Corporate Sponsorship: Advertising & Ethics in Relation to Academia

Purdue is contracted with various brands whose products and promotions can be found around campus and at various events. This is a topic that was brought up for discussion in one of my advertising classes recently. The question was brought up in one of my classes regarding whether or not corporations could/should begin to dictate activities and/or curriculum within a school. This was my response:

Companies have been sponsoring sporting and other events for a while now. I see no problem with corporate sponsorship; however I do not think that a company should be able to dictate activities within a school. I think that it is probably effective and beneficial for a company to sponsor, advertise, or promote itself at a football game for instance; and I see no problem with this at any academic level.

On the other hand, if a company takes their marketing plan beyond sponsorship and promotion at events (where this sort of thing is culturally accepted/expected), I think that it could be a problem. For example if Nike’s promotional agenda was woven into a physical education program at a school, this could be perceived as deceptive advertising. If an education professional is “teaching” children about the benefits of Nike over other sporting brands, there is research to support that students would naturally take the teachers word for it and mold their opinions based on that education. While that would likely be an effective tactic, I do not feel that it would be an ethical one. Under this scenario students would not have received an unbiased or comprehensive education about all available sporting brands. I also feel that such “education” would detract from the class and lessen the educational experience for students.

Outside of the classroom is, in my opinion, the best place for advertising. I see no problem with a school contracting with certain brands for vending machines or promoting a sponsor brand at an event. But taking advertising messages into the classroom or altering curriculum around an advertising agenda does not seem ethical to me. I believe that advertising should never be deceptive and that education should be anchored in academia and not in corporate promotion.

Published by Erin Mullen

I am currently a senior in the Brian Lamb School of Communication at Purdue University. I am focusing my degree on Public Relations and Rhetorical Advocacy. I am a member of the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) and am the Director of Creative Integration on the Bateman team, which is an elite group of students who researches, plans, and implements a public relations campaign to compete at a national level. Graduating from the Midwest College of Cosmetology in 2005, I have been working as a hairstylist for about seven years. I love the industry and am a strong believer in the importance of constant and continuing education. Communication, along with the hair/ fashion industry are two of my greatest passions; and I would ultimately love to find a career that merges both worlds together.

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