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“Turn your brand into a destination”: toponymic commodification and the branding of place in Dubai and Winnipeg

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The selling of naming rights to corporate sponsors has led urban policymakers to increasingly view the identities of public places as rent-generating assets to fund urban infrastructure. Yet few scholars have critically analyzed this emerging global trend of toponymic commodification and the seeking of “naming rent.” Through a combination of archival research, on-site field observations, and semi-structured interviews, this study examines how the practice of toponymic commodification is transforming the cultural landscapes of contemporary cities by considering two naming rights programs: Dubai’s Metro Naming Rights Initiative and the Sponsor Winnipeg Program. In each case, we explore the implications of commodifying public place names as well as the conflicting perceptions of such sponsorship programs. In doing so, the present study illustrates how the selling of naming rights is reshaping the built environment into a space of symbolic/economic capital transformations as brands become destinations and public places are reconceived as marketing opportunities.
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Keywords: Critical toponymy; Dubai; Winnipeg; naming rights; neoliberal urbanism

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Geography, University of Victoria, Victoria, Canada 2: Department of Geography, University of Calgary, Calgary, Canada

Publication date: July 3, 2019

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