The Statue of Liberty Mutual

The Statue of Liberty in New York City.

 At her dusty Ford dealership in Kentucky, Pauline Wilkes makes a sales pitch while sipping her morning coffee.

“It’s a good deal,” the 64-year-old saleswoman assures her potential customer. “She only has 100,000 miles on her.”

But what really gets Wilkes’ engine running is a big change just down the road. Wilkes is a two-minute drive from the Abraham Lincoln Birthplace, home to the 16th president’s famous log cabin. In a few weeks, the sign marking that site will read "Ford Lincoln National Park.”

"It's a way for us to support the national park,” she say, “and it's good for business. People see that sign and they know that Ford supports our presidents, even if they're dead."

Commercial sponsorships at national landmarks are likely to become more common as the federal government attempts to squeeze revenue from wherever it can. The National Park Service has long sold concession rights so businesses can operate inside parks. Those licenses bring in some $60 million a year. Now the Park Service is going one step further by selling naming rights.

Some budget experts say the move could appeal to both parties.

"I think that conservatives support this 100 percent because to the extent that you allow the private sector into the government sector you improve its efficiency," says Kevin Hassett, director of economic policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute. He adds that the sponsorship windfall will offset some of the across-the-board budget cuts mandated by the sequester.

"People are looking at billions of dollars in potential,” Hassett says. “I think pretty much every corner of government is going to have a name on it."

The government won't simply sell to the highest bidder. It wants to match monuments with sponsors whose names or logos are appropriate.

"The Statue of Liberty is going to become the Statue of Liberty Mutual, and we also understand that McDonald’s is trying to sponsor the Gateway Arch in St. Louis," Hassett says.

Another deal in the works is Johnson & Johnson's $200 million bid to have Band-Aid sponsor the Wounded Knee Battlefield. The park service will formally announce the program today, April 1.

About the author

Sabri Ben-Achour is a reporter for Marketplace, based in the New York City bureau. He covers Wall Street, finance, and anything New York and money related.
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Niagara Falls will be re-named Viagra Falls. To remain competitive, Cialis will sponsor the Old Faithful geyser at Yellowstone. Proactive acne treatment has first shot at Meteor Crater Park in Arizona. And of course, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park belongs to Pepto Bismol.

Do you know what's pathetic about this sponsoring National Parks "joke" - it is a reality NOW. America is selling its soul in advertising rights because no one wants to pay taxes on anything. Corporations have our eyeballs 24/7 and we can't turn the commercials off. When we name our state icons will they be responsible for the liabilities too? Name a bridge and if it collapses the corporation must pay all damages. The almightly Corporation has replaced humanity and responsibility. Truly pathetic from every angle. The "joke" is on America.

Much better than 90's re-enactors or dolphin war stories. My all time favorite is still the promo spot for Soylent corporation environmental initiative that ended, "At Soylent, Green is people."

Ok. You got me when you started talking about selling the naming rights to public parks because in Virginia our legislature is entertaining the same bad idea to sell naming rights to roads and bridges to pay for highways. I was groaning at the stupidity of government on the cheap all the way through the story until you got to the Band-aids on Wounded Knee! It was just to close to home!

Thanks for making me laugh.

I was amazed with Marketplace's poor April Fools "joke"research of Wounded Knee Massacre. Think, Band Aids and the My Lai massacre and the inappropriate nature of the association should be crystal clear.

I nearly drove off the road listening to Marketplace in the car tonight. Corporate sponsorship and take-over of our natural and valuable historic assets is actually no joke. What you are referring is already happening across the country. In the last two years I've formed a volunteer group to protect our valuable and beautiful assets from being put up for sale in my state, having watched it occur across the county where I travel. We just stopped our state senators from the ludicrous idea of selling our scenic byways and state highways to the digital billboard industry. This after 50 years of advertising protections dating back even before the Lady Bird Highway Beautification Act. I only wish it were an April's Fool joke. Within the year you won't be able to replay this piece and get one chuckle.

Band-Aid naming rights to Wounded Knee? Bad Bad and not funny. Too soon? Yeah. It'll be not too soon for this joke about the time it will be appropriate to report that Hebrew National is acquiring naming rights to Auschwitz.

I had even forgotten it was the first of the month! You totally got me. I'm someone who tends to see the movie "Idiocracy" as eerily prophetic. I am also a resident of Atlanta, and our zoo, while lovely, boasts such attractions as the Ford African Plain and -I kid you not- The Orkin Children's Zoo. By the time the Statue of Liberty Mutual was mentioned I had a full blown stomach ache and a new found passionate resolve to hike the Appalachian Trail. It was an excellent April Fool's! I'm thankful it was just a joke, of course, but I'm still going to hike the AT- before it is sponsored by Nike.

Yeah, real creative, but your pick of wounded knee is totally misguided. Maybe you people move a little faster than the real world. Give it another century to heal. Genicide is no joke.


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