When I saw the Bank of America banner on the Michigan Avenue bridge, and read that Mayor Rahm Emanuel will be selling ad space on trash cans and water bills, it gave me an idea to make some real money for this town. Let’s sell corporate naming rights to the city itself. We will re-name Chicago after the company that offers us the most money.
This would be the most valuable corporate naming opportunity ever. We’re not just talking about a baseball stadium, like Wrigley Field or U.S. Cellular Park. We’re talking about a world-renowned city of 2.6 million people. The new name would appear on maps, in books and articles about the city, on the jerseys of sports teams.
Let’s say we sell the naming rights to Waste Management. The city would become Waste Management, Illinois. (Unless the state gets the same idea, and also sells its naming rights. Then we could be called Waste Management, Expedia.com.) Our sports teams would compete as the Waste Management Bears, the Waste Management Blackhawks and the Waste Management Cubs.
We’d also insist that works of art inspired by the city adopt the new name. The Bob Fosse musical about the Roaring ’20s would become, simply, “Waste Management.” Paper Lace would have to sing about “The Night Waste Management Died” Bad, Bad Leroy Brown would live “on the South Side of Waste Management,” and every hack bluesman would have to change his tune to “Sweet Home, Waste Management.” The musicians will complain that the new name messes up the rhythm of the songs, but screw them. This is about money, not art.
The Carl Sandburg poem that dubbed us “Hog Butcher to the World, Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat,” would be re-titled “Waste Management.” Republicans running against President Obama would complain that he’s a product of “Waste Management Politics” and “The Waste Management Way.”
By substituting its name for Chicago’s, Waste Management would become one of the best-known companies in the world. I’d say the rights to Chicago’s name are worth $1 billion, minimum -- enough to buy back the parking meters from Morgan Stanley.
Buy this book! Ward Room blogger Edward McClelland's book, Young Mr. Obama: Chicago and the Making of a Black President , is available Amazon. Young Mr. Obama includes reporting on President Obama's earliest days in the Windy City, covering how a presumptuous young man transformed himself into presidential material. Buy it now!