Brand owners have been slammed for producing educational marketing materials that are biased, encourage children to eat chocolate and fast foods, and that are “plastered with company logos”.
The criticism comes from the National Consumer Council, which has drawn up new guidelines for companies as well as parents, teachers and governors, for controlling educational sponsorship deals.
The updated guidelines – Sponsorship in Schools – follows a nine- month review (MW September 8 1995), and is a response to huge growth in the sector which now accounts for more than 300m of marketing spend a year.
The good practice guidelines call on brand owners to create educational materials that are balanced and relevant to the school curriculum, but which do not encourage children to pester parents or give explicit encouragement to buy branded products.
Although it praises some schemes which meet its criteria, the NCC calls on companies operating voucher schemes – one of the growth areas – to give clear information on the scheme’s exchange rate, the minimum offer, and time limit on the promotion. This follows concerns over recent promotions, including Boots’ for schools sports equipment and Sainsbury’s Schoolbags scheme (MW September 22 1995).
The NCC’s review of its 1986 guidelines was triggered by fear of a growing dependence on the sponsored materials within schools, a growth in the number of food sponsors, and a concern that the UK could be moving toward the situation in the US where compulsory school films carry advertising.
“We want to protect British schools from these excesses (the US situation),” says NCC chairman David Hatch. “The classroom should be a place of learning, not a free-for-all for business interests.”