April 15th, 2011
Altoona Becomes ‘Pom Wonderful’ — For a Price
The New York Times
The documentary filmmaker Morgan Spurlock has found another catchy way to promote his next release, “The Greatest Movie Ever Sold,” which takes a wry look at product placement and the integration of brands in the plots of movies and TV shows.
The city of Altoona, Pa., agreed on Wednesday night to sell naming rights to Mr. Spurlock for 60 days, beginning on April 27. For a fee of $25,000, Altoona will be called after the full title of the film, which is “Pom Wonderful Presents the Greatest Movie Ever Sold.”
The presence of the Pom Wonderful juice in the title of the documentary signals Mr. Spurlock’s cheeky take on the subject of product placement. He has lined up a skein of marketers to sponsor the film to help illustrate how branded entertainment works.
Among those sponsors is the Sheetz chain of convenience stories, which is based in, yes, Altoona. The Altoona City Council said that the fee from Mr. Spurlock would be used by the city’s police department.
“Clearly, the people of Altoona have a sense of humor,” Bill Schirf, the mayor, said in a statement, “and an asking price.”
Many municipalities have begun to sell naming rights to raise money, and the practice is covered in “The Greatest Movie Ever Sold” with a look at a school district in Broward County, Fla.
Several cities have in the past sold rights to their names for short periods of time as part of marketing promotions. Most of those have involved dot-coms and technology companies.
An old-school example of the trend is Truth or Consequences, N.M., which was originally called Hot Springs. The city renamed itself in 1950 for “Truth or Consequences,” a popular radio show on NBC that later became a TV show.
According to accounts of the name change, no money changed hands. The deal was that the show agreed to be broadcast from the first city or town that would rename itself in the show’s honor.
“The Greatest Movie Ever Sold” will be released on April 22 by Sony Pictures Classics. In addition to Sheetz and Pom Wonderful, other brands that paid to be sponsors of the documentary include Ban deodorant, JetBlue Airways, Hyatt hotels and Merrell shoes.