Citigroup has made it clear (again and again) that they have no plans to back out of their naming-rights deal for the Mets’ new ballpark, but they might be wondering what exactly they’re getting for their $400 million. Yes, they’ll have their name on a state-of-the-art ballpark, and whenever an announcer mentions where exactly he’s broadcasting from, he’ll be forced to say “Citi Field.” But their branding won’t be as ubiquitous as the bank might hope. First, there is that unpopular “inaugural season” patch the Mets will wear — the one that looks like the Domino’s logo — that doesn’t show the stadium’s name. (That’s because MLB rules consider that a form of prohibited sponsorship.)
And now comes word that when the adjacent 7-train station is rechristened before Opening Day, it won’t be called Citi Field/Willets Point, but rather Mets/Willets Point. Why? Because the MTA insisted that for the stadium’s name — and thus, the company’s name — to be used, Citigroup would have to pay a rights fee. Unsurprisingly, the company declined. (We’d have loved, by the way, to have been a fly on the wall during those negotiations, when the cash-strapped MTA asked bailout-receiving Citigroup for money, and when it was clear they wouldn’t pay, turned their attention to the Mets, whose owner lost who knows how much to Bernie Madoff.) This isn’t even taking into account the incalculable damage that the onslaught of “Taxpayer Field” cracks has done by subliminally associating the company’s name not with with baseball and summer and good times, but with TARP funds and a crappy economy. That’s the kind of publicity you usually spend millions to avoid, not invite.