Dubai branding a model for others

Dubai plans to sell advertising space at transit lines and Metro stations. (SUPPLIED)

Dubai's branding strategy has inspired municipalities as far away as Canada to imitate the emirate's creative way to raise funds.

Canada's Transitway, operator of the local metro system, is planning to sell the naming rights of its Metro stations after the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) announced it will sell the branding rights to some Metro stations in Dubai.

The Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) is looking into the possibility of offering companies the chance to put the names of their brands on Metro stations for a fixed fee – just as Dubai is in the process of doing for two transit lines and 23 stations.

Last month, the RTA said more than 250 companies have shown interest to put the names of their brands at an estimated value of about Dh10 million per year. And the authority called for bids from local, regional and international companies with bidding fees of Dh440,000.

The bids started at Dh6m for a year and could go as high as Dh12m a year, depending on the location of the station and its potential. Naming rights for Dubai stations require a commitment of 10 years, which means companies could shell out as much as Dh60m to Dh120m for the period.

Meanwhile, authorities in Canada are considering their marketing strategy and taking into account the large number of commuters who use the Metro on a daily basis in major metropolitan areas. And Toronto is hoping to rake in a good deal of money with the scheme. "Beggars cannot be choosers," said TTC commissioner Peter Milczyn, referring to the transit commission's expansion plans and its need for funding. Advertising is already a boon to the transit system. In Toronto, it raises between $15m (Dh55m) and $20m annually.

Similar to Dubai, Toronto is unlikely to accept just any brand for its stations. In addition to corporate naming rights, OC Transpo is expected to keep in mind the sensitivities of residents and the historical significance of certain locations. So, some of the stations may still retain their original name or may even be renamed depending on their cultural relevance. Rahul Suri, a long-time resident of Toronto, said: "As the capital of the country, a host of famous figures have lived here. And our neighbourhoods might get a new name or two."

Corporate naming of Transitway stations is bound to be controversial, said an official of the Transit Commission.

"There will be those who will see it as commercialisation of public spaces. But there is a need for money and the process can be done tastefully," he said.

The phenomenon is also taking off globally. In Houston, Reliant Energy has already put its name on a huge fountain that the city's light-rail project runs through.

The company has also built an 80-storey skyscraper to go with the fountain right along the rail route.
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