OXFORD — “As times change, so do our attitudes,” said CCA athletic director Gene Dietrich as he addressed the regular monthly school board meeting Jan. 21. Dietrich was referring to a time roughly two years ago when the subject of sponsorship and/or selling advertising to help pay for athletics was first brought up.
“This is something that I’ve fought tooth and nail for about a year,” he said. “With budget crunches and everything else, you look at every possible way to raise money.”
The point was driven home to Dietrich while he attended a WaMaC conference with the 16 participating schools present. “Three of the schools are totally operating in the black in athletics and the rest are struggling,” he said. Dietrich then went on to introduce a proposal to potentially put CCA athletics “in the black” as well, but with a six-year commitment.
According to Dietrich, Regina High School in Iowa City, Columbus High School in Waterloo, several Cedar Rapids high schools and all of the Des Moines metro high schools have placed inside message boards with continuously scrolling advertisements on their scoreboards.
“Sometimes they look very tasteful, sometimes they do not,” Dietrich told the board. “I go to Regina and to me it just looks like a scoreboard with an advertisement running over and over,” he said. Another option places a scrolling message board on the scoring table instead of the scoreboard on the wall.
Noting a new score table is needed in the new high school, Dietrich quoted a $1200-$1800 price range. ScoreTables by Design, LLC has proposed a three ft. by 10 ft. score table with scrolling advertisements for $12,360.00. The company would furnish the new table, solicit advertising for the scrolling message board, produce and install the advertising displays, handle billing and collections, and share revenue from the advertising with the CCA athletic department. The table is financed over a three-year period at a rate of $4,650 per year, deducted from the revenue generated by the advertising. The remainder is split 50/50 with the school. The table is considered paid for after the third year, with the school’s revenue increasing.
At the conclusion of the athletic event, the table is put away and the advertisements stop.
“There are events I would want to have in that area where advertisements would not be appropriate, like graduation,” Dietrich said, in response to various concerns and questions from the board about when the wall-mount (scoreboard) advertising would be running. In the case of the scoreboard mounted advertising, the contract calls for the ads to be running anytime there is an activity or event. The trade-off for the constant advertising is an increase in revenue to the school as the vendor charges more for the advertising space.
A drawback to the score table is that its location would display the advertising to the visitors’ side of the gym during basketball games, making it potentially less attractive to advertisers. According the Dietrich, while the school has no choice in advertisers, it does retain the ability to approve them in the unlikely event a school would find a sponsor objectionable or offensive.
Dietrich said the sponsors range from national to state and local with examples such as U.S. Cellular, Casey’s, and South Slope Cooperative Communications. Adult-themed advertising such as for beer or cigarettes would not be solicited by the vendor, nor allowed by district policy.
When asked if the funds would go directly into an activities fund, Dietrich replied “I would hope so,” drawing a chuckle from the board. Currently, four of the WaMaC schools have the advertising message boards; eight more are considering the signs.
District superintendent Dr. Paula Vincent reminded the board they have the ultimate power with the ability to dictate their terms to the vendor, rather than be dictated to. She also stated she would want the district’s legal counsel to review any contracts.
With more questions than answers, the matter was tabled until the February meeting for further discussion. Dietrich was asked to look into how the vendor divvies up the 20 advertising panels between national, state, and local advertisers, and how they are prioritized. He also was to look into the potential for competitive bids from comparable vendors.