Using sponsorships to fund public services


After a particularly harsh snowfall, I read an article that talked about the difficulties of clearing sidewalks. Apparently, there are many situations where private businesses, rather than the city, are responsible for shoveling the snow away. But when a storefront is empty or an unused lot is neglected, the snow can pile up and create quite a challenge for pedestrians.

This made me wonder: why not let other firms pay for the snow clearing on those sidewalks? In exchange, they could put up signage to advertise their brand. Basically, it would be like the “Adopt a Highway” program that some states use to pay for litter control: each sponsor gets their own sign on the side of the road.

But why stop at snow clearing? You could take virtually any underfunded public service, and turn it into an alternative media buy for savvy advertisers. Sherwin-Williams could sponsor bridge refinishing projects. Windex could underwrite a program to repair and maintain the windows in vacant buildings. The potential pairings go on and on. In an economic climate where marketers are seeking more value for their money and cities are struggling to find new revenue streams, this type of creative thinking seems like a natural fit.