Sponsored Living

Last month I received a press release announcing that Park Fifth, a new condo development here in Los Angeles, has started to offer 5-year memberships in the local Museum of Contemporary Art to anyone who buys a home in the high-rise.
These memberships come as part of an elite residential package, complete with “generously sized balconies or terraces,” a few “entertaining areas” scattered throughout the building, and even some “rooftop pools” – all in what will soon be “the tallest residential building west of Chicago.”
In other words, a little art will come with your luxury.

From the press release:

Much in the same way that MOCA has become a culturally inspiring part of Downtown Los Angeles, Park Fifth intends to weave exquisite taste and a luxurious artistic atmosphere throughout its entire development while giving a spacious, yet Californian feel to it.

The project manager of the building then speculates that “homeowners who are attracted to the bold, modern architecture and design aesthetic of Park Fifth will also appreciate the benefits of MOCA membership.”

[Image: A screen-grab from the Park Fifth website].

The reason I’m posting this, though, is not to make fun of the condo project, but because I love the idea of applying fringe benefits to residential real estate. Anything to make people sign on the dotted line.
Your $800,000 condo comes with… a free subscription to The New Yorker. Or maybe a pre-assembled IKEA bookcase full of Penguin Classics.
You get a luxury condo and cultural literacy. Dating has never been easier.
After all, such benefits wouldn’t even cost a developer that much to include. A 5-year Household Membership at MOCA only costs $500 – but folding that into your new $1 million condo purchase has psychological impact: you may have spent that money on something else, for instance, and, this way, you can feel unthreateningly forced into a socially useful lifestyle change.
For instance, you could buy a new home in the suburbs… and get 250 Vintage contemporary fiction paperback books thrown in as a signing bonus. Within two years you’ll know everything there is to know about American fiction at the turn of the 21st century. Your house could even come with a Borders Rewards card. Hell, you could get a free two-year membership in the Microbrewed Beer of the Month club.
Or everyone on your street in the desert outside Phoenix gets a free Smart Car. Residential brand synergies go into hyperdrive.
It’d be like those celebrity goodie bags that people like Leonardo DiCaprio and Tyra Banks apparently get on Oscar night – only it’d be for homeowners. In other words, the developers of your building have partnered with the local small business bureau, so that the 2 bed/1 bath home you and your spouse just bought comes complete with 2 free tickets, every week, to the local cinema – as well as 10% off at the nearby Italian restaurant and a free double espresso on your birthday from the Starbucks in the ground floor lobby.
Or season tickets to the Eagles.
It’s the couponing of the residential experience. Toll Brothers signs a marketing contract with Playboy (NSFW), and so that new bungalow you just bought in the Chartresian labyrinth of cul-de-sacs outside Tuscaloosa comes complete with every single issue of Playboy magazine.
Houses sell out within days and the neighborhood divorce rate skyrockets.

[Image: Another screen-grab from the Park Fifth website].

Or Richard Branson goes into home development: Virgin Homes. Virgin Condos. Thus, you buy a Virgin Flat and you get two free round-trip tickets, every year for five years, on Virgin Airlines. Anywhere in the world.
It’s the future of sponsored living. Corporate residentialism.
Having said all this, I have to admit – or perhaps it’s obvious – that I think offering 5-year memberships at MOCA to all future tenants in the Park Fifth is actually a brilliant marketing move. In fact, at the risk of sounding more enthusiastic than I really am about the commercial possibilities inherent in domestic property ownership, I think fringe benefits of this kind are undoubtedly the future of successful real estate marketing – and that more and more corporate partnerships, between property developers, magazines, airlines, hoteliers, restaurants, book publishers (a free copy of the BLDGBLOG Book for every KB Home customer!), film production companies, beauty products firms, grocery supply chains, health clubs, etc., will wildly proliferate over the next decade. Whether you want them to or not.
Buy your house now – and get a complete line of L’Oreal for Men delivered to your door every three months. And a complimentary ticket to Disneyworld.

14 thoughts on “Sponsored Living”

  1. No – but what I’m saying is that these are brilliant marketing moves. Whether we want this to happen or not, I think corporate partnerships like these (between home developers and the other kinds of companies that I list above, from magazine publishers to Honda) are going to start appearing on the market, with more and more regularity, over the next few years.

