Pattye Benson

Community Matters

There’s Money in Naming Rights for School District Athletic Fields, Concession Stands, Auditoriums, etc. – T/E Explores the Possibilities

I attended last night’s School Board meeting, primarily for the presentation from Market Street Sports Group, a marketing advertising company from Lancaster County specializing in event sponsorships and ‘naming rights’ opportunities. Two Market Street representatives, Frank Hoke and Tracey Brubaker, explained that they have worked with various school districts using Hempfield School District in Lancaster County as an example and one of their clients. Through corporate sponsorships and naming rights on fields, concession stands, etc. the company raises additional funds for their clients.

The Market Street presentation answered some of the advertising and marketing questions. The school board would retain final approval on all corporate partners, proposals and contracts. Certain types of advertising is prohibited including advertising of lotteries, promotion of the sale or use of alcohol or tobacco products plus any service, product or point of view that is not acceptable to the school board. The Market Street Sports Group process includes creating an inventory of available resources for naming rights. Signage strategically placed in certain approved areas of schools, athletic fields, gyms, concession stands, auditoriums, or cafeterias are some possible naming locations.

Naming rights and signage can be lucrative to school districts – representatives cited that Hempfield School District earns $100-130K per year with various naming opportunities. A specific example was a banner over the concession stand on one of the school fields earns $30K for a 3-year contract, $10K per year. The cost of doing business with Market Street Sports Group does come with a price – a commission rate of 30%. As explained, the first 10% goes to the sales rep at Market Street (for selling the sponsorships), the next 10% to the local TESD representative and the final 10% to overhead costs (billing sponsors on monthly basis, credit card fees, etc.) The process involves more than just hanging a banner on a field – the sponsors require value for their marketing dollars as well as the school districts gaining additional funding. Through ‘active engagement’, the sponsors reach customers in a specific demographic area through public address announcements, website advertising, promotions and giveaways at sporting events, etc.

Hoke, who serves as chief financial officer of Market Street, was asked if the 30% commission rate was negotiable and his response was vague and not positive. An audience member who quickly Googled the Hempfield School District (which was used as an example by Market Street) suggested that the average income level in Hempfield was probably half of the average income level in T/E. She suggested that the T/E community had the capacity for making more money for Market Street (with no greater effort) so perhaps that should be considered when looking at the commission rate. Although the representatives were polite, I am not certain that the 30% would be negotiable.

School directors questioned how Market Street would find (and hire) a local representative in the TESD. Working with the school district and administration, the company would look for a community person interested in part-time work and extra money – possibly a TESD teacher. It was important the person be a local hire, someone who understood the area as Market Street Sports Group is from Lancaster County.

School board member Anne Crowley questioned the company representatives on how they handle competing local companies that might want to participate in naming opportunities, such as three dry cleaners. Market Street sales rep Tracey Brubaker offered that this competing situation had never occurred and if it did would be solved ‘creatively’. Brubaker’s response was not satisfactory; her suggestion that this situation had never occurred seemed unlikely. Well, I think I understand why – after a bit of research, I determined that Brubaker only joined Market Street Sports Group last month. In her 5 weeks with the company, my guess is that the situation of competing advertisers has not occurred but I believe does require further consideration.

The presentation from Market Street Sports Group was interesting. However, I think it was obvious to the school board and members of the audience that this topic will require further study and discussion.

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  1. Thanks for the thorough review. One thing I noted was that the tone from the consultants in response to all questions was: good idea, but we’re the experts and will justify our $30,000+ per year. Note that the net to Hempfield after expenses is ~$80,000 per year. There were some worrisome comments: one sponsor at one school is a retirement community, and one of the benefits they get is “periodic email blasts to residents”. Not sure this is a good thing, and it highlights how important it would be to set the right parameters if this goes further.

    Just a quick comment on another couple of related issues from last night. Dr Brake reported that the “Mandate Relief Package” has a good head of steam in Harrisburg, and in particular SB602, that would allow employee furloughs to address budget deficits, is on an even faster track and will be out of the Education Committees this week. The Board supports this, and is looking for the public to weigh in with legislators.

    Relatedly, time is running out on the budget process. Last Finance committee next week and a vote by the school board the following week. Mahoney stated that the full 3.8% tax increase is all but inevitable, and of course still leaves the $3 million deficit. The Board has written to TEEA and TENIG to ask them to participate in closing this gap through the “pay waiver”, but no reply so far.

    So I guess it will come down to: are the unions pro-jobs or pro-pay increases for current members? Three guesses, and the first two don’t count.

    1. Thanks Ray. Re the letters to TEEA and TENIG — it is my understanding that TENIG will vote this Thursday on TESD suggestion for salary freeze for next year. I have not heard anything about TEEA plans (if any).

  2. I caught about 15 minutes of the board meeting on TETV last night, and was pretty disappointed in the competence level that came across from the “experts” in this marketing effort. They had few solid answers, their costs seem extreme, and they just had little ability to think on their feet and respond with value-add answers.

    It seems absurd to me to suggest that two local competing businesses can’t advertise in the same space. In fact, I would think it would be an enticement to others to advertise that a competing business has their name in T/E space.

    The board was overly kind, and I hope they consider hammering this company on their rates and policies in the contract if we go with them…or find a small local marketer who is looking to branch out into this space. I don’t see that this “expert company” brings much to the table.

  3. There is a reason that the district has a policy in place against naming facilities. Are we really excited that something might generate $100K…less a 30% commission?
    Do we want the Pathmark cafeterias? Do we want the Vanguard Bus Depot? (nor would Vanguard…but seriously, using a professional — hiring locals — to contact businesses? We do it in all our local program booklets — check out the Conestoga Football program…our Boosters already do this for us in this community. Has anyone totalled up what we ALREADY get from local businesses in the way of support?

    Pennywise, and pound foolish. They’ll buy a sign and end their “advertising” names on backs of little league t-shirts.

  4. One last thought — the only exception I would make to the naming policy in place is for heroic purposes….if someone dies that is important and the family or the district wants to memorialize them with donations for a plaque or a naming of a field or building. Teamer Field is an example. Names — not entities.

  5. ever been to GARNET VALLEY stadium? It is a collage of billboard type advertising along the perimeter fence. UGLY and a distraction. I’d rather pay for my kids uniforms directly.

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