What’s in a name? Lots of money.

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What’s in a name? Lots of money.

CHANG HYE-SOO
The author is the head of the sports team at the JoongAng Ilbo.


Dulles International Airport is the gateway to Washington, D.C. After World War II, the U.S. capital needed a new airport. In 1958, President Dwight Eisenhower decided to build the airport at the current site, and it opened in 1962 during the administration of John F. Kennedy.

The airport was named after John F. Dulles (1888-1959), secretary of state under President Eisenhower.

As the airport authority pursued a new terminal construction in 2012, it considered selling the naming rights to cover part of the construction and operation costs. It considered a range of naming options, from the airport itself to spaces in the terminals. Of course, naming rights for airports have never been sold before. So, the United States stands out for even considering it.

In 1912, the Boston Red Sox’s home field, Fenway Park, opened. John Taylor, owner of the Boston Red Sox, named the field after his company, Fenway Realty.

This marked the origin of naming rights. While some people complained it was not appropriate to display a company name on the field, Taylor argued otherwise, questioning, “Because the park’s in the Fenway, isn’t it?”

Nowadays, a naming right sale is a natural option. Stadiums are notable examples. The first was the new stadium for the NFL’s Buffalo Bills in 1973. Rich Foods purchased the naming right for Rich Field at $1.5 million for 25 years.

In 2009, when the MLB’s New York Mets built a new stadium, Citi Group purchased the naming right for Citi Field for $400 million for 20 years. While many deals are confidential and there is no public record, Citi Field was the most expensive naming right sale publicly known.

In 2010, Google announced a plan to install a pilot high-speed internet network in a select city in the United States. More than 300 cities started courting Google. Topeka, the capital of Kansas, even suggested changing its name to Google.

A name is an important part of one’s identity. The New York Yankees and LA Dodgers don’t sell naming rights for that reason though. Some Koreans want to exercise naming rights over a new airport in the southeast region, even though its exact location has yet to be determined.
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