In a groundbreaking move for New Jersey, a fleet of 52 school buses serving Medford public schools will soon become roving billboards for a local grocery store chain. Bryan McGair, managing director for the marketing firm Advantage3, brokered the private sponsorship deal.
McGair credits Medford’s administration with pioneering the idea of school bus advertising by working with N.J. Assemblyman Scott Rudder, R-8th, to draft a bill permitting it. The bill was adopted as state law in 2010.
School district superintendent Joseph Del Rossi called the move a significant event for school districts across the state. “This is an effective means of generating vital capital and an exciting community awareness platform for corporate sponsors,” Del Rossi stated. Murphy’s Marketplace, locally-owned with locations in Medford, Tabernacle, Waterford and Long Beach Island, paid $48,000 for the four-year contract.
“The company logo will be ‘wrapped’ to the sides of buses via non-permanent adhesive vinyl banners approximately nine feet wide by a foot high on the 54-passenger size buses,” McGair said “Something size-appropriate will be used on smaller vehicles. According to state law, the ad placement may not compromise any safety features of the bus such as lights and reflectors. McGair said he expects the first banners to be installed sometime in January 2013.
McGair said Advantage3 works to assess three separate categories of school district or municipality assets for possible monetization and provides an asset portfolio. “Along with school bus fleets, we also consider hard assets such as buildings, stadiums, cafeterias, hallways or science labs,” McGair said. Websites are the third part of the three-prong strategy approach. “Clients can contract with us for any combination of the three,” he added.
Medford has seven public schools (K-8) serving approximately 2,700 students. The district signed on with Advantage3 about 18 months ago for all three of the approaches. The school bus deal is the first to come to fruition. The district made an initial investment with the marketing firm of $30,000. “The initial investment varies with the size of a school district,” McGair said. “Advantage3 guarantees 100 percent of that initial fee back prior to any revenue split. Our goal is to generate long-term sustainable revenue for the district,” he said.
McGair said the state mandates 50 percent of revenues raised from school bus advertising be used to offset transportation costs. Use of the remaining 50 percent and revenues raised from other monetized assets is up the the district’s discretion. “For example, some districts may choose to fund technology while others may offset fees for activities,” McGair said.
Schools also have the final say as to what advertising may appear. “We are not about just slapping up signs and banners,” McGair said. “We look for advertising to enhance who the district is. For example a fence line around an athletic field lined may be lined with a professional mesh product emblazoned with the school’s colors or mascot with a smaller sponsored logo.”
“We are really excited about this first experience with school bus advertising,” McGair said. “School buses rack up thousands and thousands of miles each year not only around town but on field trips and sporting events across the state and across the bridges,” he said. “Potentially tens of thousands of eyeballs will see messages on buses.”
McGair first became aware of Advantage3 as the former assistant superintendent in Medford. When he retired earlier this year, he accepted an offer to join the company. He says many school boards have shown an interest in monetizing their assets to raise revenue. Four other districts in South Jersey recently contracted with Advantage3 — Mount Laurel, Evesham, Maple Shade and Moorestown. No other advertising deals have been inked to date. “I think [the Medford deal] is the crack in the dam that will get the ball rolling,” he said. Advantage3 LLC was founded in 2010 and represents nearly 40 clients in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Colorado and Michigan.