The Strategic Name Development blog reports that the naming rights to the New York Mets’ new baseball stadium have been sold to Citigroup. The stadium will be called “CitiField” and the privilege of that garish plug will cost Citigroup $20 million a year, or the cost of a grade-A free agent. The blog post has a great rundown on alternative “Citi” names that were considered, as well as a roundup of back-page and other learned reactions.

Trademark CityCitiGroup is itself a metropolis of trademark issues. The CitiGroup Center, which is right out the window of my office (over my shoulder in the picture), is a landmark building, i.e., a de facto trademark for the company on the New York skyline, of which it is one of the leading and tallest lights. In the picture below, taken from the east, you can see how its distinctive angles tower jauntily over the lovable rust-colored “lipstick”-shaped [former] LIKELIHOOD OF CONFUSION Building at 885 Third Avenue. But of course, buildings can’t really be trademarks, can they? If they can be, the CitiGroup Center is.

The building changed names, though, when the company did, so we old-timers still call it the Citicorp Center, just as the MetLife Building will always be the Pan Am Building and of course “Avenue of the Americas” always Sixth Avenue. Citicorp had just changed its own name from First National City Corporation, a successor to its original name of City Bank of New York, later National City Bank; and it has had its hands full for decades managing its “City” trademark identity. (The whole timeline is here if you’re that interested.)

As the SND Blog points out, “Citi” is as good a corporate name you’re going to get for a baseball stadium in New York, much less for a team with name roots as the Metropolitans and offspring in New York sports-team namesmanship such as the Jets*, the Nets** , and — yes, I found a link to confirm my recollection! — the defunct New Jersey Sets team of professional womens’ team tennis. Yes, you can close your eyes and pretend the name is really something as retro as “City Field.” And after all — talk about your generic and your descriptive would-be trademarks — around here when we say “the City” we don’t mean Hoboken.

But the whole idea of a sports stadium named after just another company with a skyscraper is so very un-New York and especially, as one of the blogs linked to in the SND blog notes, unthinkable regarding the ballparks / temples of sport myths — in particular, the fields where the Yankees, Cubs and Red Sox play. But of those three, only one, Yankee Stadium, is called after the team itself, the one with the most profound brand equity (not to mention equity equity) in the country, and perhaps the world. And yet they’re tearing down the House that Ruth Built (ah, Ruth — another trademark hyperlink in itself!), and supposedly anything could happen; heck, another season of carrying A-Rod and his paycheck five games into the playoffs and they could end up as the New York Yahoos! or Bronx eBays or something.

It’s the best we can make of a world where everything’s for sale, I suppose. It’s not as if there were anything special about Shea Stadium, either architecturally or as a name. Plus no one could really hit in that darned place. Anyway, that’s life in the big Citi.


* More name-and-geographical-designation confusion: Those are the “New York Jets,” who like the “New York Giants” play in “Giants Stadium” in New Jersey scant miles across the Hudson River but who once played under roar of the JFK Airport flightpath at Shea Stadium, the Mets’ outgoing home.

** Now of New Jersey too but who originally played in the New Jersey of New York.

Originally posted 2013-04-25 21:53:48. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

By Ron Coleman

I write this blog.

11 thoughts on “Trademark City”
  1. Quite the informative and amusing NYC name game rundown…….

    “rust colored lipstick building” I would think its more of a jaded /tarnished pink topaz / a fading pink blush of sunny sparkle and brilliance . I think Lancome/Clinique and Hard Candy should start thinking about which floors they want to be stamping their lipstick names on. Urban Decay and Hard Candy should start naming some of those buildings in the shadows preferably the sparkly glittery ones .Christmas sparkly holiday time is perfect timing too.Sephora might want to chime in too and give all her products equal naming rights.

  2. That’s a concept — branding the stories in the building! Jaded, you’re a sparkling creative genius! I suppose the only problem is that no one will be aware of this marketing extravaganza than the virtually lipless lawyers and hedge fund managers in our not-so-compact compact. But you’re on to something for sure.

  3. It could be quite the cosmetic branding experience.And new give meaning to “cosmetic purposes and outlooks ” might even give surfacey some depth.And the lobby could function as the showcase for the larger than life cosmetic case done up in christmas lights glitter and sparkle and the usual makeup trinkets /powdercases & keepsakes done up in color coded christmas lights.That would be quite the multifaceted branding concept. A fusion sparkle/ glitter/ function and makeup (show)case form.

  4. […] reports (links added): The biggest U.S. bank plans to sell its red umbrella trademark to St. Paul Travelers Cos. and operate under the “Citi’’ name after failing to get most consumers to think of anything except insurance when they saw the 137-year-old symbol. The deal, announced in separate statements, reunites the Travelers name with a logo that consumers still associate with the insurer and the slogan, “You’re better off under the umbrella.’’ […]

  5. […] Well, Lynn, that’s just the upper towers of it. We’ve discussed building trademarks — copyrights almost certainly don’t even come into this, regardless of what the condo association says, though that is not to say they never can — at some length on this blog in the past (also here). But the image of a building cannot be protected by copyright, and no one can stop another person from describing the Marina City towers as the Marina City towers — certainly not under copyright or trademark law. […]

  6. Its not clear to me whether or not a building can be trademarked? I am location scouting for a television commercial and the director wants iconic New York City landmarks to be the featured backgrounds for all of the scenes. I’ve always heard that buildings such as the Empire State, Chrysler, FlatIron and Public Library are copyrighted and subject to large location fees to use there images as “establishing shots”. Can there be any truth to this?

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