The Portland Trail Blazers need a sponsor.
They need deep pockets to step forward with the sort of money that gets their name on the side of a building.
This is too big a job for Paul Allen and the Vulcans, the people who've been running the Blazers into … the future.
The best place to start the sponsor search is the money list from Forbes.
- The world's richest man is named Carlos Slim Helú. The Rose Garden would carry either his name, or his company, América Móvil, or both. How does The Carlos Slim Rose Garden brought to you by América Móvil sound? It may not be poetry, but it's money. And that's the point of the whole exercise.
A more traditional choice would be American Airlines. They named the arenas for the Mavericks and the Heat. Maybe the Blazers could squeeze into one of their coach seats.
- America's richest man, Bill Gates, may not be on Paul Allen's short list of naming sponsors, but he's got sixty one billion reasons why he should be. The Bill and Melinda Gates Rose Garden sponsored by Microsoft?
Mr. Gates has an expressed goal of eliminating many infectious and deadly diseases around the world. The poisonous culture and repeated trips to the NBA lottery won't kill any sports fans, but it does leave a dead spot in our hearts. In addition, Gates promotes his 'Giving Pledge' to his fellow tycoons where they give away large chunks of money. If possible, he could give Portland a winning team?
Compaq computers named the building the Rockets play in. They run on Windows. If a high tech sponsor fits Houston, why not here with the Silicon Forest?
- Warren Buffet ranks one step below Bill Gates, and a few billion dollars lighter. He's so rich he gives the Gates Foundation billions to work with, so he'd be a natural for the Rose Garden without the Microsoft baggage that Paul Allen dropped. This man campaigns for higher taxes on the super-rich. Anyone arguing for higher taxes needs new friends. Portland would throw out the welcome mat.
Warren Buffet's Rose Garden sponsored by Berkshire Hathaway? Let the winning begin again.
One thing to avoid is a weird bank sponsored name like the Celtics Fleet Center. While there's nothing wrong with Fleet Bank, the name recognition for the non-sports fan goes another direction. Go to any drug store and ask for fleet and you'll be directed to the personal hygiene section, not a sports palace.
- Larry Ellison takes the bronze medal in American wealth, third place behind Gates and Buffet. He's got the right look for Portland, given the new residency of one-time computer wizard John McAfee. They're both a similar age, both use hair paint and beard tints. Because Ellison appears a healthier version of 'eccentric rich guy', a sports connection is natural. He enjoys tennis, and like Paul Allen, big boats. And he's a player who's been married and divorced four times.
Larry Ellison presents The Rose Garden Sponsored by Oracle?
At the end of the naming search, Portland wins if they avoid an international corporation like Houston's Toyota Center, Denver's Pepsi Center, and Los Angeles' Staples Center. A Japanese car builder, a mixer of caffeinated sugar water, and an office supply store don't sound Portland enough.
Preserving Portland's natural difference is key. Yes, this is a small market, too small for minor league baseball, but still big enough for major league soccer. It's a river city with water as a natural divider. Most important, the Blazers owner remains in the top fifty of the world's richest people. He needs a naming rights income stream as much as Carlos Slim needs a new cell phone.
Mr. Allen needs to tell his business advisors, "Let's do the naming rights in a way that fits Portland and only Portland. Let's pick one outstanding Portland institution each quarter, put their name on the Rose Quarter, and donate a percentage of that quarter's income to them. Gates can do his Giving Pledge with his pals, but we can do something different. I was named the most philanthropic American by the Chronicle of Philanthropy in 2011, so I've got some weight to carry. This fits Portland just right."
What would Portland say back? Thank you, Paul Allen.