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New Outdoor Ad Space: The High School Gridiron

Published on February 10, 2012

The National Federation of State High School Associations (NFSH) has announced it will allow advertising on high school football fields, according to a Forbes story. NFHS released its 2012 rule changes for high school football, which dealt largely with preventing concussions. But buried deep within the press release was this language:

“The Football Rules Committee also cleared the way for state associations and their member schools to place corporate advertising and/or commercial markings on the field of play. These types of markings previously were only allowed in the end zones and outside the field. Rule 1-2-3l will state that while corporate advertising and/or commercial markings will be allowed, the markings may not obstruct the yard lines, hash marks or nine-yard marks.”

As Forbes sports blogger Bob Cook observes, school districts (and taxpayers) are increasingly targeting expensive extracurricular activities to trim strapped budgets. The Westerville City School district outside of Columbus, Ohio, eliminated all such programs as of January 24, to save itself $2.3 million dollars. 

Perhaps advertising commercializes a sentimental sport (consider the craze for “Friday Night Lights” during its five-season run on NBC), but that complaint is common, and rarely stops the advertising. A few high-school stadiums have sold naming rights to their fields: in 2006, the Noblesville High School in Indiana changed the name of its stadium to Hare Chevrolet Field; the $125,000 the car dealer paid helped offset a $575,000 investment in artificial turf. Right now, members of the Glenbrook [Illinois] North and South high schools are considering advertising to fund artificial turf as well. Glenbrook High School will open bidding on advertising on February 15th, reports the Chicago Tribune.

Advertisers can expect some pushback, but not enough to scare them off. The public advocacy group “Commercial Alert” posted both the NHFS and Glenbrook stories on its website. Commercial Alert's mission is to “keep the commercial culture within its proper sphere,” and prevent advertisers rom “exploiting children and subverting the higher values of family, community, environmental integrity and democracy.” It has done so since 1989, and has taken its anti-commercialization-of-schools campaign onto NPR and the Huffington Post, among other high-profile venues, but has yet to stop a project.