When Shakespeare posed that question some 400 years ago, he obviously could not foresee what is now a very popular practice: paid naming rights. Yes, a rose by any name would smell as sweet, but it is also true that the rose will smell just as sweet if it were named the Miracle-Gro rose.
Sports stadiums are very much into naming rights, which often go for hundreds of millions. For example, there’s MetLife Stadium (over $400 million); Gillette Stadium ($240 million); Bank of America Stadium ($140 million); and Petco Park (just $60 million). Here’s a list of what other named stadiums went for.
I’m guessing that naming rights spread to the sports sector from academia. Every college building in America seems to be named after some donor. At my own college, for example, there is Fox Hall, Galbraith Marine Science Lab, and Miller Auditorium.
The ultimate naming right came when the college changed its name from Florida Presbyterian College to Eckerd College after a large donation in 1970 from Jack Eckerd, founder of Eckerd Drugs (much of which became CVS).
Sometimes, naming rights get messy and embarrassing. For example, Florida Atlantic University had planned to name its stadium after The Geo Group, a private prison management firm. But after negative press and student protests, the deal was cancelled.
In some instances, stadiums have had to remove a name after the sponsor behaved badly. The Houston Astros had to rename Enron Field after the company went bankrupt from shady accounting practices. (Now it’s Minute Maid field.)
But there are only so many sports stadiums in the country. And, only very large companies have tens or hundreds of millions available for sporting 😉 their name on a stadium.
Enter naming rights for the little guys. St. Petersburg (Florida) is considering allowing businesses naming rights to… a median. A neighboring city is already doing this. The naming price is right: just $3,500. Proceeds would go towards the department which maintains medians.
But what happens to stadiums can happen to medians. Will there be restrictions on what business can obtain naming rights? Will the city allow “Busty Blondes Strip Club” or “Asian Ecstasy Massage Parlor” to have naming rights? And what if Joey’s Garage is convicted of ripping off customers with unneeded repairs?
Also, why just medians? I’m sure local governments can start naming rights for just about everything. If the price was right, I can envision “The Sunday Blog” street light. Why, the naming rights office might have lines out the door as folks rush for limited immortality by having their name on something.
And if you happen to attend a theater performance at the Hippodrome in Gainesville, Florida, there’s a seat with my name on it. That came with a $50 (I think) donation to the theater’s renovation back in the 70’s. (But if they’ve put in new seats since then, it’s “hasta la vista, baby!”)
Shakespeare needs updating. It’s not “what’s in a name?” anymore. It’s “what’s the price for my name?”