Being nice can be lucrative, if you’re London Underground and you join in the World Cup fervor by renaming a tube station for a few days.

Southgate tube station was rebranded as Gareth Southgate station from a couple of weeks ago for 48 hours, after the squad finished fourth in the football World Cup.

Not obvious from the various photos issued by TfL, was that only a few of the platform signs had been rebranded, and that there was a “sponsored by Visa” sign above the roundels.

And that sponsorship earned London Underground around £80,000, according to the Evening Standard.

There was also the attendant increase in people visiting the station to pose and take selfies, which will have put some extra ticket sales into TfL’s coffers.

Money aside, it was also, just plain fun.

I am personally rather ambivalent about football, and my main awareness of the man for a while that some dude in football land was noted for his waistcoats.

However, even a football curmudgeon like myself smiled when I heard what happened at Southgate tube station. Even without the sponsorship, the cost would be been minimal to print up a few signs and splash out a press release.

And in doing so, lots of people smiled.

People read about it — the top story on the BBC News website that morning. A lot of people read about what happened and will have smiled.

Not bad for a few hundred quid in signage.

And while people may worry about the creeping commercialisation of the tube, it’s pretty decent work to grab £80,000 of sponsorship in just a few days. TfL spotted an opportunity to do something fun, and make some money, and the sponsor responded swiftly to an opportunity to latch onto something that would make people smile.

But not everyone smiled.

Angela wrote demanding to know how much it cost. Who approved the spending, what the business case was, the job title of the person responsible for approving the spending on the sign.

Angela didn’t seem happy.

But lots of people were happy. Even people who don’t care about football probably nodded in admiration of a bit of light fun.

Even without the sponsorship, spending a mere few hundreds on some signs is a minuscule amount for the number of smiles it raised.

But, there is a worry that with more Angela’s around, London Underground will look at every opportunity to do something cheap to raise a smile, and pause, worry, try to get more sponsorship first. Might decide that Angela will complain and maybe it’s just not worth the risk any more.

No more fun unless its cost effective.

No more smiles unless they’re sponsored by someone.

What a sorry world that would be.


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  1. In this particular case, there would have been no smiles unless they were sponsored by someone. And that’s a sad thing.

  2. J P says:

    Ah the one-time laughable and nowadays hideously actual power of social media! Eventually there’ll be some huge blunder as a result of over-reliance on it and the world will be re-set to a more common sense balance of what people type on it… and remembering that most people don’t bother or don’t care. Perhaps.

    • J P says:

      And another thing.
      I’ve just bothered to read the freedom of information request, thanks for the link, and the best comments I can bring myself to make are these:
      It’s particularly professionally thorough;
      It’s great for the petitioner and indeed for all the rest of us that we live in a free country where all trains of thought are tolerated.

  3. ChrisC says:

    The vinyl strips covering the existing name plates plus some staff time to apply and remove them would have cost a grand at most leaving TFL with a tidy surplus of £79k.

    Not a bad return I’d say. Whoever had the idea and whoever within TFL gave permission deserve some praise for their quick thinking not the castigation that Angela wants to dish out – why else ask for names in the FOI. I trust TFL will be robust in their response to Ms Brown

    Even if TFL hadn’t got any sponsors to cover the cost it would still have been money well spent because sometimes doing something that makes people smile is worth more than money.

  4. A X says:

    Reading the foi request I would imagine the cost of replying with the information requested would be more than the actual event. At least the cost of removal will be low, I wonder if that was Angela who ripped them down…

  5. Andrew Gwilt says:

    And that stupid lady who tore down the “Gareth Southgate” strip at Southgate tube station. She could be fined. Why would she do that.

    • Andrew Gwilt says:

      Even though it was there for 48 hours. But I think she did that on purpose.

  6. Monty’s Dad says:

    Angela must live in a joyless world. A business case, for heaven’s sake? I sincerely hope that TfL didn’t spend hours in committees discussing this because that would be a waste of money. Hopefully it would be a corridor conversation.
    “Hey boss, here’s an idea – let’s rename Southgate station Gareth Southgate for a couple of days.”
    “How much will it cost?”
    “A couple of grand.”
    “OK, do it.”
    Quick and cost effective – decision making through leadership not management through following stifling process.

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