Latest school sports day trend: Students ‘honour’ corporations but get no sponsorship love in return

The iconic Malayan Tiger, on two legs, waved to the crowd, accompanied by a walking automated teller machine (ATM). That was the theme adopted by the Yellow House of a school in the Klang Valley during its sports day.

Not wanting to be outdone, several children from Red House donned octopuses on their heads – representing another banking institution.

Gone are the days when students, proudly donning their school sports house t-shirts, marched to the beats of snare and bass drums. The latest trend is that more and more schools are adopting ‘corporate’ themes – from banking institutions, and fast food brands, to chocolate makers.

Much time and attention were spent by the teachers, parents and students to adhere to the themes. Plastic bottles and cardboard boxes were repurposed as props. Pseudo-fried chickens are the new pom-poms.

Themes are not new during such school events. Those who champion it will argue that it brings out creativity, strengthens the bond between teachers, parents, and students, and injects fun into school sports days.

Perhaps adopting a movie theme, or honouring a particular era, may bring some smiles to those who attend these events.

But to ‘honour’ fast food, simply sends the wrong message. It doesn’t help that stalls, selling sweet, carbonated drinks, and deep-fried food, quickly mushroom at such events, and continue to be a permanent fixture at public parks or other sporting venues. It sends the wrong message at such a young age.

A parent commented that the highlight of school sports days these days seems to be the themed-march pasts, instead of the sporting events.

The ‘glorification’ of corporations may seem innocent to the schools, but these companies are rolling in the free publicity. It would be a different story if companies invested in school sports, or the annual sports day, at the very least.

In fact, this is a great way for companies to penetrate into schools, to cement their branding among the young. Kuala Lumpur Badminton Association Closed Badminton Championships’ Jejak Juara saw a smashing partnership between the city badminton body and the Kuala Lumpur Education Department. The tournament not only attracted talents from around Kuala Lumpur, but also saw digital billboards by Asia Media Group placed in all 260 schools in Kuala Lumpur.

That, in return, will result in targeted marketing initiatives, and presumably, a handsome monetisation plan for the stakeholders.

School administrators, as such, should take the cue from the KLBA-KL Education Department partnership and start monetising their efforts if they want to ‘adopt’ a corporation during their annual sports day. The money will go a long way in maintaining school facilities and investing in student-athletes.

Will these companies return the love by investing in school sports? Some have, and good for them. But it’s best if these corporations sponsor on a regular basis, and the government could lend a helping hand by giving tax exemptions on these sponsorships.

Otherwise, it’s best for schools to just stick to something sporty, inspiring, and healthy, as the theme of their sports houses – like the legendary warriors Hang Tuah, Hang Jebat, Hang Lekir, Hang Lekiu and Hang Kasturi, for instance.

And it may not be such a bad idea to have ‘broccoli’ pom poms instead.

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