Shadow traffic isn't the only potential (if at times frustrating)
revenue opportunity the freeway offers, and transportation entities around the
country are ready and happy to road test a number of newer ones. And there was plenty
of talk about sponsorship-based plans for generating revenue at last week's
Transportation Research Board's (TRB) Midyear Meeting in Washington, D.C.
With transportation budgets getting reduced and safety
initiatives expanding, Departments of Transportation (DOTs) and other
transportation entities covered a full slate of topics. Those included non-conventional
advertising in airport terminals, and digital advertisements on transportation
infrastructure. But the standout new sponsorship opportunity is the ability to
brand our nation's busiest highways.
DOTs plan to capitalize on what traditional billboard
companies have known all along—motorists are the perfect captive audience
for sponsors to gain exposure for their brands. Drivers can't change the
channel. With the national average one-way commute now at 25.5 minutes,
Americans are spending almost an hour a day in their cars. Also, DOTs can offer
a competitive edge over traditional outdoor advertising by pitching signage in
"The signs within the right-of-way, such as the ones
indicating speed limits, provide the essential information motorists need to
legally drive on our nation's interstates," said G5 Sponsorships COO Matt
Hamill. "This opportunity gives brands the chance to benefit from a
behavior that every driver has been trained to do -- pay close attention to the
messages posted on DOT signage along the roads."
In fact, many major brands are already in negotiations for
the chance to be the inaugural sponsor in participating states.
Legalizing the Right-of-Way and Other DOT Assets
Offering sponsors exclusive DOT signage space hasn't always
been an option. It wasn't until March 13, 2012, that the Federal Highway
Administration (FHWA) issued an order that allowed sponsorship acknowledgement
on signage within the right-of-way on the nation's busiest roadways.
"One of the most common ways for highway agencies to recognize
the support provided by sponsors is through acknowledgment signs," outlines the
FHWA's official order. "However, there are a number of other options to
recognize sponsors, including acknowledgment on in-vehicle transponders,
service patrol vehicles, maintenance vehicles, outreach and educational
materials and Internet websites, as well as within telephone messages such as
those of 511 systems."
Since FHWA's official order, DOTs have begun valuing assets
and creating sponsorship packages with emphasis on their 511 Traveler
Information Systems; 511 was designated as the nationwide telephone number for
traveler information in 1999 by the Federal Communications Commission.
Currently more than 40 states across the country operate 511 systems serving millions
of Americans on a daily basis. Information on 511 varies from state to state,
but information reported usually includes major crashes, lane closures and
While 511 roadside signs are the most prominent offering for
marketers, other sponsorship opportunities include:
- 511 Mobile Applications
- 511 Website
Safety Service Patrol fleets (vehicles that travel up and down interstates
assisting motorists who have a flat tire, run out of gas or need other assistance)
- Rest Areas and Welcome Centers
Additionally, many states are beginning to look into naming
rights for other assets including bridges, tunnels and other existing
Each state undertakes its own policy on what type of brands
they will and will not allow to sponsor their assets. For example, many states
will prohibit companies related to any tobacco products, any alcohol or alcohol
related products (beer, wine, liquor, etc.) or any illegal drug use or drug
paraphernalia related items.
Brands Can Sponsor Safety
Above and beyond the cost-effective ad rates and exclusivity
of right-of-way signage, a sponsor's investment in the 511 Traveler Information
System promotes its brand's corporate social responsibility. Every dollar that
gets put into the sponsorship of 511 gets put back into the program. This
ensures that 511 can continue to be offered and even enhanced. Sponsors can
take credit for being an integral part of this program and show the citizens
that they have a vested interest in making their commute easier.
"Departments of Transportation are giving marketers a chance
to sponsor a reputable safety program," said Matt Hamill. " saves drivers
time and fuel, reduces stress and enhances safety. It's a win for the sponsors and
it's a win for the states."
G5 Sponsorships (www.g5sponsorships.com) is a division of transportation
communications firm Global-5. It manages ad sponsorship initiatives for state
Departments of Transportation and tolling agencies, the Federal Highway
Administration, transit agencies and other transportation clients.