L.A. to sell naming rights to landmarks?

LOS ANGELES Most people look at the sign at the sign and see the Los Angeles Zoo. Mayor Villaraigosa sees dollar signs. As a way to plug a nearly half-billion-dollar hole in the city's budget, the mayor has pitched the idea of selling the naming rights to the zoo, the Greek Theatre, and other city-owned venues.

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"Looking at revenues -- particularly revenues that don't require taxpayers to foot the biil -- they are important options that we have to consider," said the mayor.

Advertising experts say cashing in on naming rights makes a lot of sense if it's done correctly. They point to the Kodak Theatre and the Staples Center as good examples. And the money can be huge.

It's fairly common for the naming rights to sports arenas to go for several hundreds of millions of dollars.

"It all depends on the brand," said David Angelo, David and Goliath Advertising. "If the brand's core values align with the establishment, then it's a good thing. It's a bad thing when it doesn't. If you could just imagine Metamucil City Zoo doesn't quite have the ring to it."

That may sound strange, but hey, there's plenty of room at the zoo to squeeze it in. Same goes over at the Greek Theatre.

But some folks have a name for naming rights: corporate greed.

"Consumerism's taken over everything? Yeah, that's how I feel," said one zoo visitor.

According to an exclusive Eyewitness News poll conducted by Survey USA, city residents are pretty much split on the idea.

Forty-nine percent of those asked are against selling naming rights to city-owned venues, 44 percent have no problem with it. Seven percent just aren't sure.

"It just comes down to the dollars, I guess," said one zoo visitor.

"It's not just pure corporate, but it's also being used for a good purpose," said Chris Corey, visiting from Boston.

"If someone's willing to pony up some cash to do a little advertising on the front of the zoo, I don't really think it's all that bad," said Riverside resident Tom Barnard.

But why stop there? Why not sell the naming rights to City Hall? It's a big, beautiful downtown icon. A slew of companies would surely line up to slap their names on the sleek white walls downtown. We could turn it into a giant Daytona 500 stock car.

Oh, wait -- City Hall for sale? That would never happen.


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