There are 5686 Oyster Card validators across the London Underground network.
How much do you think it would cost to sponsor them all?
The answer is £1,647,437.50 plus VAT.
That's according to a contract which has recently appeared in the darker recesses of the TfL website, pre-empting a Freedom of Information request.
The sponsors with bottomless pockets are a well-known American multinational technology company - the really big one that isn't Apple, Amazon or Facebook.
They have a digital wallet platform which owners of Android devices can use to make mobile payments. It can already be used to pay fares on the tube, but the company wants to make a big fuss in the hope that more people will start to use it. Hence the two million dollar price tag... for what's essentially a re-stickering project.
Every Oyster validator on the Underground network will have its yellow sticker replaced before the end of March. Pink Oyster readers are not affected. Oyster pads on ticket machines will not be changed. The DLR, Overground and trams will remain unsullied.
Here's what the new stickers will look like. n.b. I've replaced the the sponsor's mobile payment brand with an alternative phrase, but the size and layout is identical.
The 'Sponsor Logo', as it's called, is no longer yellow.
The new design removes the simple 'swiped card' logo and instead places a generic contactless payment logo centre stage. The name of the sponsor's mobile payment method appears in big letters above the logo, while four bank card payment types appear in smaller type below, along with specific mention of Oyster.
Payment methods which are not mentioned include Apple Pay, Paypal, Chase Pay, Amazon Pay, Samsung Pay, Alipay, WeChat Pay, Amex Pay, Barclaycard bPay, Visa Checkout, MasterPass, Garmin Pay, Uber Money, Facebook Pay and Libra... indeed, mention of these fifteen payment methods is expressly forbidden in the sponsorship contract.
TfL are paying for the new stickers, which will be of the same material and quality as the current yellow stickers. They'll also be paying to remove them all at the end of the year, unless the sponsor agrees to pay up again and extend the campaign.
And it's not just 5686 stickers. That £1,647,437.50 (plus VAT) also pays for the following...
• Rights to 1 million impressions on advertising on www.tfl.gov.uk: the homepage and the journey planner
• Rights to exclusive Sponsor Logo-branded stickers to be added to the Oyster Card Readers at five top stations of the sponsor’s choice for a two week period commencing on the Launch Date. (King's Cross, London Bridge, Stratford, Tottenham Court Road, Victoria)
• Rights to have dominant advertising on the TfL.gov.uk website from 12.00 midnight until 11.59pm on the Launch Date.
• Rights to a joint press release.
• Rights to develop a social media campaign with the TfL social media team themed round the sponsorship.
You're going to be seeing a lot of this campaign.
TfL received their first payment of £313,000 (+VAT) back in December when the contract was signed. The next payment of £285,000 (+VAT) is due at the end of March, which is the rollout completion date. Three further quarterly payments of £285,000 (+VAT) will follow, with a final payment of £194,437.50 (+VAT) at the end of February 2021.
Financially it's doubly good news for TfL. They need the cash because government funding has been withdrawn and because fewer of us are travelling. Also, every passenger they can tempt off Oyster and onto a payment system run by somebody else saves on processing costs.
Goodbye Oyster, G'Day contactless mobile payment. Coming soon to a yellow pad near you.