September 12, 2012 • Athletic Administration

Accept that corporate sponsorships are here to help

Don’t knock corporate sponsorships. You may not like the look and feel of seemingly intrusive logos popping up at high school basketball arenas and football fields, but the truth is they’ll save many sports from the death penalty.

And don’t say you didn’t see it coming — property tax caps, dwindling athletic budgets, increased participation. At some point the bubble had to burst, and when it did schools were willing to accept with open arms the millions of dollars corporations were prepared to spend on sponsorship opportunities.

But here’s the thing: it’s not bad. Embrace the revenue and be thankful that it provides interscholastic student-athletes the chance to continue playing the game they love.

There are limits, and I’m not advocating for a corporate free-for-all that plasters advertisements on everything from backboards to the players themselves. However, sponsorships fill a void partially created by a sluggish economy that’s affected both school budgets and fundraising revenue. Without them, opportunities are lost.

Over the past year, I’ve visited various high school athletic facilities that were either undergoing a renovation or recently completed one. Most fought for taxpayer support with varying levels of success. In most cases, they tapped booster clubs and used other fundraisers, but there’s only so much help you can get from parents who are struggling themselves.

Corporate revenue helps programs manage the growth, and interscholastic sports have grown significantly over the last 10 years. By using sponsorships, athletic departments are able make the necessary changes to their facilities and keep sports alive that might otherwise be tossed to the curb.

An NBC article last month highlighted several Indiana schools using advertisements to pay for bleachers, scoreboards, fields and new buildings. These partnerships helped drive down, or in some cases completely eliminate, participation fees. The athletic director for one of the schools said the parents didn’t “view it as selling out,” so it’s refreshing to see that communities (at least in Indiana) understand.

“We don’t really have the money to spend on facilities,” one superintendent said, as quoted by NBC. “We don’t want to try to have a bond. We don’t want to ask the taxpayers for more. We don’t want to ask kids to have to pay to play sports. So trying to be creative is a good way to go.”

I completely agree. It’s understandable if change makes some people uneasy, but there’s nothing to fear. The idea that this is the beginning of a corporate takeover is overstated, and athletic directors know where to draw the line if it ever reaches that point.

Schools are financially strapped. Families are struggling. Accepting corporate sponsorships and advertising is a shot in the arm for athletic departments with few options. It would be wise to embrace it, even if you do so cautiously.

Kevin Hoffman is the editorial director for Coach & Athletic Director. He can be reached at [email protected].

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