It’s a common trick — when an arts organization or sports team needs or wants more money, they get corporate sponsorship for their performance space or stadium. But what happens when a struggling city government does the same?
Cities across the country are considering the question. KFC has, during the recession, sold ads on manhole covers and fire hydrants in Indiana, Kentucky, and Tennessee to help cities cover their infrastructure costs. And the Baltimore City Council passed a resolution earlier this month to sell ads on fire trucks.
Council member William "Pete" Welch proposed the idea after city officials decided to close three fire stations. He says the advertisements could help save those fire stations, or avert similar cuts in the future. The legislation appoints a committee that will determine the size, shape, and nature of possible advertisements that would be placed on the fire trucks. This supervising body, Welch says, would be made up of the firefighters themselves.
"Firemen are very covetous of their vehicles, and it's a stretch for them to actually consider putting something on one of their vehicles," the councilman says. "This was a groundbreaking decision on their part to allow something to be fixed to their vehicles." While the city cannot reach out to organizations, according to ethics laws, Welch confirmed that the city council has been talking with the Baltimore Orioles as possible sponsors.
Jody Berg is the CEO and founder at MediaWorks LTD, a Baltimore-based media communication agency. She’s been speaking with councilman Welch about the ways fire truck ads could be implemented. Berg emphasizes that potential advertisements would have to be the right fit for the individual community.
"In our industry, we're always looking for new vehicles and new ways for our clients to showcase and brand their message," the CEO says. "If you can do it at the same time as helping your community save jobs and save lives, it could be a win-win situation for everybody. It just has to be the right client, and there are a number of industries — education, insurance, healthcare — that could be a perfect fit."