Research Outline

Advertising Policies in Schools


To understand advertising policies in schools surrounding brand-authored contents in order to guide sponsorship ideas.

Early Findings

  • Our preliminary research didn't reveal any policy or report or credible insight into whether brand-authored content is permissible or not in schools.
  • The Government Accountability Office (GAO) recognizes four types of advertising in schools: Sales of Product, Direct Advertising (such as school billboards, advertising in school publications, branded school items, etc), Indirect Advertising (such as corporate-sponsored educational materials, corporate-sponsored teacher training, Corporate-sponsored contests and incentives, etc), and Market Research. Brand-authored content is likely to fall into the indirect advertisement category.
  • There is no federal policy explicitly prohibiting any of the above types of advertising, however, laws in at least 19 states either prohibit some type of advertising or authorize some of them.
  • In general, any kind of contextual advertising that is legally permissible and age-appropriate is legal in schools in the US. However, advertising looking to collect students data or use students data to target them is frowned upon in some states and such states have recently moved to make policies forbidding them.
  • According to a research paper on the subject of advertising in schools by the Data Society, "existing and emerging legislation focuses on children’s right to privacy and attempts to restrict the collection of personal information and sharing with third parties; however, across state and federal laws, advertising to children is not illegal."
  • "At the federal level, the Federal Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) protects student data from unauthorized disclosure, with specific provisions for mental health and disciplinary data, and the Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment (PPRA) provides parents with some rights regarding marketing in schools. The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) restricts the kinds of data that child-directed websites can collect.
  • States such as California, Iowa, Rhode Island, and Georgia prohibits the collection or use of student data by third parties for targeted advertising.
  • Beyond state laws, some schools "prohibit any advertising, marketing, promotion and sponsorship of non-school related products, activities, services or programs during the instructional day and at school activities."
  • In general, our research shows that brand-authored content, just like sponsored content, is legal in the US as long as there is no attempt to collect students' data for targeted advertising. If student data are to be collected and used for targeted advertising, then the legality may be dependent on the state.