Welcome to Chantilly Montessori, brought to you by Ford. 

Why not? In Charlotte, our public school system is facing a 100 million dollar shortfall for the next school year. Just, wow. I’m not going to get into why this happened and who is to blame, that’s for the politicians. Rather, I’m going to talk about a possible solution that I do know something about – advertising.

While the rest of the universe might be digging its way out of a recession, big brands continue to have massive budgets in place that beg for publicly promotable places to live. They understand how branding works. It’s why Pepsi and Kohls can run million dollar giveaways online. It’s great publicity and, purportedly, good for the institutions they serve. 

So why not invite brands to sponsor our schools? For one million dollars a year, we will give Ford (or Kraft, UnderArmor, Coke, etc.) exclusive naming partnerships (sponsored by Ford) along with logo placement on all correspondence, including the signage. Including that big sign out front that families, visitors and passersby see daily and which only helps reinforce your brand as a integral member of our community, in the mind of your audience. Many of whom are idling in car lines to pick up their kids. Exclusivity is beautiful. 

Why does this work for schools? Branding exists in schools anyway – whether we like it or not. Those $110 Uggs you send your 9-year-old daughter to school in? They’re an ad for Uggs (stop doing that, by the way. It’s ridiculous.) That North Face jacket your son wears? The brand of notebooks the kids write in? The big DELL stamp above all the monitors? Branding’s already prevalent. What harm can come from official sponsorship? 

Maybe sponsorship allotments are based on performance? Maybe not. Maybe there’s a way to ensure that all schools are sponsored in some capacity? I’d love to say ‘let the brands do whatever is good for the school – screw the money limits’ but I see hell breaking loose if not every school is represented fairly equally, regardless of performance. 

We’d definitely need new branding standards so that all sponsors uniformly comply, as per their sponsorship level, as a way to keep the temptation to bullwhip the audience, because of exclusivity, to a minimum. The goal of this concept isn’t to disrupt the educational process by using Go Daddy type messaging, but rather to enhance it. Respect must be the core principle of this endeavor. 

No, Coke can’t sell its products to students through machines on campus (nor should they), so short of a popular kid wearing a shirt with Coke on it, there are limited impressions with Coke’s primary target audience for 8 hours a day. School sponsorship offers exclusivity with parents (who have direct purchasing power) and with students (who drive purchasing indirectly and who will be buying themselves, in a few years.)  Think of sponsorship as the opportunity to have a personal dialogue with the people who matter most to you. Day after day after day. Without direct competition. Not that I think Coke is the best answer to this problem. I’m just sayin. 

We definitely can’t whore sponsorships out to the highest bidder. Or maybe, that’s the only way this can work? And maybe GoDaddy has to be a sponsor? Thankfully, with standards in place, we would at least control the obnoxiousness. I think we have to draw the line on adult sponsors, though. No alcohol. No plastic surgeons No Hooters. 

The key is to ink long term deals. Five years minimum. This way we’re not put right back into the same shortfall situation we’re in right now in case a brand decides to bail after a year. 

Laugh if you want to, but I’m just hashing this out in a twenty minute brain dump. This isn’t a crazy idea. This is 2011.


Jim Mitchem

Love Doesn't Need You
The Tough Questions

Jim Mitchem

Writer. Father to daughters. Husband. Ad man. Raised by wolves. @jmitchem on twitter. First novel, Minor King, out now.