Jewish World Review Sept. 9, 2000 / 8 Elul 5760
River banks? How to
turn water into an
endless cash flow
KANSAS CITY | Crossing a bridge over the
Missouri River the other afternoon, I looked down
at the water and thought:
Boy. Talk about a potential revenue stream.
From time to time we all bemoan the fact that every
aspect of American life seems open to corporate
sponsorship -- from athletic arenas, to rock band
tours, to football bowl games -- but one of the
most obvious areas of sponsorship has been
Our great rivers.
They're just sitting there (well . . . flowing there).
They're not going anywhere (well . . . they are,
technically, going somewhere -- upstream,
downstream -- but they're not going away). And
they're not making money for anyone (except the
owners of those stupid riverboat casinos that
represent America's absolute surrender to
everything the nation once claimed not to believe
Might as well sell them -- sell the naming rights. Let
the rivers earn their keep.
There are so few areas of American life that have
not yet been sold to corporations. For a while
there, I thought that there was an obvious set of
entities ripe for corporate sponsorship, and I was
surprised that no one had thought of it: airports.
America's big-city airports still carry names like
"O'Hare" and "LaGuardia" and "Los Angeles
International" and "DFW." They are some of the
busiest and most high-profile buildings in the world
-- why would a corporation not jump at the chance
to put its name on an airport?
But the answer is clear: Corporations want their
names associated with things that make people
happy, or at least that people think of in terms of
pleasant experiences. Airports often make people's
stomachs churn, make people angry, make people
frustrated; people need airports, but often do not
love them. No big company would risk putting its
name on an airport. United Airlines might have
thought it was a good business decision to sponsor
the sports arena on West Madison Street in
Chicago, but most corporations would never go
near an airport sponsorship. Do you think the
biggest soft-drink manufacturer in the world would
want to buy the rights to O'Hare, and turn it into
Coca-Cola International Airport?
No possibility -- Coke wants its customers to like
But rivers. . . .
Now, there is an area ready for big-money
sponsorship. Take the Missouri River -- it's a nice
river, it's a relatively pretty river, it's a river with a
lot of history. But if Coca-Cola were to sponsor it.
. . .
What a great name. The Coca-Cola River. It
would be a perfect purchase for Coke -- the very
sound of it conjures up a mental picture of a sweet
river of Coke. If anything, it would make the
Missouri River sound even more big-time than it
already is. A river so grand that Coke has made it
its own. People would plan their vacations just to
see it. Even when the news was bad -- the
occasional flood -- the words would sound
delicious: "The Coca-Cola River overflowed its
banks today. . . . "
And the beautiful part of this is that there are so
many great American rivers there for the selling.
The Mississippi? Make it the Chevrolet River, and
there will be huge money for every state which it
runs through. The Rio Grande? Nice enough
moniker, but is it really any more memorable than
the Microsoft River? The Platte River? As flat as
Nebraska itself -- make it a profit center, turn it
into the McDonald's River. (Except it's probably
too small for McDonald's to bother with --
McDonald's would most likely hold out for naming
rights to the Atlantic Ocean.)
The Ohio River is mighty and historic -- but for the
cash, it might as well be turned into the Prudential
River. Same with the Colorado River -- lots of
fond memories in its past, but this is the future:
Make it the Coors River (or the River of Coors . . .
better cadence). The Red River? Oklahoma and
Texas will survive with a slight change -- turn it into
the Nissan River.
The Susquehanna is swell, but would it be any less
swell as the Pizza Hut River? The Allegheny has a
lovely sound to it, especially to Pennsylvanians, but
it wouldn't take them long to become adjusted to
the Reebok River. The Snake River in Wyoming?
It's all right, but as the Budweiser River it would
make your mouth water. This thing could even go
international -- why not make the Amazon River
the Amazon.com River?
Where were we? Oh . . . right. Crossing the
Missouri River here in Kansas City. There's money
JWR contributor Bob Greene is a novelist and columnist. Send your comments to him by clicking here.
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