Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Football's over. Why are some baseball names, too?

After Albert Pujols broke the hearts of Cardinals fans by signing with the Angels, guards had to be posted outside the baseball superstar's namesake restaurant in St. Louis. Management worried that jilted natives would literally scrap any connection with the first baseman, including the Pujols statue that stands outside what had been a dining shrine.

It's puzzling, even with the death of George Steinbrenner, that the tale of Pujols the Restaurant ends there. Aren't sports agents missing an opportunity to squeeze a few more bucks out of a client's stardom by selling restaurant naming rights?

Pujols' name might prompt St. Louis residents to curse and spit, if not riot (which explains why the restaurant has been renamed the St. Louis Sports Hall of Fame Bar and Grill.) But wouldn't the Pujols name be a tractor beam for any restaurant in Anaheim, the home of the Angels? A draw powerful enough to be worth some coin to a crafty entrepreneur?

It's actually not an original concept, just a rare one. Michael Jordan certainly knows the strength of licensing his name. His One Sixtyblue in Chicago just closed, but his three Michael Jordan's Steakhouses continue to soar.

The revenue potential hasn't been lost on former Bears coach Mike Ditka, either. Three restaurants carry his name.

Maybe it's a Chicago thing.

If that secondary market in naming rights was going to emerge, this is the year. We have Bobby Valentine, a coach still dear to many Mets fans, moving to the--it pains me to type it--Boston Red Sox. His Stamford namesake restaurant still remain deep in the heart of Yankee Nation.

Mariana Rivera will hopefully retire as a Yankee. But he's not getting any younger, and who knows what the front office might do? If he did play another year, he certainly could take his Mo's Grill with him.

But Pujols is the big kahuna. It's astonishing that no one in Anaheim is picking up his Q value.

What am I talking about? Get that idea out of your head right now, dear reader. And let me get Disney on the phone. I have a marketing idea for one of their Disneyland restaurants.

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