America’s Walking City giving up on the T?

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The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) has been in the news quite a bit this week in Boston. The organization, which  serves over 1.15 million riders on an average weekday, has been fending off negative media stories ranging from how it will raise money to pay off its nine figure debt to explanations of how 400 people got stranded on the Red Line this past Tuesday. The battle is nothing new for the MBTA. In 2009, fare hikes had riders angered, complaining of subpar service and outdated fare systems. Two years later, repairs are still needed, debts are due and increased maintenance on buses and subway cars are expected by its riders. With looming costs and not enough income, the Boston Business Journal reported this week that the MBTA is now thinking about selling station naming rights.

But before we see the “Red Sox Kenmore station” or “Panera Bread T stop,” corporate sponsors must analyze the value of such a sponsorship. Would naming rights of a station also include the ability to host marketing campaigns? Placement of original artwork in stations? McDonald’s Arches as the new entrance?

At EZG, we carefully evaluate any partnership before recommending it to a client. Generally speaking, sponsorships mainly focus around awareness and visibility—getting your brand name into the market. Much like a billboard, corporate sponsorships focus on high traffic areas and venues, making them perfect fits for major league sports teams, performing arts centers, and museums. But for the MBTA, who continues to work on its reputation and brand image with the public, they’ve got to show value before they can ask for serious dollars in exchange for a “TD Bank North Station.” And advertisers must see a return on investment in order for it to stick.

According to the website, there are more than 250 million T riders each year. While that may translate into huge exposure for brands, the remaining question is, will corporate sponsors see the value? If riders continue to have bad experiences while on-board, will the sponsorships fall short of expectations?

Tell us what you think! Leave a comment below.

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