The Matawan Aberdeen Board of Education is considering selling advertising space throughout the district to corporate sponsors - on school buses, in classrooms, at athletic fields and online.
Roman Oben, the Northeast Regional Director for Advantage3 (A3), made a presentation to the board at their meeting Monday night, explaining how the alternative revenue generation company can help the district fund their budget and reduce the impact on tax payers.
"Monies are tight and we are looking for alternative sources of revenue and this firm helps school districts achieve that," said Business Administrator James Strimple. For the 2012-13 school year, 75.8%, or $47,966,733, of the revenue needed to support the district's $63.2 million budget will be collected through taxes.
While school districts are looking for alternative revenue sources, businesses and corporations are looking for alternative ways to reach the community as the success of traditional print advertising declines, Oben explained.
Board Member Dennis Daniels was worried that advertisements would consume the district's property and overwhelm students while also reducing available wall space for children's artwork and projects.
"Looking at this four year plan, it seems each year we have more advertisements and more advertisements. What happens to the student work? Like you said, we're not just talking scoreboards. We're talking cafeterias, we're talking libraries, we're talking hallways," Daniels said.
According to Oben, the district can designate areas to be left alone and they have the right to refuse a sponsor or specific ad at any point for any reason. No advertisement is considered unless it enhances the school's message and is appropriate.
"It's not signing a deal with the devil and turning this school into a bumper sticker for banks and insurance companies and opening the floodgates to let them all come in and put their stuff everywhere. We still believe in why you go to school, we still believe in the community. We want to enhance what a school is trying to do and not take away from it," Oben said.
He showed a before and after photo of a blank section of an auditorium wall. The section of wall was located behind the seats and is visible as people exit the auditorium. In the "before" photo, it was a flat cream color. In the "after" photo, it was the school's colors and had the school mascot next to an inspirational quote. The corporate sponsor's logo was proportionately the smallest aspect of the advertisement and was in a bottom corner. (See photo gallery for sample advertisements submitted for Brick Memorial High School)
The revenue can be used in any way that the district decides and it cannot be earmarked by the sponsor, Oben said. Additionally, the school is not bound by the corporation's agenda.
"For example, if Chase Bank or TD Bank wants to sponsor athletics and pay say $10,000 a year for the scoreboard, that doesn't mean that a representative from the bank is going to be here every Friday handing out information to sign seniors up for credit cards," Oben said. It could mean, however, that the district would be able to set up a career day or other event with the corporation.
The presentation was for informational purposes only, and no decision on whether or not to proceed with the advertising was made at the meeting. However, the board did express interest in learning more about the firm.
If the board does decide to advertise in the district, they would have to first choose which schools they would want to participate. There is a one time fee for each school that covers the cost of asset assessment and market analysis. It costs $7,500 per high school, $5,000 per middle school and $2,500 per elementary school. A3 does not take a percentage of advertising revenue until the district earns back the initial fee, but after that point they take 20% of the earnings.
After the schools are selected, the following project timeline is used, Oben said:
- Asset Assessment. A3 conducts a visit of each school, gathering data and professionally photographing all assets, such as the blank space above a white board in the classroom, an athletic field scoreboard, or blank walls within an auditorium.
- Asset Cataloging, Messaging and Packaging. A3 creates an inventory of the district's assets and desired message and begins searching for an appropriate corporate match.
- First Review and Right of Refusal. The district reviews the marking presentation and gives direction, approval or refusal. No third party will see it without district sign-off.
- Market Launch. With the inventory and approved sales materials in hand, A3 begins local and regional sponsor introductions, building toward national brands over time.
- Final Consideration and Right of Refusal. As A3 brings the district sponsor opportunities, the district retains the right to accept or decline any offer, for any reason.
- Production. The production team creates and installs the sponsor integration at the sponsor's cost.
- Maintenance Restoration. A3 repairs or replaces the signage for the life of the sponsor agreement. At the end of the term, A3 removes the integration and restores the facility to its original condition.
According to Oben, Hazlet, Red Bank and school districts are some of the area schools that use A3 for advertising.