By Kevin Kelley
Watch a clip on YouTube or ESPN Classic of a 1976 NBA Finals game at the Boston Garden, and you’ll notice several ways the game has changed since that memorable series between the Celtics and the Phoenix Suns. Players had fewer tatoos, and their shorts were much shorter then.
But what may be most striking is that, in 1976, the scorers table had no advertising banners in front. In fact, one can see the legs of those sitting along the table.
Today, it seems every nook and cranny of a major league arena or stadium is filled with advertising signs.
Mass marketing has been a part of high school sports for many years, with companies paying to have their logo on scoreboards of basketball courts or football stadiums.
Home Team Marketing, a Cleveland-based company, has been helping companies bring their marketing programs to the world of high school sports since 2001.
A single school or district may not have the clout to attract a big advertiser such as Coke or Pepsi for scoreboard advertising. But Home Team Marketing, which has access to more than 10,000 high schools nationwide and four of the top five largest state high school athletic associations in the country, can facilitate such advertising deals. Cash-strapped schools obviously appreciate the additional revenue.
Home Team Marketing has developed a new software system that its executives hope will make high school sports marketing extremely efficient for both advertisers and high schools. The Web-based system will enable companies, both large and small, to search for advertising opportunities that fit their needs. Fairview Park and Rocky River will be among the first communities in the nation in which the new software will be used to sell advertising.
As part of the voter-approved 2005 Gemini Project, the Fairview Park City Schools turned over ownership of the high school football stadium to the city, which installed a new athletic field and, later, running track there.
Recently, Fairview Park signed a contract with Home Team Marketing to sell advertising at the football stadium and the Gemini Center on behalf of the city.
Recreation Director Kenn Kaminski said possible locations for advertising include the scoreboard and turf at the football stadium, as well as other locations where banners can be hung. At the recreation center, marketing opportunities include banners inside the gym, sponsorship of league teams and ads in recreation department programs and brochures.
Mayor Eileen Patton said that she hopes local businesses will consider advertising opportunities at either the stadium or Gemini Center. But she said city officials will carefully review all advertising requests for appropriateness and won’t get carried away.
“I want to make clear we are not here to oversaturate our city with advertising,” Patton told West Life.
Home Team Marketing has several existing Fairview Park ties. Peter Fitzpatrick, one of the company’s co-founders, lives in the city. Bryan Simmerly, an association representative with the company, also lives in the city and worked at the Gemini Center while attending high school and college. After joining Home Team Marketing, Simmerly approached Kaminski about their advertising programs.
Simmerly and Dan McGrath, another HTM representative, said schools and districts typically sell advertising at rates below what the market is willing to pay. School administrators are usually not experts in marketing, and the leadership of athletic booster clubs often have high turnover rates as parents quit after their student-athletes graduate.
In contrast, they said, Home Team Marketing knows how much to charge for advertising. In some instances, scoreboard advertising can generate up to $30,000, Simmerly said.
One growing trend in high school sports marketing reported by Simmerly and McGrath is the selling of naming rights. Patton said that while some naming rights associated with the Gemini Center may be up for discussion, the football stadium will always be named after James Daley, a former school district administrator.
The Fairview Park Recreation Department’s website – fairviewparkrec.com – will have a link to Home Team Marketing’s advertising website once it’s fully operational later this month, Simmerly said.