    The housing market will soon be saturated with corporate sponsorships. That’s all this post is trying to say.

  2. It definitely points to the reality that modern and contemporary art, which have so often positioned themselves as “radical”, are actually luxe status symbols primarily consumed by, and produced for, the economic and cultural elite.

  3. I can see how the first half of this post does sound a bit like I’m earnestly advocating the inclusion of classic novels with every home purchase… but I think by the time you get to the celebrity goodie bags comment that it’s at least a bit more clear that this post is simply commenting on – and even mocking – the corporate accessorization of the residential homeowner experience…?

    Hopefully that’s clear. Again, though, corporate sponsorships are the way of the future for residential real estate. This is a diagnosis not a form of advocacy.

  4. I was just thinking about that scene in ‘It’s A Wonderful Life,’ where George Bailey and his wife give some bread and some salt (for warmth and health) to the newest resident of their low-cost housing development.

  5. Sophisticated branding is definitely a growing trend in residential real estate. Home purchases, just like clothing purchases, are a chance to make a public statement about who you are. People see purchasing a museum-affliated as a way to assert their appreciation of the arts. I’m sure the developer calculated a healthy price premium into the pro forma for the affliation with the museum. It’s likely well beyond the cost of membership, but probably about what a handful of people are willing to pay to assert their desired connoisseur identity.

    There’s another art museum-affliated luxury condo tower in the works in Dallas. Pieces from the Dallas Museum and Nasher collections will rotate through a residents-only gallery on the ground floor, and monthly talks by curators are planned.

    I’ve also heard rumors about a condo building affiliated with National Public Radio in Washington, DC. Residents would have exclusive access to NPR talkshow hosts, among other perks.

    As much as corporate, or at least institutional, branding seems to be the way of the future, I can’t help but wonder if it isn’t just a passing fad. It reminds me of when carmakers teamed up with clothing companies like Eddie Bauer and Nautica to create special edition SUVs. The cross branding never really took off. Corporate sponsorsed real estate would involve a lot of headaches and a lot of legal fees for developers, but who knows if it will translate into higher prices or faster sales paces?

  6. Ah yes. One stroke further into the abyss of the “consumer society”. Soon we will have neighborhood rivalries between soccermoms routing for the “Microsoft Vista’s” against the “Virgin Atlantics” as entire tracts of new neighborhoods offer flights versus laptops. It will be miraculous when gangs living in the corporate towers meet in the playground to settle which museum has the best exhibit this month. I am just relishing in the sense of community it will help enliven.

    Again a great post. Thanks.

  7. Although sponsered living is a novel concept i do question membership to MOCA.Taking into consideration various buyer groups, how many would actually think that that is a great bargain versus the price they will have to pay.On the other hand a smart car does sound like an enticing offer.

  8. Car dealerships have for years given away hot dogs and balloons to entice potential buyers onto their lots. Imagine having to admit to yourself that a weenie had something to do with the purchase of your $40,000 automobile. Then there’s the Prius that comes with a years worth of gas.

  9. There was a place in mpls a few years ago that had a raffle for a free car if you bought a condo… That’s right, it was a $300,000, 2 bed – 2 bath raffle ticket.

  10. How about this for cross-brand marketing – spotted it in dubai (where else?) recently:
    “DAMAC, that ever reliable special offers construction company has done it again, and this time it has gone beyond all expectations. The former catering company turned property heavyweight has gone one better than offering free Jaguar cars to anyone who bought an apartment at last years Dubai Shopping Festival. (…)
    One lucky person out of the first 700 customers at DSF 2006 / 2007 will get the Eclipse 500 Jet and anyone buying a property will get a Jaguar car (only after the completion of the project).”
    Read all about it here: http://www.thedubailife.com/index.php/main/blog/buy_an_apartment_get_a_private_jet

  11. My place came with a pen-pal. They write me every month. Needy SOBs though.

    gimme, gimme, gimme . . .

    At least I am not lonely.

  12. is already happening in asia, u bought the apartment and u become certain yoga club member or any wine club or fine dinning discount… what they sell is the “life-style” not only architecture.

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