They are all around us—skyscrapers, stadiums and event centers with corporate namesakes. Many of us spend the better part of the work week toiling inside of them. Or, we spend hours watching sporting events inside of them. Examples abound throughout most cities, and one only needs to open his or her eyes to be flooded with the examples. Our office building in downtown Minneapolis was recently dubbed Capella Tower, after the online university.

The ability to place a company tag on the most visible of structures raises some interesting questions, for both the owner of the name on the door and the owner of the building. For example, is there a measurable financial impact, either positive or negative, associated with building naming rights? How does attaching your name to a building affect the image or prestige of your company?

In large part, building naming rights require similar considerations as other marketing questions: (1) is it worth the price (ranging from free to millions of dollars)? and (2) does placing your name on a building provide the positive associations that you’re looking for?

I think the jury’s still out on the value aspect. 

The association aspect is also complicated. Sure, a building can be something that calls to mind strength and permanence. (I will admit that Capella Tower makes me think the online university may be a bit more enduring than I originally perceived.) But, I think negative associations are just as easy to imagine. 

For example, Chicago’s most famous building is no longer known as the Sears Tower; it’s the Willis Tower. One needs to question whether this may ultimately have a negative impact on the new namesake, Willis Group Holdings, Ltd., given the resentment of the public and other tenants. Similar, it’s difficult to imagine a positive association arising from banks ponying up cash for naming rights given the current state of our financial industry. 

In the end, I think the takeaway is that with building naming rights, as with all marketing, you need to consider both the positive and negative associations that you could be creating.