How to Leverage High Schools to Generate Significant ROI


Some lessons are easy to learn; others are more difficult.



Lesson # 1 - Meet a Real, Tangible Need


This one comes from 15 years of experience with Huddle Tickets.

It began with wanting to meet a need, not wanting to make money. Huddle gave high schools in North Carolina free event admission tickets, providing $700 - $1,000 in budget relief per school -- a real need.

Wendy’s, our original partner, created meaningful relationships with local communities through high schools while driving sales.

Meeting a need may be the socially responsible thing to do, but it's also REALLY good for business.


A common tactic of “high school marketing” is slapping a banner on a chain-link fence and calling it a day. Is that meeting a need? No way.


If you want to work with high schools to generate ROI for your brand, you must demonstrate value.




Lesson # 2 - Create a Relationship, Not an Interaction



To fully leverage a sponsorship with high schools it needs to go further than meeting a need.

Dick Sporting Goods (DSG) found success because they wanted an ongoing relationship with high schools.

DSG is a long-time Huddle Tickets sponsor. The company has helped thousands of high schools over time while driving sales through a strong coupon offer on the tickets.

DSG drove incremental revenue by offering special discounts to coaches and players. While the ticket sponsorship reaches the community, direct engagement with athletic directors, coaches and players grew interactions into relationships.


Lesson # 3 - Think Beyond Sports


Yes, there is tremendous power coming alongside football, basketball, and Olympic sports within high schools. 

But our experience suggests there are other options to consider, that may better align with your objectives. 

Have you considered?

  • Band (the largest student group in high schools)
  • Counseling department / administration
  • Leadership development programs


What if ROI is based on your foundation’s objective of increasing high school graduation rates? Or, what if you’re a retailer focused on generating social media engagement?

(The next two lessons will share a story of both.)



Lesson # 4 - Add Meaningful Value that Makes a Difference


In 2008, Taco Bell’s foundation began working to solve a huge problem – teens not graduating from high school.

We wanted to meet the need in a real way. After talking with guidance counselors, we realized how eager they were to receive valuable tools to engage at-risk students and boost overall school academic performance.

The Taco Bell Graduate for Más program motivates students and equips guidance counselors with countdown-to-graduation clocks, posters, and traffic-driving coupons to be earned by students who pledge to graduate. It’s no surprise that students love free food, right?

What started as a program operating in one DMA with 100 participating schools has turned into a program operating in 42 DMAs and reaching more than 2,000 schools.


Lesson # 5 - Be Relevant


Relationships with high schools must be mutually beneficial.

Lord & Taylor recently did a wonderful job engaging high school upperclassmen through a campaign that pushed activity on social media, drove traffic to retail locations, and boosted brand affinity.

Lord & Taylor presented schools with promotional materials, event décor, and a chance to win a significant cash prize to support prom. <The marketing campaign resulted in substantial online buzz and increased store traffic.> <link>

The #BestNightEver campaign aligned with students’ interests and uniquely combined digital media and physical elements to something extremely relevant to their audience, PROM!

The multi-layered strategy targeted 45 high schools, secured front-page newspaper headlines, and generated more than half-a-million social media entries.



- Island Trees High School


Got it? Good.


Just to be sure you are fully ready to capture the high school space, here’s a quick summary on how to generate ROI for your brand through leveraging high schools:


Lesson # 1 – Meet a Real, Tangible Need

Lesson # 2 – Create a Relationship, Not an Interaction

Lesson # 3 – Think Beyond Sports

Lesson # 4 – Add Meaningful Value

Lesson # 5 – Be Relevant


If you want to learn more about any of the programs mentioned above or how to leverage high schools to generate ROI for your brand, send me an e-mail at

I’d enjoy the opportunity to get to know you and learn more about your goals.