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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, January 17, 2010

How state could win in sponsorship name game

By Charles Memminger

The continuing discussion of memorializing homegrown President Barack Obama by naming something in Hawai'i after him reminds me of my previous campaign to raise money for the state by finding commercial sponsors for various government-owned buildings, parks and facilities, the way colleges do for football bowl games.

I admit I wasn't a big fan of corporations latching themselves like remoras to venerable college football games like the FedEx Orange Bowl, Citi Rose Bowl and the curious Chick-fil-A Peachbowl. (I'm not even sure what a Chick-fil-A is but it doesn't sound like it goes with peaches.) But you can't argue that the corporate conjointedness (there's a word for ya) isn't financially beneficial.

So why limit sponsorship to just games and stadiums? Why not, say, freeways? I think the Preparation H-3 Freeway has a nice ring to it.

Or consider the Preparation H-Power Plant.

Hawai'i could raise millions of dollars in these tough economic times selling naming rights to the highest bidders.

Of course, it would be best if the sponsor had some kind of connection to the thing being named. Like, the Rust-Oleum Aloha Stadium. How appropriate would that be considering the persistent rusty nature of that pile of steel?

We could get some big bucks from some company if we let it put their logo on the side of the Capitol building. I'm thinking Pampers or Huggies would be appropriate because, let's face it, a lot of "you know what" comes out of that building. The "Charmin Honolulu Hale" is catchy and similarly appropriate.

Sheraton already has the Hawaii Bowl, but other hotels could affix their names to government facilities and add a bit of sophistication where needed. People might not mind a garbage dump in their back yard if it is named the Ihilani Resort and Spa Landfill or the Kahala Mandarin Rubbish Transfer Station. I think people actually would like to visit those places just for fun.

The main thing in letting sponsors associate their products with public buildings is that it has to be done tastefully. Allowing a condom company like Trojan to claim the Aloha Tower would just be wrong.

The Honolulu Zoo is ripe for a sponsor. Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom Honolulu Zoo would work. Ruth's Chris Steak House Honolulu Zoo ... not so much. Companies in the business of killing, cooking and eating animals probably shouldn't sponsor places where animals live. It would depress the inmates.

Waikīkī Beach is the most famous beach in the world. It's worth billions in advertising. I can think of a number of appropriate sponsors: Victoria's Secret Waikīkī Beach, Hooters Waikīkī Beach or even Greenpeace Waikīkī Beach ("Better push that big one back in the water, Bill.")

So, it's fine to name something in Hawai'i after Obama. As long the state gets bucks for it. Can you say "Kama'aina Kickback"?

Read Charles Memminger's blog at http://charleyworld.honadvblogs.com.