New York looks at selling sponsorship rights to subway

NEW YORK - In a attempt to fill a large budget shortfall, there is talk that New York's subway could sell the sponsorship rights to stations... McDonald's Times Square, anyone?

The sponsorship plan has been mooted by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which faces an $800m (£440m) budget deficit, and has prompted much speculation in the US media about which companies could potentially sponsor stations.

There are suggestions that stations around Wall Street could be sponsored by investment banks or that media giant Time Warner could take over the naming rights of the station nearest its Manhattan headquarters, Columbus Circle Station.

Brian Dolan, a spokesman for the MTA, said: "It's an opportunity to generate revenue. A company may sponsor a station, the name of a station or another unique marketing measure. All the MTA properties. The MTA is open to all possibilities."

However, the idea has not found favour with the city's residents, including one Michael J Infranco, who has written to The New York Times to complain that it is "among the worst and most insulting ideas I've heard in a long time".

Some of the papers this morning were speculating on potential marketing partners for various stations, with suggestions that David Beckham might want to snap up Brooklyn Bridge, where son Brooklyn was conceived.

Another of the paper's readers, Dana Goldberg in San Francisco, described the move as a "particularly sad and soulless Band-Aid".

In London, a similar move was mooted during the mid-1990s, but quickly ruled out. Controversy sprang up when it was suggested that Knightsbridge station could be renamed the Harrods station, on the basis that so many passengers alighting at the stop were there to visit the landmark department store. Beckham, of course, could have snapped up the Victoria line for his other half.

Presumably, the fact that millions of London commuters have little in the way of positive feelings towards the underground system may have also made companies wary of getting involved in sponsorship.

If you have an opinion on this or any other issue raised on Brand Republic, join the debate in the Forum here.

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