It took the children of this school 200 hours to cut out the tokens to earn them 65 books. Stephen Hoare examines the issues surrounding firms' extending their marketing arm into the classroom
Roe Green Junior School has been quite enterprising about raising sponsorship. When the school, in Kingsbury, north-west London, decided to resurrect its football team, the staff looked to the local business community to help them equip it. A local Mercedes Benz dealership came to the rescue and the Roe Green squad's new kit is logoed with the familiar radiator mascot.
The deputy head, David Eldridge, is pleased with the support, which earned a photograph of the garage manager and the sponsored team in the local paper. "It takes a lot of effort to raise money from the local business community for school equipment and you can only really do it face to face," Mr Eldridge says.
The approach also worked well with the manager of the local Sainsbury's supermarket, who arranged for the colour artwork and wallets for the school prospectus to be printed. The A4 wallet gave the school a professional image while Sainsbury's reward was a discreet mention in the prospectus. Sponsorship has also given the school four new computers, two printers, a digital camera and 65 information books.
Mr Eldridge reckons he receives at least one new scheme a month, most of which are ignored. He is considering the Nestle's box-tops scheme, where any one of 18 varieties of breakfast cereal will net the school 10p to spend on equipment of its choice. He has mixed feelings. "I'm not sure I like the idea of force-feeding children Golden Grahams or Cheerios. But they and their parents have consumed a lot of crisps. We've sent off 13,500 crisp vouchers to get 65 books - that's 200 hours of the children's effort cutting them out."
The school signed up for Asda's computers for schools scheme, now discontinued. He says: "I reckon we've got pound;2-3,000 worth of computer equipment, PCs and printers. For our last computer, I calculated that parents must have spent pound;75,000 on shopping. " Tesco's "Computers for Schools" and Pringles' "Tops for Sport" schemes are part of a fast-growing area of business sponsorship - cause-related marketing - and education is one of the causes that benefits. Essentially the principle is always the same: companies advertise their support for a cause, such as education, health or the environment. Consumers buying a product, or using a particular retail outlet, collect points or vouchers which can be redeemed by the cause for equipment it needs. In the case of schools, vouchers can be exchanged for books, computers or sports equipment.
Cause-related marketing provides schools with additional resources they would not otherwise have had through public funding. Schools may not have a choice about what equipment they receive, but this type of sponsorship is popular because it allows schools greater flexibility in their budgets to spend money in other areas.
Research by Business in the Community indicates that cause-related marketing is a win-win deal. Its survey found that 72 per cent of marketing directors and 67 per cent of chief executives believe that cause-related marketing will help them achieve their business objectives in the next two or three years; 75 per cent of chief executives believe it can enhance their corporate or brand reputation. Among consumers, 86 per cent say they have a more positive image of a company if they see it doing something to make the world a better place, and 73 per cent would switch brands as a result of a cause-related campaign.
BITC is solidly behind cause-related marketing and has produced its own guidelines and a national award scheme. Teachers have complained at the numbers of vouchers schools have to collect relative to the value of the equipment they can exchange them for. But schools can find the points quickly add up. New BITC guidelines focus on the ratio of voucher points to rewards and have stopped some of the more niggardly schemes.
Sue Adkins, BITC's director of cause-related marketing, says: "A business and a cause or charity come together for mutual benefit. The link is overt; it's straightforward." Yet while the schemes are aimed at increasing market share, Adkins says: "We give our view on what's appropriate and what's not. The kids are not there to receive advertising messages, they're there to be educated."
Tesco's "Computers for Schools" scheme, winner of the BITC 1998 Award for Excellence, has reached more than 12,000 schools - a third of all UK schools - providing more than 3,000 computers and 30,000 items of computer equipment. Tesco has donated over pound;34 million worth of information technology equipment to schools since starting the scheme in 1992.