Playing the name game with municipal property

When I read about an effort in the Baltimore City Council to obtain corporate sponsorship for city buildings and property, I could not resist making a list of possible new appellations and potential partnerships for our town.

One of the first pieces of municipal property that came to mind was the Shot Tower. Perhaps I thought about it because I can see it from my desk, if I lean back in my chair as if I am taking a snooze (a posture I often assume in the late afternoon). From my vantage point, not much has been happening at the tower other than an American flag occasionally flying atop it (which was, at one point earlier this year, inexplicably replaced with a smiley-face flag). The tower was busy back in the 1800s, when it manufactured drop shot for pistols and molded shot for larger weapons. But now: dullsville. To liven things up, bring in some much-needed revenue for the city, I say partner up with a different kind of shot — a beverage popular among the younger crowd. Dub that 234-foot stack of bricks the "Jagermeister Shot Tower," and let the good times roll.

Then there is the city jail, which I can also see that from my office window. Right now it is called the Baltimore Central Booking and Intake Center, but with a little corporate cash and co-operation from a lock company, I could envision it becoming, perhaps, the "Kryptonite Tough Locks for a Tough World Lockup." If that moniker hits a little too close to home, then pitch the folks at Google. Tell them they could, for certain considerations, slap their mantra on the jail and call it : "The Google Don't Be Evil Center."

The Walters Art Museum, with its dazzling display of armor and weaponry, presents a perfect sponsorship opportunity for Under Armour. The museum's new slogan could read something like this: "Come to the Walters and peak Under our Armour." Cha-ching!

Just up Charles Street from the Walters is the Washington Monument. To get to the top, you climb 228 steps — quite a workout. That could be its new selling point. How does "Welcome to the Stairmaster Washington Monument" hit you?

Apparently, these sponsorships would not necessarily be restricted to buildings. City vehicles and even storage sites could end up sporting a corporate logo. Naturally, I thought of that yard on Falls Road where the city stores mounds of salt used to de-ice roads. Where some saw a squalid storage facility, I saw a two-fold marketing opportunity.

First, the site could — for proper consideration — be renamed the "Cargill Salt Center" in honor of the manufacturers of road salt. Second, the city trucks that spread the salt could, for a fee, display ads from those Johns Hopkins and University of Maryland nutritionists who keep nagging us to cut back on our dietary salt intake. The message on the side of the trucks could read: "Dump salt on the streets, not on your supper." Tough times demand creative municipal marketing, even nagging.

The more I thought about city living, the more marketing opportunities and slogans came to mind.

The city sanitation service — the trash guys — could be sponsored by Bounty paper towels, the quicker picker upper.

The USS Constellation and USS Torsk could partner with Ivory Soap. Their motto: "Somehow, we float."

The city impound lot on Pulaski Highway is a natural mate with Capital One. Both ask, "What's In Your wallet?"

Alas, after speaking with a representative from the office of City Council President Bernard "Jack" Young, the main proponent of this corporate sponsorship strategy, I got the distinct feeling the council members were, um, "going in a different direction." Instead of a piecemeal partnership with each city agency making a deal, the council is looking at a broad, citywide approach. Deals with liquor, cigarette and snack food companies appear to be off the table. They seem to be seeking corporate sponsorship that are — good heavens! — appropriate and tasteful.

What a missed opportunity.

Rob Kasper

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