Donors want to leave their mark, their legacy, in a way that reflects their passions. Hospitals that conduct research and advance medicine are a common passion among donors who have been affected by a serious illness, either their own illness or that of a family member.
What could be a better legacy for this type of donor than having his or her name publicly displayed on the top of a new hospital facility that represents the source of their passion? So many hospitals today offer the naming rights to their high profile endeavors such as a new heart hospital or cancer center. But at what cost?
There are several risks to offering high profile naming rights. It might be exciting to promote a new cardiac hospital and announce the gift and the naming rights for the launch. But when another donor buys the naming rights to the new Cancer Center and another names the Neurology Institute, we begin to have too many names for the average consumer to remember. How much time and money will it take to build equity in each of these new names? And if these resources are not available, how does the master brand maintain equity when these new donor-named centers are getting the majority of marketing support?
Another risk is the integrity of the hospital brand if a donor, or the donor’s business or family, gets into legal or ethical trouble. What if Tiger Woods had named your new heart hospital? Or if Bernie Madoff bought the naming rights to your new cancer hospital? Do you really want to take that risk knowing the hospital image will be closely tied to the legacy of the donor over time. It may be tough to ‘control’ your hospital’s image and reputation in the media, but it is impossible to control your donor’s image.
There are many donors that are affiliated with more than one brand in a given market. If the same donor buys the naming rights to a baseball stadium, a hospital and a medical research center, which one will get the most exposure? Which one will your audience most strongly associate with the Donor’s name? And how many marketing budgets are you competing with to differentiate your brand?
Most hospitals today cannot build new facilities and centers without the help of significant donors. However, it is important to evaluate the integrity and equity of the master brand before ‘selling’ naming rights that have the potential to confuse or even undermine your master brand.