September 2nd, 1998

PTA Sells Its Name and Logo; Deal with Office Depot Infuriates Ex-officials

San Francisco Chronicle

The National PTA has sold its name and logo for use in back-to-school advertising
by the office-supply chain Office Depot, drawing criticism from former PTA officials.

Neither the Parent-Teacher Association nor Office Depot would disclose how
much the 102-year-old nonprofit education group was paid for the use of its
name, which began appearing in TV commercials and store advertising last month
under a one-year agreement.

The TV commercials call Office Depot the "official school-supply headquarters"
of the PTA. The agreement also has put the PTA logo on sweepstakes boxes, signs
and shopping bags across the country.

"We were extremely cautious in how we approached this," Patty Yoxall,
a spokeswoman for the Parent-Teacher Association, said yesterday. "We are
not promoting any product or service. We are not endorsing anything."

Some former PTA officials disagreed, saying the promotion violates the group’s
policy against commercial tie-ins.

"There’s a very fine line to maintain your purity and virginity,"
said Manya Ungar, national president of the PTA from 1987 to 1989. "Once
you overstep it, I think you open yourself and your organization up, to continue
the analogy, to prostitution."

Ungar, who still works with the New Jersey PTA, said companies such as Crayola
and World Book have sponsored PTA programs in the past but never were allowed
to use the organization’s name in advertisements.

A former PTA national vice president, Millie Waterman, compared the deal to
last year’s ill-fated agreement between the American Medical Association and
Sunbeam Corp.

The AMA was to receive millions of dol- lars in royalties for giving a "seal
of approval" to Sunbeam medical products. After coming under heavy criticism,
the AMA withdrew from the deal and recently agreed to a $9.9 million settlement
with Sunbeam.

Yoxall dismissed any comparison to the Sunbeam deal and said the 6.5 million-member
PTA rejected proposals that tied its name to purchases, such as cash-back arrangements
for schools that buy supplies at Office Depot.

Gary Schweikhart, spokesman for Office Depot of Delray Beach, Fla., said the
company has seen a "very positive" response to its school promotion.

The national PTA board plans to discuss at a September 19 meeting whether to
extend its partnership with Office Depot beyond this year, Yoxall said.

Carol Kocivar, a mother and president of the San Francisco PTA, said she supports
the decision by the national PTA to participate in the sponsorship.

"If it’s used carefully, I think it’s a way of acknowledging corporate
donations to good causes," Kocivar said.

"This is clearly a sponsorship and not an endorsement (of specific products),
which is very important difference," she said.


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