The never-ending push to generate excitement and, more importantly, revenue from transit naming rights deals has spread across the Hudson. New Jersey Transit is engaged in an effort to sell the naming rights to stations and advertising space on trains, and the bidding procedure has sparked a controversy.
Mike Frassinelli of The Star-Ledger reports:
In the not-too-distant future, a commuter going from Newark to Hamilton might board a Minute Maid express train and take it to Sprite Platform at Coca-Cola Transit Center. Such an itinerary could result from NJ Transit’s intention to sell advertising rights to its stations, terminal facilities and locomotives.
This planned sale of naming and product-advertising rights has set off a frenzy among companies trying to pay NJ Transit tens of millions of dollars to broker the potentially lucrative sales. It also has led to a formal protest from one bidder, who contends the transit agency would leave almost $12 million on the table by renewing with the advertising company that now holds the contract.
Craig Heard, president and CEO of Gateway Outdoor Advertising in Hackettstown, said NJ Transit did not allow his company into the final round of bidding even though Gateway’s $65 million offer of guaranteed revenue was nearly 20 percent more than the $53.3 million guaranteed by the current contractor, the Titan Outdoor advertising agency.
Over the past few years, I’ve followed transit naming rights deals closely, and I’ve come to the conclusion that they are mostly smoke and mirrors. Transit authorities speak glowingly of them as potential revenue sources while advertisers sound excited for a few months. When the bidding process begins though, dollars at all but the most trafficked of stations fall far short of expectations.
In New Jersey, I can see a few things happening: First, the deal to sell ad space on the outside of trains will be far more popular and lucrative than the station naming rights deals. Perhaps NJ Transit can realize some dollars for Newark Penn Station or Trenton, but beyond that, it won’t sell many station names. Second, New Jersey Transit is sacrificing some dollars by putting its eggs in the Titan basket. This company, after all, was recently dumped by the MTA for failure to make payments.
Anyway, with money short, New Jersey Transit seems to be joining a long list of transit authorities who think they can strike gold when all they’ve found is nothing.