Jun 17, 2009 at 01:45 PM
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High Schools: the New Frontier for Sponsorship?

Remember those branded plastic footballs they used to fire into the stands at the local high school when you were growing up? That was one of my first brushes with corporate sponsorship back in the day. Apparently a lot has changed in Texas since the late '90's.

Dan Dunkin of the Philadelphia Intelligencer reports that some Texas high schools are securing $1 million+ naming rights deals and points to Southlake Carroll, who has 70 different sponsorship agreements/packages worth $326k, as a leader in the trend.

Critics argue that high school sponsorships may in his words over commercialize high-school age students. Perhaps we crossed that line a while back with a constant barrage of Facebook ads, film product placements and things like advergaming or should campuses be sacred territories shielded from commercialization? School administrators see both sides. Dunkin quotes several superintendents including Souderton superintendent Charles D. Amuso.

"Many school districts are doing this now. It's a way for districts to provide for additional private support and not for support from taxpayers. Because of the economic downturn, it's more difficult now."

There are many new agencies that would like to make it easy for brands to connect with high schools [and disclaimer: some high school marketing opportunities have registered with SponsorPitch]. And it's definitely not just stadiums and scoreboards either.

Dick's Sporting Goods CMO proposed the following question about the SAT:

"Sponsorship opportunity? There's a way to reach high school kids. SAT presented by Dick's?

Siemens (via Westinghouse) has long been involved with the Siemens Math, Science and Technology Competition, which is run by the Siemens Foundation and donates nearly $2 million dollars annually in awards and scholarships. Don't hear many complaints about this.

Driver's education by General Motors? Maybe not. Thinking back, how about the resell market. Driver's Ed by Autotrader? A few of those :30's could buy a lot of road time.

It's clear there is a lot of demand on both sides of the buy/sell equation, the question becomes how do you ensure that corporate involvement adds experiential value to students, grows revenue for the district and does not take away from process and tradition?

What's next and where do you draw the line as either a high school administrator or a marketer? Logos on high school sports uniforms? Remember, there were a lot of people who thought ads would never come to pro sports uniforms too. Tell us what you think about sponsorships at the high school level.