That perennial weed the rebranding of tube stations by sponsors has popped up again and been swiftly dismissed by London Underground as unworkable.

For which I am deeply grateful.

But, the reason given by TfL never seems to make much sense to me.

Frankly, it costs too much is the usual explanation. All those signs and maps need to be changed. Hideously expensive. Go away. Shooo!

The report estimates that the income from sponsorships would somewhere in the region of £136-204 million — presumably for 20-year deals at various key locations comparable to that signed by the Arabfly Dangleway.

As we have seen with the Dangleway, sponsorship is not technically impossible, if somewhat easier to arrange for a new service as opposed to something that exists. It’s also not as if changing station names is alien to the underground network.

Any transport historian will have had times scratching their heads as stations seem to change names throughout the history of the transport network.

  • Gillespie Road — Changed to Arsenal after a notable football club moved there
  • Surrey Docks — Changed to Surrey Quays after a shopping centre bunged a wad of cash at it.
  • Shepherds Bush — One of them became a Market.
  • Charing Cross/Strand — All sorts of confusing name changes over the years.

…and the list goes on.

Now, I don’t expect the cost of rebranding a station to be cheap. Lots of signs at the stations need replacing. Tube maps need updating, tannoy announcements need rerecording.

But, the tube maps are updated every few months already — so that is routine. The in-train maps can easily, and often do, have little stickers put over stations when things change. The tannoys aren’t that expensive to rerecord.

Yes, the in-station signs, and maybe, at some locations — signs at other buildings would need changing.

But seriously, would it really be so exceptionally expensive to do that? Would it really cost so much that TfL couldn’t make a decent profit on the deal?

virgin_euston

If a 3-month sponsorship deal at Oxford Circus was offered — as it reportedly was — for £10 million, would it really cost so much more than that to rebrand the station?

Personally, I suspect the real reason is that TfL is just not geared up to make swift changes to tube station signs. It took months for the Olympics signs to come down from the tube stations, and I bet there are still some around in places. Only last week I saw a poster advertising delights, from last Christmas.

Just how long would it have taken for TfL to take down the wine merchants signs after they stopped paying for them?

But, if TfL isn’t prepared for such efforts, maybe it should be? Having a team of “sticker fairies” who can descend on stations and make changes overnight wouldn’t be that bad a thing for the network as a whole. Even if the motivation is money as opposed to ensuring the use of consistent and up-to-date signage in public areas.

I don’t like the idea of sponsorships for the tube stations. Nope, not at all. But if TfL are going to reject the idea — I think they need to come up with a better argument than that it would cost too much.

As that really doesn’t make sense.

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6 comments
  1. I think you need to read the report again, there is no estimate of income.

    On Page 7, “How much could sponsorship raise?” they extrapolate that if the Cable Car can get £36m with a paltry 30k journeys a week then logically Oxford Circus with 1.48m journeys would be worth £1.8bn over the same 10 years period though they do admit this is a significant overestimate.

    This carefully ignores that the sponsorship deal on the Cable Car was done before it opened when TfL were predicting much higher passenger numbers or that as the sponsorship is linked to usage it is unlikely Emirates will end up paying the whole amount.

    It does say that keeping fare rises to inflation over the next three years would cost £204m while a one year pay freeze would cost £136m and that sponsorship could plug either of those gaps. They provide a public opinion survey to support their proposal but not a survey of the businesses they hope to attract which would given this proposal more substance.

  2. totally agreed, another example of how the TFL doesn’t really understand how to run a business.

    If companies are PAYING for the privilege, they’ll also be paying for the cost. Sounds like they just couldn’t be bothered with the extra hassle it would take to manage it.

    However, I also agree that I like that the tube station names are NOT sponsored, we’re already bombarded with enough advertising on our journeys as it is.

    If the Government fancied sponsoring some stations, to improve healthy lifestyle choices for example, I’d be more comfortable with that. If more people made healthier lifestyle choices, just think of the money the NHS would save!

    “Sugar free Euston” perhaps? ? 😉

  3. Ed says:

    Some ideas are just wrong. This is one of them. You might need an explanation, but it would mark the end of the beginning if the parasite marketeers win this battle.
    And why then stop at tube stations? How about the Barclays Houses of Parliament? HSBC Trafalgar Square? Or McDonalds Southbank. They do this kind of crap in the US with sports stadiums, which is fine, but lay off our living and breathing heritage.

    • IanVisits says:

      Its worth noting that early designs for the current Palace of Westminster included rows of shops in the ground floor facing onto the streets.

      Today you could have a Starbucks at the base of Big Ben if that had been approved.

  4. Will says:

    I can’t fathom how anyone thinks this will make enough money to make it worthwhile Tfl’s experiments in sponsorship have hardly been roaring successes. The dangleway requires subsidy despite assurances it would all be paid for through sponsorship and the bikes raise all of £5m a year, amid claims that the deal was not put out to tender properly. Why would the tube be different?

  5. Paul says:

    mm – Branding tube stations is a terrible terrible idea in itself for all sorts of reasons folk have described above.

    My take on it is that TFL thinks this as well but in this market-market-market driven age when it is considered stone-age to question this, or not sufficiently adventurous, or some sort of pinko dogma, TFL was worried about just saying “it’s wrong” so thought it more politic to say that the business case didn’t add up.

    The whole crazy suggestion reminds me of a time years ago when I was on a PR course – the tutor got kind of carried away with a riff/brainstorm and suggested that police cars could be branded/sponsored. I thought this, er, wrong, appalling. I only managed to get him to withdraw the market-fuelled madness of this by suggesting that sponsors might have the odd heart-murmur if their sponsored car was pictured in the middle of a riot, possibly overturned or burned even.
    I can’t imagine it would be great if there was ever, *** forbid, an accident involving one of these lines/stations. Or even just a period of snarl-ups – not altogether unknown.

    Great site by the way – glad to see that it’s still going.

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