high school football field
photo credit: abrockhouse

We expect corporate sponsorships in the Pros and also in College but for high school? It is more popular than ever before due to the rising costs of high school sports and the budget cuts that are plaguing our schools. High school extra curricular activities are a part of high school and while more academic related programs are getting cut, we are seeing a trend in high school sports. I guess we can really relate to when the clubs were cut and the outrage that ensued from parents and students but when it comes to HS sports being cut, the not in MY backyard syndrome really kicks in and the parents and students had a louder voice. A voice that not only came from within but poured over into the media which coupled with the scouts who keep an eye on the HS standouts, really has created a roar. You see, there are no scouting reports or sections committed in the local or national newspapers for the debate team, the school newspaper or the chess club. There are no pregame shows, no local coverage of pretty much any sport other than football. Football is big money in the United States and preserving the fields to grow and find new talent is where it starts. Big brands know this and recognizing the crisis, they are jumping in because without high school football the colleges and universities suffer and eventually cannot recruit big name players which leads to them losing money which ultimately leads to inability to field a team or a winning team. Winning = money.

Pressure from the Higher Ups

If colleges and universities are not able to see/scout and recruit talent from high school athletics, where would they turn? Pop Warner, Parks and Rec sponsored leagues? I suppose, but if a township or city is unable to budget for education (which includes athletics) how much monies will be allocated to parks and rec programs? It is an issue that continues to worsen instead of ease with each passing year. Sure, there are local corporate sponsorships from the car dealers, the pizzerias, candy shops, insurance brokers, etc but it is not enough anymore. The financial burden has to be bore from somewhere to keep the fields well maintained and safe for athletics but with the athletic budgets increasing each year with equipment, transportation, etc., and the funding decreasing, the fields are the last to see the dollars. Then what? The field is deemed unsafe and unplayable. The transportation costs rise and the field sits waiting for someone to come in and tend to it day after day, month after month and year after year. The schools are at a loss, the home field advantage is lost as there is no home field, the town pride is diminished and the snow ball effect takes place as if there is no football field, there is no track for the track team, no field for the soccer teams (in a mixed use field), nowhere to practice, nowhere to call the Home of the (insert team name here). The colleges and universities need the emotional tie to the field as when you have it, you support it and in college the support is needed.

Home Field

Home field advantage in sports is big. It is your territory, a place where you know every single divot, every single point where you the ground is not as level, every point where the grass does not grow as well or in turf where it is a little bit harder to gain traction. Home field also brings the home crowd. The fans that come together to cheer you on, that make enough noise that the other team has a hard time hearing the snap count which leads to penalties. Home field is where you have more time to prepare and not sit on a bumpy bus ride. Home field is pride. Home field is that edge and confidence that you are not allowing someone to come into your house and win. Nope, not gonna happen! Imagine not having a home field? Imagine having to get on that bumpy school bus that moves at a speedy 45mph and travel to every single game? Imagine having no place to practice, no place for the town to gather and talk sports? It is happening more and more and not just in the inner cities anymore. If big brands do not step in, who will? Do some schools just have to accept that they are the traveling team and be grateful that they even are able to field a team and travel to their games? This is not just football but we know football has the loudest voice. Could spending be drastically reduced if a field was deemed playable and home field was born again or does it bring in more costs with concessions, upkeep and maintenance? Is home field more for the fans than the players?

Big Brands Sponsoring High School Fields

Big brands sponsoring high school fields is not new but it definitely is not plentiful. There are currently only 4 states that have big brand names for high school fields. Sponsorships come in all shapes and sizes but with all have the same goal in mind. Get the word out for the betterment of the people. Sponsorships of this nature are advertising. Lysol creating ads that show me how much bacteria they eliminate from my  home along with the ease and almost effortless use betters me and my family. I spend more time with the family and less time worrying about the bacteria that is growing on the counter, toilet, etc. They are getting the word out of their product for the betterment of me and my family life. Sponsorships for high school fields get the press coverage that the big brand has stepped in and is helping restore the field to bring back the home field. The parents of the athletes are happy, the athletes have a sense of belonging and a strong bond to the new field and the brand has instilled a positive brand image that they care and support our youth. New Balance is the latest to do just that.

