For Sale: High School Sports

September 26, 2013 by Laurie Bollig

I love high school sports. Even before we had kids, my husband and I dropped in on the occasional Friday night football game at the high school we envisioned we would one day send our kids. Despite no rooting interest, we soaked up the innocence and the close-knit community along with the smell of a grass field and popcorn at the concession stand.

Now that we have a son who plays high school football – yes, at the same high school we supported pre-him – we spend every Friday night (and most Saturday mornings) in the stands and revel in what makes high school sports different from the college and professional ranks.

No long lines to get in the gate or into a bathroom. No beer sold in the stands. Less money spent at the concession stand. More clothing on the cheerleaders. And the students are there for one reason – socializing.

Over the past few years, we’ve seen evidence of the college game creeping into our 3,500-seat stadium in the Midwest. A few sponsor signs have gone up on the fences around newly installed turf fields. The t-shirts our son wears under his pads are the same worn by every college player under their pads, and the equipment I am expected to buy is right out of a pro team locker room – price tag and all. Our team even played on ESPNU one season.  And, boy, do we tailgate!

Who’s going to pay for these big-ticket items that are finding their way to Midwest high schools? There’s only so much you can ask of parents when it comes to funding high school sports.

It’s evident that the high school corporate sponsorship bus is right around the corner – if not already pulling into a parking space.

That’s music to the ears of those in my business. We’ve been anticipating for years the onslaught of corporate sponsorships at the high school level. It doesn’t seem like that long ago when universities were the next frontier for corporate dollars. Look at how quickly that changed the landscape. I’m tempted to think of high school sports as the last frontier, but then I drive by the youth soccer fields near my house and realize there are four- and five-year-old teams who would cut a deal with a sponsor in a heartbeat to pay for shin guards, jerseys and post-game juice boxes.

As a professional, I see the opportunities for corporate sponsors to become staunch financial supporters of high school activities. As a mom, I will miss those halcyon times when commercialism had yet to invade my own personal Friday night lights.