The district has hired Kevin Bartram, president, Sponsorship Strategies in Novato, Calif., for a six-month study of how to place corporate sponsorships for the world-renowned tourist attraction. The directors have made it clear they won't change the name of the bridge. Mr. Bartram said he is looking for "appropriate" sponsorships that allow association with the bridge "without having a huge presence on the bridge." Some of the corporate-sponsorship projects he will review include the Statue of Liberty and Washington Monument restorations. He noted the bridge district has buses, ferries and a gift shop that could accommodate sponsorships.
Still, some of San Francisco's leading ad folks had mixed feelings about the bridge-sponsorship project. Venables, Bell & Partners founder Paul Venables said having the name of an out-of-town company on the bridge "would be horrible" and "make a mockery of our city." One example: Rice-A-Roni, which is known as the San Francisco treat and still uses a cable car as its marketing icon, but is now owned by a Chicago company.
But a San Francisco company might do. Local favorites include Gap, Levi Strauss and George Lucas, whose headquarters in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area's Presidio is close to the bridge. Silicon Valley tech companies such as Google and Hewlett-Packard also might be candidates. But Mr. Bartram said he also will consider companies that compete with the locals, such as Microsoft.
Some wonder whether the bridge, which has been the site of more than 1,200 suicides, might deter would-be sponsors. Hal Riney, founder of the agency now known as Publicis & Hal Riney, called the sponsorship concept "appalling" but added sardonically: "It's possible some clever minds might find some way to merchandise [potential suicides] as well. Maybe they could charge 10 thousand bucks each and we could welcome these people."
Rich Silverstein, co-chairman and co-creative director, Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, San Francisco, bicycles over the bridge on his way to work at least three times a week. He called the proposal "offensive" and said he would boycott any marketer that participated in the venture. "The Golden Gate Bridge should never be used for marketing," he said.