HENDERSONVILLE, Tenn. - Sumner County school officials are hoping a new advertising initiative will help fund technology in schools. At the end of the month, people can expect to start seeing advertisements on the bottom back sides of school buses.
"The exposure's huge," said Lynn Tillman, Executive Vice President of 1st Class Marketing, Inc, the Hendersonville-based company heading up the effort. "It's anywhere from 10 to 20 times that of a stationary billboard."
School board members approved the initiative and selected 1st Class Marketing as the driving agency during their July meeting.
Talks about this new revenue source for the county schools had been going on for the past nine months. When the state legislature approved color advertising on school buses versus black and white advertising, Fussell said board members thought this was the right time to try the new idea.
"We frankly are underfunded in terms of technology right now in the Sumner County School system and this will be a big plus," said school board member Mike Fussell, who says technology is now funded through PTOs and the federal government, sources he calls "unpredictable," as the county never knows how much money they'll generate year to year.
Sixty percent of ad revenue will go into the technology fund. Forty percent will go to 1st Class Marketing, and any surplus can go to individual schools. Fussell said at least $5 million are needed to bring the county schools' technology up to par.
Compass, a non-profit group, will help solicit businesses and other non-profits to buy advertising and mentor students. 1st Class Marketing will also go after national advertisers. Advertisements will be sold in 3, 6 or 9 month increments.
Fussell said normal school policies will adhere to school bus advertising, which by state law, will only be allowed to be displayed on the bottom back side of school buses.
"We're not going to advertise for alcoholic (beverages) and things of that nature," said Fussell. "Cigarettes, tobacco products and things of that nature--that goes without saying."
Brenda Payne, president of the Hendersonville area Chamber of Commerce calls the new effort a win-win situation for everyone involved, especially local businesses.
"There's a real need to be creative about how you can bring revenue in for our children," said Payne. "School buses travel all over the county, so this is a moving advertising for anyone who's interested in using that mechanism."
Tennessee joins five other states in allowing school bus advertising.