Friday Night Rights: Corporate Advertising in High School Athletics

helmet1Memorial Field, home field of the Natick High School football team, epitomizes New England high school football.  The field is located a short walk from the school, with a tree-lined street and a pond in between.  The layout is simple, with steel gray bleachers, concession stands and a light bulb scoreboard.  Perhaps the most unique feature is the stadium lights, hung on impossibly tall telephone poles, allowing Natick to play its home games on Friday nights.  The only advertisement in sight is the word “NATICK”,  written in thick, white, block letters against a fire-engine red background on the press box, perched high above the home team’s sideline.  This element, however, is likely to change.

The Natick School Department, faced with a $4.7 million shortfall, is considering selling advertisements for display in its athletic facilities. 

At first thought, the idea almost seems sacrilegious.  In a time where professional sports are professional sports, and major college sports are professional sports, there is a something refreshing about a field covered only with boundaries, yard-markers and hash marks.  But given the economic times isn’t it a better alternative to cover a field with advertisements than cut a sport, coach or athletic program?

In some areas of the country advertising has been a part of high school athletics for years.  Naming rights to high school stadiums have been sold.  Even personal seat licenses (PSLs) have been sold at the high school level.  Exclusive licensing deals with beverages and apparel manufacturers have been entered into.

Advertising might further blur the line between amateur athletics and professional athletics.  We might prefer to keep advertising out of amateur sports.  But the reality is that advertising will permeate high school sports and sports facilities.  Schools that refuse to take advantage of advertising opportunities may find themselves, at best missing out on a ready revenue stream, and at worst, losing athletic programs.

Stay tuned for additional coverage of “Friday Night Rights” and advertising in high school athletics.



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  1. […] discussion began as a follow-up to the story that Natick was considering selling advertising at its athletic venues, and progressed to a discussion of Title IX, recruiting and specialization in high school […]

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