Altoona, PA to become “POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold”

It is not just businesses that don’t mind being part of a film that negatively portrays product placement. Tomorrow, the city of Altoona, Pennsylvania will get a new name: POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold. Why Altoona? Sheetz is a key sponsor of the film (paying at least $100,000 to Spurlock) and the company is based in Altoona:

Sheetz said it was Spurlock’s idea to have a secondary premiere, hopefully in a town that would name itself after the movie. Sheetz helped sell the idea in Altoona, and the locals seem enthused by the concept…The locals needn’t worry too much. The name change is ceremonial — meaning people won’t have to address mail using the movie’s title. The film was in the can before the naming rights deal was approved earlier this month by city council, on which Bruce Kelley serves as vice mayor. The money is going to the police department.

[Vice mayor Bruce] Kelley said he’ll leave it to marketing experts to debate how much advertising is too much, but said the city is solvent and doesn’t sell the naming rights to anything other than trees people can pay to have planted in someone’s honor.

“So we’re all going along with the gag. We’ve become part of the shtick,” Kelley said.

“But you’re not going to see ‘POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold’ on the side of our fire trucks.”

So, at least there are some boundaries! Seriously though, the city is getting $25,000 to be renamed for a short period of time and the money seems to be going to a good place.

But there are some larger issues that this article could or should address:

1. Aren’t there other communities that have done similar things in the past? Truth or Consequences, New Mexico (Wikipedia explanation) is a classic example.

2. The vice mayor says Altoona is solvent but I wonder what their budget status really is. Many communities are experiencing budget issues and I wonder how many might go through with something like this to get some quick cash. The CTA seemed to indicate that it is interested in such efforts.

3. This vice mayor suggests “marketing experts” should figure out how far is too far in the selling of commercial advertising. Perhaps we need a national survey on this: when Americans are presented options about how the Federal government or more local governments should raise money (or cut spending), why not include a questions regarding the option of selling advertising rights? While we have some commentators who seem up in arms about this practice (including Spurlock), what is public opinion on this issue? For example, Apple sponsoring a Chicago El stop drew some initial attention but I haven’t heard anything since.

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