Grandstanding in the Citi Field grandstand

Blood is clearly in the water with respect to the Citigroup-Mets naming rights deal, and when blood is in the water, reason is often the first thing thrown overboard:

“They just act as though the taxpayers’ money is free money, and they can spend it any way they want. Well, no they can’t,” says Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D, Ohio), who adds that taxpayers have the right to be upset.

“Their money is going for these banks that are just doing anything they want with it,” Kucinich says. “Well, that’s not right, and they have to be called on it.”

Another article on the subject up and asks “should companies that receive federal bailouts be putting big money into these types of naming rights deals?”

Would I pay the Mets $400 million for naming rights? Probably not (though it may not be the craziest thing in the world). But I’m not running Citigroup, and the people who are (or were) made that decision and signed that paperwork years ago. They have a binding contract, and unless it has some sort of escape clause — or unless the federal government or the increasingly critical masses want to help them defend the inevitable lawsuit in the event they welsh on the deal — they are pretty much stuck, no? I’ll go a step further and guess that if someone really wanted to take a fine-toothed comb to Citigroup’s books, they’d find things way more outrageous than the money currently slated to go to the Mets. No one can get on TV by complaining about those things, however.

In any event, when it comes to existing naming rights deals like this one, it’s not a matter of “should.” That horse left the barn long ago. It’s a matter of “now what?” So please let us ignore anyone with their knives out over the Citigroup-Mets deal — especially elected officials with cameras in-tow — unless they have a proposed solution to go along with it.

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  1. GregE said...

    I really don’t understand all the outrage about this. It isn’t like the company bought the naming rights not intending to get anything out of it. It is advertising. I don’t know the true benefits of naming rights in regards to how well it does gaining customers/brand recognition but one would assume it has benefits otherwise nobody would do it. You don’t see anybody getting angry about companies that recieved bailout funds advertising on billboards or on tv, why should it be any different for stadium naming rights?

  2. Total said...

    ” I’ll go a step further and guess that if someone really wanted to take a fine-toothed comb to Citigroup’s books, they’d find things way more outrageous than the money currently slated to go to the Mets”

    Of course there would be.  But think about this a bit more sophisticatedly:  the naming rights are symbolic of all those things, just like the corporate jets are symbolic.  Just because they’re not talking about things the way *you* want to, doesn’t mean they’re not discussing big issues.

  3. Ron said...

    Doesn’t this go under their advertising budget?

    And if so, how can anyone really say anything about it unless they ban all advertising, regardless of where it’s spent?

    I’m against selling naming rights, but we do live in a a free market economy.

  4. Pete Toms said...

    @ GregE,“why should it be any different for stadium naming rights?”  Because millionaire baseball players and billionaire franchise owners are obvious and easy targets.

    I don’t follow US politics (although my 7 year old wants to go see Obama when he comes to town this month, I don’t think he understands that all he’ll see is a motorcade but I digress) but this Kucinich guy (I know he was mayor of Cleveland when it went bust but have no opinion on if he was to blame) has been way out in front on this.  He’s been stickin it to the Yanks, Mets, Bloomberg et al over the PILOT funding of the new stadiums for some time now.  No doubt he is an opportunistic ***, can’t see how politics in your country would be much different than up here.

    I keep harping on this but wait til folks notice that BofA has their brand all over the new Yankee Stadium…then this story will blow up BIG TIME.

  5. Sean said...

    Phil is exactly right.  They knew about this deal when they were giving out the money.  Why is it a big deal now?  Why did they give them the money in the first place?

  6. Jim Harris said...

    Soooooooooooo much money flooding toward the Wilpons … Is $20 million really going to sink the ship?

    Honorless B A S T A R D S should’ve named it Jackie Robinson Stadium anyway—but I suppose it feels just as good to them when they trot out Mrs. Robinson every Jackie Day.

    Yankee Stadium presented by Bank of America … another bunch that really doesn’t need the coin.  WHY CAN’T AMERICA GET IT?

  7. Chris H. said...

    Well I suspect that stadium naming rights are a lousy advertising investments—in general I think advertising without a call to action is probably a waste, and I haven’t been able to find any sort of evidence to suggest that this kind of advertising pays off.

    Having said that, it’s like that episode of Frasier where he lends Roz some money and then freaks out at what he thinks she’s spending it on.  He finally blows up at her, only to find out that most of his assumptions were wrong anyway, and really he told her to use it on whatever she needed to.

    What is Citi’s total advertising budget?  I suspect $20m/yr isn’t that significant a piece of it.  Is Congress passing judgment on the rest of Citi’s advertising budget?  No?  Why?

    (We know why: because print buys and the like aren’t sexy targets.)

  8. kendynamo said...

    also buried in all this poo poo’ing is the fact that citigroup underwrote the $600 million in tax free bonds issued for the stadium.  i’m not a wall street banker but im pretty sure they made some decent scratch for providing that financial service and i’d would be far from shocked if landing that plum deal had more than a lot to do with citi’s decision to sponsor the new stadium for $20m/year.  i’m also going to go ahead an assume that the contracts for both of those transactions are inextricably linked and that’s it’s no where near as simple as, uh oh, we took TARP money that stupid congress threw at us that explicitly stated that there were no strings attached and so therefore we are just not going to sponsor this stadium anymore because some dumb congressman is trying to get quoted on c-span.

    in conclusion, the amplitude of suckage in this equation is thus: legislators>bankers>baseball owners. 

    on the bright side, craig, it looks like the demand for lawyers is still strong in some segments of the economy.  how’s your contract litigation chops?

  9. welshman dan said...

    “in the event they welsh on the deal”

    i take offense to that, but at least they didn’t jew on the deal..or gyp anybody.

  10. TLA said...

    This is just grandstanding BS.  Congressmen vote for something and, two weeks later, come out against it.  This allows them to say they were either “for” or “against” X 2 yrs later when they are up for reelection and they have hindsight to tell them whether it turned out good or bad.

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