New Balance Secures Naming Rights of High School Field

New Balance recent submitted a bid for $500,000 (payable over 10 years) to secure the naming rights of Gloucester, MA high school’s Newell Stadium. Newell Stadium, built in 1936 has not seen any activity in years. As with many districts, the athletics department had to institute participation fees and over the past few years raise them which has excluded some from even participating. A city of under 30,000, and a high school of approximately 1350 students, monies are tight and there are not many avenues to raise funds locally. For the past few years, every single sporting event that would utilize the field or track have been diverted elsewhere. There is NO HOME FIELD, there is no wall to bang on in the locker room that bears your name and slogan. Though, I have to say they are resilient as the football team has been state champs 4 times in the past 10 years. But, they need a home. They need bleachers that are not crumbling,, they need working restrooms as port a potties at a sporting event do not cut it, they need the smell of the concession stand grill firing  up the burgers and dogs. They need to have that place where they all come back to while visiting home from college to visit/catch up with old friends/teammates and watch the next generation of athletes. New Balance is helping to give them that through sponsoring the new field and securing the naming rights.

Newell Field
photo credit: brandchannel.com

What is in a Name?

A lot. If I had named my son Andrew, Obi-Wan Kenobi, you all would have though I was crazy (especially those that know me and know I have never seen a Star Wars movie nor read a Star Wars book). Names matter. We take pride in what we name and names that are associated with us, our interests, etc. We support brands that have big names. For those that are older and can remember No Frills brand, we cringed when it was in our cabinets and our friends may have seen it. I mean come on now, wasn’t the store brand bad enough and now this white packaging with blue and red lettering shows up? We wanted the big name brand as it was better and showed a certain status symbol. How we are viewed by others plays a role in our self confidence, self worth and level of success. Should it? No, but it does. We feel a part of something when we are associated with a brand.

Does this transfer over into the naming of a field? Maybe. Sometimes. Could the big brand name of the field do more harm to the brand? We can look at it in a number of ways. New Balance securing the naming rights of Newell Field is giving the athletes and entire city something back while preserving the history associated with the field. The new field will be named The New Balance Track and Field at Newell Stadium. It is not shocking that New Balance added in track and field as they are largely known for their track sneakers and apparel. However, the name is a bit clunky and long. Will the name be adopted or will people just call it Newell Field? Or maybe New Balance’s Newell Field? Hard to say but if they eliminated Newell Field, they would have tarnished their own brand image as they would have taken away something so special to the City of Gloucester. A name. A name of a field that has been in the hearts and minds for generations. Those that played on that field left a part of them out there and those that will once again will play on that field will carry on that tradition.

Names that Hurt the Brand

There are many professional fields and arenas that when the big brand comes along and purchases it and changes the name hurts the brand image in the eyes of the fans. How dare you come into our home and change the name? Who do you think you are? You are not a fan as if you were you would never take that away from us fans. It is just a name but a name that causes so much anger and disappointment amongst fans that the brand image is tarnished in their eyes. Take MetLife. They purchased the New Meadowlands and now it is MetLife Stadium. Um, no it is not, it is the Meadowlands. Giants and JETS fans dismiss it (especially Giants fans who never even called it the Meadowlands and it, to the, was/is Giants Stadium)and could care less that this big company came in and bought it. No, they care about the history of the stadium and the name that was and always will be. MetLife will not own the stadium forever so as fans we know it is a short term commitment (25 years of short term) and the name change will not be adopted. No one is rushing out to get a MetLife policy because they bought the stadium. No, people are angry with them for taking away our history. But, it is just a name. A name that we want back. We do not care that there could be legal issues associated with keeping the Meadowlands name or that they paid millions for naming rights. No, we look as if MetLife is stealing from the fans and, because of that, we will not acknowledge the new name. There is no italian gruff in the voice that is had with MetLife Stadium as there is with The Meadlowlands.

New Balance averted the negativity and while the name is a mouthful, they preserved a positive brand image and kept the focus on the new field and their role in bringing this to life. Kudos to you New Balance as I am thinking that there will be attention given to your products in the local sporting goods stores than previously. It may be a high school of 1350 but that 1350 packs a powerful punch in athletic gear. Every student needs sneakers for gym class and supporting those that supported you goes a long way.