Friday, August 03, 2007

A whole lot of Red Bull

Recently I suggested that Portland's professional soccer team just go by the sponsor's name on the team jerseys and call itself the "Toyotas" since the real name, rumored to be "the Timbers" is nowhere to be found on the uniforms.

Now a Portland soccer fan near and dear to me has alerted me that a Major League Soccer team already has made the leap by actually naming itself after a sponsor.

That would be Red Bull New York. Red Bull, the sponsor, is also an energy drink. So when New York fans chant their team's name, they are also chanting an ad, which in turn is piped out over the TV and radio to thousands, free of charge.

And if that isn't insidious enough, there's an entire soccer league in England that has sold its name to none other than Coca-Cola, hence Coca-Cola League 1.

Before long we may well see cities and even states selling off their names. Beaverton becomes "Niketown." Oregon becomes "Nikeland."

This isn't as bizarre as it sounds. Remember the little eastern Oregon hamlet of Halfway that dropped its name for a year and called itself, the name of a dot-com company — all for a price?

Then back in 2005, EchoStar Communications Corporation (Nasdaq:DISH) and its DISH Network satellite TV service offered free satellite TV dishes and service to residents of any town choosing to rename itself, ready?: "Dish."

And sure enough, a small community in Texas, formerly Clark (pop. 125), cashed in on all those dishes by dubbing itself "Dish."

Another way to put it is that it traded its real world heritage for free access to fantasy.

If I could accept the principle of such a trade (and I can't), from the point of view of both benefit and name, I believe the residents of Dish would have been better off approaching the folks from "Red Bull."

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