Opportunities to slap corporate names on public and private buildings

After a theatre chain displayed Scotiabank signs on the front of its buildings, other theatres across the country have been bombarding the bank with offers to sell naming rights on their theatre buildings.

Another organization, MTS Allstream Inc., reported that Manitoba Telecom has been looking for a site in Eastern Canada where it could place its name on a building there. (It has its name on the MTS Centre in Winnipeg.) There have been a deluge of offers. The former Automotive Building in Toronto, a site that was renovated as a conference centre, had its name placed atop that structure. Numerous other buildings have offered naming rights too,

At the present time, there has been an increase in the number of naming offers from colleges, universities, hospitals, municipalities, and arts groups, among others. There is a willingness to name anything from classrooms, campuses, athletic wings, and hospital corridors. Research labs have pioneered placing names on medical facilities.

The business recession has put a dent on the business of buying and selling the right to put a name on a public building.

Those rights can be very expensive, running into millions of dollars. Costs vary, depending on building location and the public traffic that it receives. Sometimes a sponsorship strategy is included therein.

All that is not particularly new, but nowadays its pervasiveness is startling.

Heretofore, non-profit organizations and institutions have used naming opportunities as a means to obtain philanthropic donations.

A department at a major university used that lever, and Roy Thomson Hall “sells”name plates on the seats there. What is new is that some organizations are looking for additional opportunities from philanthropically minded groups or individuals.

They are presenting short-term naming rights in a combination with a form of corporate sponsorship.

Some building owners have granted rights in perpetuity, and, unfortunate as tobacco and cigarette advertisements are in place – they are per­­manent.

There are a number of naming opportunities coming from the health-care sector because of the new projects that are nearing completion. Some donors wish to express their appreciation of the care that they received.

There is a big difference between recognizing a donor’s gift in some way and negotiating naming rights with a company.

The latter often contains a sponsorship package.

In this overly commercialized world, naming buildings has become just another way to make money. A name on a building is a unique and marketable asset, so it should come as no surprise that such practices have become increasingly prevalent.


Bruce Whitestone