No, no, and no. If I could have checked an "emphatic NO", I would have. Surely, we can think of other ways to raise money for cities, than selling out to corporate sponsorship. SUCH A BAD IDEA.

Marie W.
Marie W.3 years ago

Remember the Robocop movies and TV series 'fake' commercials??

Claire M.
Claire M.3 years ago

Early signs of attempts of big corps to take over the government, locally if not nationally.

Imagine a future like this , After a multitude of testing you land a job, sign a contract and basically give the company rights to your family in exchange for them providing their every need infused with their propaganda and design of course. They can use you and your family in studies , test, or even judge them for imprisonment or death. You get housing , food and medical treatments that they deem proper for the companies benefit whether you like it or not. Imagine cities that belong to corporations where all the people living their are employees or guest of the company and they may do with you what ever they want.

I will bet you that organizations like ALEC have just this kind of vision in mind. Corporations exist for profit, not to help you and if sacrificing your well being brings them profit the controlling aspect of these companies will likely not object to taking that road.

Adverts on your contact lenses should be coming up soon.

Joseph Belisle
Joseph Belisle3 years ago

What's next, getting paid to name your kids.

Hi, my name is Joe, this is my wife Helen and our three children, Pepsi, Viagra and Chicken McNugget. We're so proud of Chicken McNugget. He's the only one not on Ridelin, anti-depressants and insulin.

We are descending into the pit of corporate hell.

Jen Matheson
Past Member 3 years ago

This doesn't sound like a good idea to me. In the case of Baltimore, it sounds like extortion.

Beth K.
.3 years ago

Paul B, I know you're not open to opinions other than yours, so I'll keep it short.

Bethany is right
You are wrong.

Gloria H.
Gloria H.3 years ago

The city of Truth or Consequences (real place) should adopt Monsanto. Or maybe Hell Michigan (real place) would be even better?