Playing the name game with national treasures has unlimited potential

The news of a budget agreement this early in the year may have cheered up some federal
employees, but the Rat is not among them.


An agreement now means no government shutdown later. The Rat had been looking forward
to a couple of free weeks in the late fall. In fact, he'd already made reservations for
some prime post-hurricane season beach space in late October.


But vacation plans aren't the only thing disrupted by Capitol Hill's budget bliss. The
Rat's agency is going to have to cut back some of its initiatives to bare bones.


Sure, that means the wired one will no longer have to worry about supporting those
projects.


But he was really looking forward to the chance to play with some nice shiny new
hardware. Plus, all that freshly forged application code would have made great bedtime
reading.


Maybe the budget ax wielders should have taken their cue from the state of Maryland's
Stadium Authority.


Faced with cost overruns, the Stadium Authority persuaded the Baltimore Ravens football
franchise to cough up another $10 million toward the construction costs of a new football
stadium in Baltimore--in exchange for permission to sell the naming rights to the stadium
to someone else.


Yes, the state probably could have made more money by selling the name itself--just ask
San Francisco what it got for the 3Com Park deal. But it's still a novel approach to
funding government projects.


The Rat started to wonder what kinds of naming deals agencies could work out on their
own to fund their projects. Imagine the cachet of hearing a company's name publicized on
the evening news every time a federal agency, building or project got mentioned.


If Congress would give him the authority, the Rat figures he could do wonders for the
bottom line of the federal budget. For a small commission, of course.


The possibilities are nearly endless:


At the Commerce Department, the National Weather Service offers the most lucrative
naming opportunities. How about the Coppertone National Weather Service, the London Fog
National Weather Service or the Chap Stick National Weather Service? The weather service
could rotate licensees seasonally and make even more money.


The National Hurricane Center alone would provide endless hours of prime-time marketing
opportunities. The Rat figures that insurance company executives would stand in line from
New York to California for a chance to affix their company names.


If the Navy needs another aircraft carrier, the Defense Department should just sell the
naming rights. CNN's Wolf Blitzer would be there at the commissioning to report the
armaments and crew complement of the USS Got Milk.


And the Air Force could earn a bundle and please kids everywhere by marketing the
naming rights to the Hostess Cupcake 101st Bomber Wing.


It's only a matter of time before this happens anyway at the Interior Department. But
how much would Bill Gates shell out to the National Park Service to have his face carved
alongside those of Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and Roosevelt on the Mount Microsoft
National Monument?


Goodbye, national debt.


If pressure groups got upset, they could march on Washington and protest at the
Benetton National Mall.


Imagine the advertising value to the Treasury Department if the Bureau of Engraving and
Printing printed a company's logo on Abe Lincoln's green lapel on every new fiver.


And that's only the beginning. Think of associating your product or movie name with the
protection of the chief executive himself. For example, Men In Black Secret Service
agents.


Of course, there are limits to this bonanza.


The Rat is going to have a little trouble lining up sponsors for IRS.


The Packet Rat once managed networks but now spends his time ferreting out bad
packets in cyberspace. E-mail him at rat@gcn.com.


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