Open the gates, it’s back to school. Or is it?

03.08.2017 07:49 Uhr PSI
Open the gates, it’s back to school. Or is it? | Open the gates, it’s back to school. Or is it?

Open the gates, it’s back to school. Or is it?

Ah, the school holidays – one man’s joy is another man’s sorrow. While some are just starting out their holidays, pupils from neighbouring federal states are getting ready to return to their school routine. Off to a new school year! A lucrative target audience for advertisers, apparently, as a look at the World Wide Web reveals in mere seconds.

Businesses and schools make up a dream team. Parents might be experienced consumers with strong likes and dislikes, but their offspring can still be moulded. Whereas grown-ups can be assigned either to niche or to more broadly positioned target groups, the fruit of their loins approaches the world of brands without blinders, at least initially. Albeit critical, they do have preferred brands. Once they’ve decided in favour of a certain brand, they tend to remain loyal to it.

Moreover, Europe’s children have billions in allowances to spend each year. And that money is burning a hole in their pocket.

Brand-loyal consumers are moulded early

Advertisers are intrigued by children because of their purchasing power and the long-term prospect of them becoming brand buyers later on. Brand-loyal consumers are moulded early. That’s why marketing budgets for the school segment are – it almost goes without saying – tantalisingly relevant for promotional products pros, as well.

And not just for them. Schools frequently are appreciative of the possibilities for their own institutions, as well. For many educational providers, private-sector sponsorships and advertising materials are more than just a little something extra. Simply put, they’ve become essentials. After all, schools in the 21st century are forced to jostle for pupils’ favour in order to increase pupil numbers.

The red lines

It’s imperative, however, to not become overzealous in the race for investments. Government regulations do in fact define some legitimate boundaries. When in doubt, the next red line can be found right in the next promotional product. But we’ve moved far away from the general school- advertising bans of the past.

Sponsorships and the advertising materials or promotional products, respectively, deployed in their context are generally considered unobjectionable if they serve educational purposes. Rule of thumb: the advertising effect must not cannibalise the educational utility. Put even more simply: education trumps advertising. If that’s the case, everyone’s usually happy.

In Germany, it’s worthwhile taking a look at the pertinent guidelines issued by the federal states. Beyond those, headmasters are the supreme leaders of their schools. They’re the decision-making authority when it comes to sponsorships, too.

(Worst) case study: The Rewe Rally

Things can get tricky, though, when sponsorships are conducted as part of outright campaigns. That’s when companies willing to invest would always be well advised to get all, and that really means all, persons and entities with decision-making authority onto their radar – as the recent example of food giant Rewe shows in an involuntarily entertaining way.

The retailer had launched a campaign for day care and school children in the German federal state of Hessen. With the blessing of the Hessian Education and Environment Ministries and the school supporters association, no less. After all, the campaign “Enchantingly Clean Rally 2017” (“Sauberhafte Rallye 2017” in the original German play-upon-words) – which was embedded in the larger “Enchantingly Clean Hessen” (“Sauberhaftes Hessen”) – was aimed at promoting lofty goals such as environmental protection, waste reduction and recycling. Superimposed on that was the deft and massive anchoring of the Rewe brand logo in the minds of the little ones.

Accordingly, the brief image film pulled out all the stops, depicting children visiting the pedagogically inclined, friendly manager of the Rewe market around the corner. One by one, selected foods, Rewe-branded refrigerator magnets and a colourful infographic migrated from the hands of the children to the Rewe-branded jute bag.

Revolt of the stakeholders

Rewe’s sophisticated advertising effort was met with little enthusiasm by the pupils and their parents. Plus, it brought to the scene the powerful education and science union GEW and the highly active LobbyControl society.

It all amounted to some strong headwinds for the Rewe Rally, which eventually caused the original supporters from the Education and Justice Ministries and from the school supporters’ association to buckle under the pressure and scrap the campaign. The Rewe Rally ended up in the image ditch.

Lots of money wasted, but even more serious: trust squandered, distrust sown. Across the board and permanently. Of course this could have been avoided – by taking a look beyond the narrow horizon of self-interest toward the needs of all stakeholders.

After all, the “Enchantingly Clean Rally 2017” evoked core sustainability concepts by taking up themes like environmental protection and recycling. What’s more, situational and stakeholder analysis (stakeholders are persons or groups with a reasonable interest in a business and its corporate policy, because they’re directly or indirectly affected by the consequences) are the first measures of sustainability management. It appears as if someone didn’t do their homework here. Sit down, F!

All that shows that school sponsorships aren’t all that simple. But with a bit of background knowledge and profound expertise, they can nevertheless be promising.

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