“It’s part Super Bowl, part experiential mega arena, part center of commerce, part social network,” Essex told CNBC by phone, adding that he expects to have a deal signed this year.
It would have to be a brand that has the right entertainment value, Essex added. “Events must become more eventful, otherwise people stay home and watch Netflix,” he said. “So what does it take to get people out of the house today?”
Project mock-ups show a retail space with multiple floors, one of which shows an Apple-like store, though Essex would not comment on discussions.
The company isn’t disclosing the value of any deal, but naming rights alone tend to run into the hundreds of millions of dollars. The rights to Mercedes-Benz Stadium, home of the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons and host of this year’s Super Bowl, are reported to have cost the auto maker $324 million over 28 years, for example.
Naming rights for venues are nothing new, but this deal is different because it likely includes retail and performance spaces, Essex said. “The entire superstructure, the retail space is fungible. So could one have an esports arena? Can the stage be indoor (and) outdoor? Can you broadcast or stream directly? There’s quite literally no limit to what’s possible, because nothing is already purpose-built,” he said.
Marketing veteran and CNBC contributor Mike Jackson said his approach would be to look for several partners. “I could see them trying to get partners like Apple or Amazon or one of the telecoms to really maintain a huge presence … as things like 5G (high-speed mobile communications) come on board to deliver that integration of the retail space with the advertising platform, as well as the ability to use that broadcast venue in the theater,” he told CNBC by phone.
“If I’m … Apple, I don’t want to just buy signage or sponsorship. I literally have to think long term, because I’ve got to believe that that building is going to have a huge innovative presence for the next 20 to 25 years,” said Jackson, principal of consulting firm 2050 Marketing and CEO of vehicle services company Motus One.
Data will be an important part of the tower, and with 5G integration, more complex ways of advertising become possible. Location-tracking technology that serves ads to people after they’ve left a store is already used by retailers.
For Dave Etherington, chief commercial officer at Place Exchange, a programmatic exchange that automates the buying and selling of digital outdoor media, it’s a move forward for hitting people with advertising when they’re outside their homes.
“Traditional out-of-home media companies (are) now playing a much more … active role in thinking about physical spaces in the way that they work with venues and cities (and) in the way that brands can help fund experiences,” he told CNBC by phone. “It’s not unusual to see the Facebooks, the Googles, the Spotifys using out-of-home as the main channel for their branding.”
Using augmented reality technology might allow people to “watch” performances via their smartphone, if a device is held facing the TSX stage, for example.
Retailers want to entice them to shop in the brick-and-mortar world. Makeup brand Cover Girl, for instance, opened a flagship Times Square store on Black Friday 2018, with the goal of creating “the ultimate shared beauty experience,” according to an online release.
But with many people abandoning malls to shop online, Jackson is concerned about whether TSX will be able to attract a high-end retailer. “The thing that scratches my head is … obviously the foundation of that is going to be to fill the retail space with the high-quality brands that would also have the wherewithal, both from a financial standpoint as well as from a creative standpoint, to do something innovative in retail.”