School districts are scrambling to find ways to make their ends meet more than ever these days. With property tax caps in place and other funding limits that restrict how much money can be collected, new sources of income are being sought out. One of the most promising ideas is to allow schools to sell advertising space on property grounds. It may expose children, parents, and employees to additional branding, but the costs to bring in profits are very small – if they even exist.
Should districts be allowed to sell advertising space? Here is a look at the advertising in schools pros and cons to take a look at each key point involved.
What Are the Pros of Advertising in Schools?
The primary benefit of advertising in schools is that it has had a two decade track record of success already. Schools in Colorado were the first to begin selling advertising space on school buses and the trend just expanded from there. Some districts are able to clear $250,000 per advertisement per school bus if the advertisement is in a prominent location, which is a much needed boost of cash that can help provide educational opportunities. Here are the additional pros to consider.
1. It allows a school to upgrade their equipment.
Children today are fortunate enough to live in a world where technology is expanding by leaps and bounds. This requires their educational opportunities to involve that technology and that’s often where a school is unable to keep up. Advertising in schools gives a district the chance to upgrade their equipment, their curriculum, and their facilities so that modern technology can be part of the current educational process.
2. It keeps a school in the business of educating.
Even public schools need to have some sort of profit neutrality in order to stay in existence. If a school loses too much money, it is going to close and place a burden on the families in that areas. Soliciting sponsorships through advertising allows all schools, including private and charter schools, to maintain their funding levels so that programs don’t have to be sacrificed or class sizes increased just so that the budget can make ends meet.
3. It lowers the burden on taxpayers.
Schools cost money. There’s just no getting around it. Many communities allow school districts to be funded by a certain levy that is placed on land and/or property ownership. Although this levy percentage is often small, between 1-2% in many communities, that can be a burden on some households. After all, 1% of a $100,000 home is $1,000. By soliciting for advertising in schools, the need for increased levies or taxation becomes less and this allows families to be able to save more of their hard-earned money or spend it on things their family needs.
4. It brings the local community together.
Although there are always going to be national level brands involved in school advertising [Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Jack Links, etc.], more often than not it is the local business that gets involved with this type of venture. School advertising gives them a chance to gain some brand recognition with local families and this allows them to bring the community together in a unique way. Even just a sponsorship sign on the baseball field fence shows parents that they are interested and concerned about the educational opportunities of children in their community.
5. It can enhance the brand exposure through free press coverage.
When a game winning home run is hit over the left field fence and that makes the local news feed, families will cheer the accomplishment. They’ll also be exposing themselves to the branding that is on that fence where the ball flew over it to win the game. This creates an unconscious positive association with the brand that happens every time someone sees the photograph or watches the video clip of the game winning clip. In return, as the business sees more success because of their advertising in schools, they’ll likely increase the amount of advertising that they are doing.
6. It is an affordable way to counter the actions of national brands.
Maybe a small business can’t afford a TV campaign or put together a series of radio spots, but they can afford to purchase new helmets for the football team or buy a trophy case that stands prominently in a school hallway. National brands build relationships every day with people because they can put their brands everywhere – including movies and TV shows. Having the trophy case say “Sponsored by ABC Company” may seem like it has a minimal impact, but every time someone stops to look at a school’s accomplishments, they’ll see the advertising.
What Are the Cons of Advertising In Schools?
The primary disadvantage of advertising in schools is that it creates an influential impact on students, especially young students, that may not be beneficial. Children under the age of 8 tend to believe everything they see or are told when it comes to corporate branding. If they are exposed to certain brands every day as they ride the bus or play games during their physical education class, then they are going to crave these items and spend their money on them when they have it. Here are the other disadvantages to consider.
1. It gives corporations an influence on how children are educated.
Businesses need to receive a return on their advertising investment for advertising in schools to make sense. This means brands will consistently pressure districts to educate students on certain subjects in certain ways. If an oil company had sponsorship cash invested into a school district, for example, it may want the schools to discuss more about how their industries work to save ocean life from drilling activities instead of the possibilities of increased earthquakes happening in a fracking region.
2. It gives brands personal information about students.
As the saturation of the internet continues to grow, big data is what eventually rules the day in virtually every industry. Advertising in schools is not any different. Businesses can ask for demographic data about the students and information about personal habits, income levels, and other information that could be seen as an invasion of privacy. This data could also be misued to create specific advertising that was meant to generate direct income from the students or expose them to a higher risk of identity theft.
3. It’s a captive audience.
Unless kids are being homeschooled, the children who are within a school district which sells advertising space are a very captive audience. They are stuck in front of those brands for up to 8 hours every day. Parents have little or no control over this brand exposure and there could be marketing efforts in place that go against their personal family values, religious beliefs, or similar problems.
4. It reverses the educational process.
Teachers and brands have one thing in common: both need to build relationships in order to be effective. When advertising is allowed into schools, then this is the first step a business needs to begin building a relationship with a student. Once built, that student will become loyal to that brand at the expense of any other unless there is a change in the value ratio that offsets the loyalty. This often means a student exposed to branding at school becomes a lifelong supporter of those brands. What is more valuable to a business? A parent with 30-50 years of spending potential or a student with 70-90 years of spending potential?
5. It could drive certain brands out of business.
An interesting dynamic begins to occur over time with advertising in schools. Soon households begin to prefer the brands that are advertising in the schools over those that are not. Many small businesses operate on tight budgets as it is and just can’t afford to get involved in this type of advertising. If that means households begin to prefer other organizations, it could put them out of business very quickly.
6. There is no real control over the target audience.
Even with personal information available and a general awareness of a community’s needs, there is still the fact that a brand has no control over who will see their brand, when they will see it, or how successful their promotional venture will be. A computer manufacturer might agree to give a classroom new computers in return for administration recommendations to parents to purchase the same equipment, but can they control if administrators will actually do this? Or can they determine if parents will actually make an investment? No. That means there are variables in place that may make the investment less attractive than other forms of advertising.
These advertising in schools pros and cons show that both sides of the equation must be carefully managed in order for this decision to be successful. The increased funding is extremely beneficial, but a school district doesn’t want to be “held hostage” by the demands of their advertisers either. If a true balance can be achieved, then this could be one part of the solution to help schools maintain or increased funding levels instead of having the budgets consistently slashed as is happening right now.