Commerce in the classroom

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Posted in: Analysis/Comment, Community, Speaking Out

Commerce in the classroom

October 01, 1999

Tesco’s long-running Computers for Schools cause-related marketing campaign enjoyed its best ever year in 1999, with £10.5 million worth of computer equipment being delivered to schools across the UK this autumn. The scheme, which has provided a total of £54.5 million worth of computer equipment to more than 19,000 schools since it began in 1992, will continue in 2000. Both the Computers for Schools and Tesco SchoolNet 2000 programme will be highlighted in the Millennium Dome’s Learning Zone, which Tesco is sponsoring.

However the scheme was criticised in the media during October, contrasting the actual cost of the computer equipment with the sales necessary to collect enough vouchers. Among examples cited is an Apple iMac computer, worth around £900, but awarded after £92,500 sales, said to earn Tesco more than £5,000 in profits. Contact Lisa King, Bell-Pottinger, on 0171 861 3102

Teens buy with cause in mind

Two-thirds of American teenagers (64%) say they consider switching retailers to one associated with a good cause and over half say they switch brands when price and quality are equal, according to a new survey published by US marketing firm, Cone / Roper , on September 9. Based on 600 on-line interviews with children aged 12 – 17, the findings show:

78% say they have purchased a product that helped benefit a cause;

85% will reward caring companies through repeat purchases;

nine out of ten teenagers want companies to communicate their support for causes, with more than half (54%) saying in-school is the most effective communication vehicle;

girls are more supportive of cause marketing than boys, by around ten percentage points.

The 1999 Cone / Roper Cause Related Teen Survey says young people are not just consumers of the future, they already control purchasing power of $100 billion per year. Contact Cone Incorporated on 00 1 617 227 2111 (http://www.coneinc.com)

NatWest welcomes move on financial literacy

NatWest Bank welcomed government plans to introduce personal financial literacy lessons in schools next year, announced on the September 9. Children will start learning about finance from the age of five and the lessons, not part of the National Curriculum, will be contained in the non-statutory guidelines that accompany it. NatWest has run its Face 2 Face with Finance initiative since 1994, and so far half of all secondary schools have been involved. Evaluation by the National Federation for Education Research has found positive impact on learning and skills levels. Contact DfEE Enquiries on 0171 925 5555 (http://www.dfee.gov.uk) or Matt Young, NatWest, on 0171 920 5517 (http://www.natwest.co.uk)

School sponsorship good, marketing bad

Two in three members of the UK public support sponsorship of activities in schools, a survey for the European Sponsorships Consultants Association published on August 24 has found. Asked about activities such as coupons for computers and books and sponsorship of school events, 62% were slightly or strongly in favour. The survey also asked about advertising of products to school children on TV, radio and in magazine advertising – support dropped by more than half, to 29%.

On August 11, the Institute of Sports Sponsorship published a new Code of Conduct designed to help sports sponsors and schools achieve a fair balance of advantage and to limit the use of ‘pester-power’. The code lists ten principles, including:

the education and well-being of pupils are of over-riding importance at all times;

purchase of the sponsor’s products or services is not a condition of the sponsorship;

areas of need must benefit, as well as centres of excellence, with no discrimination on grounds of ethnicity, sex or religion.

Publication of the code and the survey responds to growing concerns in the European Parliament about business involvement with schools and talk of possible legislation. Contact Nigel Currie, ESCA, on 01483 209820 and Martin Cannon, ISS, on 01753 884860 (http://www.sports-sponsorship.co.uk)

Funds to create better governors

A funding package worth £5 million to support school governors was announced by the government on September 24, with an appeal for more companies to encourage their employees to volunteer as governors. Announced during the British Aerospace Governors’ Conference, school-based training in performance management is planned as part of the programme. Contact DfEE Enquiries on 0171 925 5555 (http://www.dfee.gov.uk)

Comment

Given the brouhaha on both sides of the Atlantic about commercial sponsorships in schools, companies could be forgiven for giving calls to get more involved in education a very wide berth. Anything to do with exploitation of children is always highly emotive; add in frustration at the levels of public funding and firms become convenient targets for anyone with a point to make about schools and young people. But cutting all ties would be wrong.

First, the kids themselves don’t seem to mind. Highly alert to the ebbs and flows of brand fashion and sceptical of over-blown claims, many also retain a traditional ‘idealistic’ view that companies should do some good in the world. The support for cause-related marketing seen in the US teen survey is unlikely to be dramatically at odds with other youth markets, whether in Europe or elsewhere. Second, adults don’t seem to object either, and certainly prefer involved sponsorships to simple advertising.

Third, there are sound business reasons for staying committed, provided the sensitivities can be managed. The way forward is for companies to be very clear about what they are trying to achieve and very open with the public about why they are doing it. Previously education involvement was essentially about guaranteeing the skills of the future workforce. NatWest’s Face 2 Face with Finance is still skills-based but now focuses on young people as potential customers, albeit very much in the long term and non-competitive. Tesco’s Computers for Schools is the best known example of a new genre which seeks immediate and exclusive commercial gain.

As this trend continues, consumer brand businesses should learn a lesson from businesses with a potential under-age abuse problem: alcohol and gambling are particular examples. They have drawn up industry codes of conduct and worked in partnership with the educational establishment, responsible interest groups and the government. This helps to legitimises the commercial gain – without which, we need to be clear, nothing on this scale is possible – and also puts in place sensible controls so guaranteeing genuine benefit to the pupils themselves.

Corporate Citizenship Briefing, issue no: 48 – October, 1999

COMMENT:

Signs of a growing backlash against commercial exploitation of education mean companies must be clear why they are getting involved in schools and who really benefits.

Given the brouhaha on both sides of the Atlantic about commercial sponsorships in schools, companies could be forgiven for giving calls to get more involved in education a very wide berth. Anything to do with exploitation of children is always highly emotive; add in frustration at the levels of public funding and firms become convenient targets for anyone with a point to make about schools and young people. But cutting all ties would be wrong.

First, the kids themselves don’t seem to mind. Highly alert to the ebbs and flows of brand fashion and sceptical of over-blown claims, many also retain a traditional ‘idealistic’ view that companies should do some good in the world. The support for cause-related marketing seen in the US teen survey is unlikely to be dramatically at odds with other youth markets, whether in Europe or elsewhere. Second, adults don’t seem to object either, and certainly prefer involved sponsorships to simple advertising.

Third, there are sound business reasons for staying committed, provided the sensitivities can be managed. The way forward is for companies to be very clear about what they are trying to achieve and very open with the public about why they are doing it. Previously education involvement was essentially about guaranteeing the skills of the future workforce. NatWest’s Face 2 Face with Finance is still skills-based but now focuses on young people as potential customers, albeit very much in the long term and non-competitive. Tesco’s Computers for Schools is the best known example of a new genre which seeks immediate and exclusive commercial gain.

As this trend continues, consumer brand businesses should learn a lesson from businesses with a potential under-age abuse problem: alcohol and gambling are particular examples. They have drawn up industry codes of conduct and worked in partnership with the educational establishment, responsible interest groups and the government. This helps to legitimises the commercial gain – without which, we need to be clear, nothing on this scale is possible – and also puts in place sensible controls so guaranteeing genuine benefit to the pupils themselves.

Corporate Citizenship Briefing, issue no: 48 – October, 1999

COMMENTS