Column: "The Sports Trail": Advertisers for sports trinkets not getting full story from telemarketers

Thursday, January 12, 2006

buy David McNeal

Is your school's athletic department being misled by out-of-town telemarketers?

No, but business owners here in Carroll County who are big fans of the Bobcats, Tigers and Highlanders may be the ones getting misled, with the athletic departments and booster clubs at the schools being the big losers.

The sales pitch works like this. Companies call business owners and ask if they would like their name on a product, usually a cheap T-shirt, plastic ball, or plastic cup, that will be given away at halftimes of ball games.

Sounds great. Loyalty to their team steps up, and money exchanges hands. The business name is printed on whatever item is being pushed, and it is given away during games, just like the pitch says.

But the money goes out of town and is not a financial benefit to the school or athletic program telemarketers pretend to support. All the schools get out of it are a few T-shirts, cups, or balls, while potential donations hit the road into some other pocket.

Now, business owners can spend their money advertising with anyone they want to. But they need to know that these "offers" don't benefit hard-working booster clubs who man concession stands all year long.

They don't benefit local athletic programs because not one dime of the money goes to buy new equipment, uniforms, balls, or pay for any expenses.

How much money are we talking?

One recent T-shirt supplied to a school here in Carroll County had an estimated $3,000 worth of ads on the back. The payback? Thirty-six t-shirts. Wow.

Hey! Want a T-shirt? Buy one from a local company here in Carroll County. We have plenty.

Clearly the out-of-town companies are taking advantage of the good will of loyal fans who just don't realize how much financial support for local programs is slipping away each year.

The answer?

Pick up the phone and call the athletic director or high school principal of the school you support and ask if the proposed "offer" is included on their yearly list of fund raisers.

Most schools have such a list, with the money raised specifically going to sports, annuals, clubs, or organizations approved by the school.

When you are contacted, ask how much of your money will buy equipment for your program, or how this will improve the quality of the athlete's experiences.

Is it fun to see a t-shirt exploded out of a small cannon and shot into a crowd of cheering and excited fans? Sure.

Is it fun to see athletes working out in out-dated, overcrowded facilities? Or concession stand workers "making do" in small dungeons from days gone by?

Money is tight in public schools and every dollar counts, whether it comes from taxes or other sources. The "other" sources have become more and more important in recent years and that trend doesn't appear to be changing.

Don't be mislead by offers to "support" your athletic program with t-shirts, cups or other valueless items. Be a real supporter. Keep those valuable dollars here at home.

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