November 16th, 2006

Golden Gate Bridge to Explore Corporate Sponsorship

By Kim Curtis
Associated Press

San Francisco - Neon signs blinking through the fog-shrouded towers? Billboards on the toll booths?

Not to worry, say the managers of the Golden Gate Bridge. Although they are hiring a company to explore the moneymaking potential of the world-famous span, any commercial deals that result would be done tastefully and sensitively.

“People hear corporate sponsorship and they immediately think naming rights,” said Mary Currie, a spokeswoman for the Golden Gate Bridge Highway and Transportation District. “You are not going to have a change in your bridge experience.”

To help close a persistent budget deficit, the district’s 19-member Board of Directors is expected on Friday to approve the hiring of a consultant to turn the “district’s assets into revenue generators,” according to a news release the agency posted at its Web site.

During the initial phase of the project, which is expected to take six months, Novato-based Sponsorship Strategies would research how other historical landmarks have boosted their earnings by working with corporations, said company owner Kevin Bartram.

For comparison, Bartram cited the Sydney Opera House and the Statue of Liberty restoration project.

“You didn’t have signs or logos stuck on the Statue of Liberty,” Bartram said. “We’re not talking about hanging banners on the bridge. No company is going to invest money in a sponsorship that’s just going to cause a lot of flack in the community.”

Examples of the kind of sponsorship ideas that might be considered are having companies provide branded safety gear for ironworkers to wear while working on the bridge or pay to digitize the district’s historical archives.

The district has an $87 million deficit, largely because of post-Sept. 11 security staffing, according to budget reports. In addition to the bridge that’s crossed by 40 million vehicles every year, the district oversees the Golden Gate ferry and a bus system.

In 2002, the toll to cross the bridge was raised from $3 to $5 and it’s expected to increase again next year, Currie said.

“We heard loud and clear that you need to find some new revenue sources,” she said.

After Sponsorship Strategies compiles a list of potential ways to use corporate sponsors, the board would have to vote again on whether to pursue potential contracts.

“It will be very controlled, very tasteful, very sensitive,” Currie said.

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