Space, the final frontier… for brands.
And it’s looking all the more possible as NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine has directed the space agency that put a man on the moon to look at boosting its own brand and possibly help cover some of the costs by allowing the sale of naming rights on rockets and spacecraft.
This is not some mid-level manager musing for the media, these are directives from the very top. Bridenstine additionally directed the agency to explore the benefits of letting astronauts appear in commercials and work as brand spokespersons, much like celebrity athletes.
Officials were quick to stress that nothing has been decided, but the idea is out there – really out there.
As the Washington Post reports, Bridenstine announced the establishment of the exploratory committee to look at what he called the “provocative questions” of turning its rockets into billboards similar to the way brands advertise on race cars.
“Is it possible for NASA to offset some of its costs by selling the naming rights to its spacecraft, or the naming rights to its rockets?” Bridenstine asked. “I’m telling you there is interest in that right now. The question is: Is it possible? The answer is: I don’t know, but we want somebody to give us advice on whether it is.”
Bridenstine also said that it would be a good idea to have astronauts more accessible to journalists.
“I’d like to see kids growing up, instead of maybe wanting to be like a professional sports star, I’d like to see them grow up wanting to be a NASA astronaut or a NASA scientist,” he said. “I’d like to see, maybe one day, NASA astronauts on the cover of a cereal box, embedded into the American culture.”
It sounds like a noble thought, really, but the comparison isn’t relevant – sports stars are highly visible media stars in our “always on” world, astronauts simply are not, and don’t have time to be.
NASA currently has the same restrictive policy that applies to all U.S.government agencies that forbids government employees from even implying a product preference much less outright endorsing it.
As the Verge reports, NASA has consistently gone to great lengths to dispel notions that the agency is endorsing something commercial. Throughout the duration of the Space Shuttle program, the agency sent M&Ms into space for the astronauts. However, rather than refer to them by their brand name, NASA called them “candy-coated chocolates.”