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January 23, 2009

Need Some Quick Cash? Try a Baby Naming Auction

babynameauction.gifWe've talked about selling the naming rights to stadiums, university buildings, towns, and even frog species, but until the Freakonomics Blog pointed out an eBay auction that included the right to name a baby, we hadn't heard of this particular contagion spreading to humans.

The motivation for selling naming rights is obvious: a need for money. As for buying those rights, it's fairly easy to see why a company would want its brand name associated with a public building: marketing. And when a philanthropist gets her name on a lecture hall she helped fund, that inscription is both marketing and a form of immortality.

It's certainly hard to imagine that naming one child would be an effective exercise in branding for a company, unless the child had celebrities for parents. Given the names many celebrities give their children anyway, the child probably wouldn't be any more traumatized than its peers if called Citibank or AT&T.

Naming a celebrity baby would probably be a good branding tactic, but the $4050 this bidder spent on the right to name a stranger's unborn child isn't likely to be an effective use of a business' marketing money. Better to get a whole stack of bumper stickers or T-shirts printed.

Yet, clearly, the opportunity to bestow a name was worth quite a bit of money to someone. (For all the equity of the Nike name, Air Jordan baby booties just don't cost that much.) We can only speculate about the bidder's motives (at least until and unless more detail appears on the NameMyBaby blog), but it seems safe to conclude that the right to name something or someone has considerable value in our culture.

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Posted by Diane Prange at January 23, 2009 8:58 AM
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