DALLAS (CBS 11 NEWS) – What’s in a name?  Dallas Area Rapid Transit intends to find out.

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It’ll take a change of board policy, but late Tuesday DART’s Revenue Committee urged the hiring of a Cleveland marketing company, the Superlative Group, to come up with a plan for naming rights.

“They’ve actually secured what we want them to do,” DART V.P. Nevin Grinnell told the committee, “So they’ve done what we want to do. So they’ve gone out of secured deals with other U.S. transit agencies.”

Superlative will get nearly 100-thousand dollars for an initial study of Dart assets and 9.5 percent of any naming rights money it secures. Is it cash well spent? We went to a couple of local agencies to see.

Corbett Guest of  Imaginuity Interactive shepherds local brands like Kim Dawson and Austin Industries. He recommends finding sponsors with a link to the communities near the stations.

“My question would be is it just about slapping a name up there and raising funds by slapping a name up there? Or is it really about connecting that station to the local community?”   He continues, ” I think the bigger challenge is can that sponsor—or the agency that’s matching the relationship with that sponsor—really tie the identity of that station to The Cedars, or to Mockingbird or whatever that particular station is.”

Marian Leonard, Chief Operating Officer of SQ1, cautions naming rights are not a sure thing.

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“They need to have a clear strategy of what they want with the naming rights,” she argues. “Other cities have had limited success, with Boston they really haven’t sold anything. New York sold a station to Barclay’s for only $200,000 a year. Philadelphia, a much greater success story, I think $3-5 million for five years.”

While DART will have all its assets examined, train stations are the logical low-hanging fruit.

“The exposure that a potential sponsor will get of people going in and out of that station is pretty undeniable.”   And Guest can’t stress the community angle strongly enough.  “If you’re going to take on an endeavor like that, probably the most important thing they could do as part of that endeavor is to brand those stations in a way that really connects to each of the communities those stations are in.”

Leonard agrees the sponsor needs to target its audience and do more than put up ads.

“What are you offering them, how many impressions, what kind of clientele do you have, and how broad is the naming and what are the expectations?”  She says it’s important for all sides the the marketing be a good match.  “You can seem like you’re commercializing too much. In the consumer’s mind, since this is the city, so how are they bringing in this incremental revenue and really what does that mean for the ultimate consumer, or are we just selling out? ”

One example she cited was Apple adding Wi-Fi to a station near one of its stores in Chicago, which made them a lot of friends.

DART will take this up the issue in full next month and could have a deal by mid-January.

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