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October 19, 2004

What’s Next In School Advertising? Day Care Sponsorships?

FROM ANXIOUS, OPPORTUNISTIC AND DESPERATE high schools are coming innovative—but what some are calling unspeakable—revenue-generating tactics that come right out of the college and pro ranks.


• Regional high school basketball championships in Southern California are now the Toyota championships (the company paid $165,000 for this designation).

• The San Joaquin County (California) football championship is now the Les Schwab Tires Division I Championship (cost: $183,000).

• The Sweetwater Union High School District (near San Diego) has sponsorship contracts with Nike, Pepsi, Pep Boys, a local pizza outlet and nearly 300 other businesses. The supplemental revenues from these sponsorships allowed the district to create freshman teams at 12 high schools and intramural sports at 12 middle schools.

• High schools in three Texas towns--Forney, Tyler and Midland--have each sold their football stadiums naming rights for more than a million dollars.

• In Miramar, Fla., the Eastern Financial Florida Credit Union forked over half a million dollars for naming rights to a high school football stadium.

• Vernon Hills High School (near Chicago) sold naming rights for $100,000 for what is now Rust-Oleum Field.

While the high school naming rights listed above are only a few of the many, and seem to involve substantial sums of money, they are merely a small drop in the Olympic sized pool that comprises naming rights sponsorships at college and pro levels. According to the Warsaw Sports Marketing Center, naming rights at college and pro levels roll up to a hefty $4 billion dollars.

Worse yet—or better yet? (it depends who you ask)—is news of what is considered to be the nation’s first-ever sale of gymnasium naming rights by an elementary, middle or high school. The Alice Costello Elementary School in Brooklawn, New Jersey (near Camden) has sold naming rights to its gym for $100,000 for 20 years.

"It's the wave of the future," Bruce Darrow, president of the Brooklawn school board, said. "I'm looking into selling advertising on the children's basketball uniforms."

School board and town officials have been intimidated for years by increasingly irate taxpayers clamoring for relief on their spiraling property taxes.

Despite the highly appealing new revenue stream that advertising and sponsorships represent, officials are experiencing a backlash from those who see these methods as entirely the wrong way to raise money.

Says Gary Ruskin, of Commercial Alert, a watchdog organization that works to restrain commercialism, "Schools exist to teach children to read, write, add and think, not to shop. So what are we teaching them with big corporate ads on civic institutions?"

And from Professor Alex Molnar at Arizona State University, "We have an enormous problem with overweight kids, who have poor diets lacking nutrition. How is a school district helping that problem by selling Pepsi ads all over the football stadium scoreboard?”

Meanwhile, back in Brooklawn NJ, Superintendent Dr. John Kellmayer unabashedly says there’s no turning back. "I understand it's a slippery slope. But we need the revenue. People say we went too far with our gym sign and I say: 'Look, we did not even have a gym. Is it better to not have a gym at all, or is it better that we have one with a ShopRite sign on it?' ''

Tough choices.

More later . . . .


(this 550 word excerpt—with attendant commentary—was extracted from a1706 word article in the New York Times of 10-18-04)