Over the years, municipal and public facilities such as parks, beaches and sporting facilities have witnessed a decline in government funding which as a result has led to difficulties in conducting maintenance and upkeep.
In order to combat this, properties have historically looked towards donors and more recently, corporate sponsors. This brings up an interesting debate about over-corporatization, with commentators on both sides of the fence making their opinions heard, including prominent personalities like Bill Maher in this video.
Now, while we won’t comment on the political aspect of this debate (we’re a marketing firm!) what we can comment on is public perception on this issue and how facilities can pursue corporate sponsorship whilst shielding citizens from overt and intrusive branding. On the other side, we think that corporations can benefit immensely from this practice and can increase their presence amongst consumers without being invasive. If done correctly, it can be a win-win for both sides and will keep the general public happy.
To begin with, let us begin be examining how public attitudes towards sponsorship of park facilities has changed. In 2014, IEG published results from a research study conducted by Virginia’s Fairfax county park authority. The key takeaways from the study included perceptions on the kid of facilities that should pursue sponsorship and the overall levels of support/opposition to facilities pursing sponsorship. They are listed as under –
- Support for sponsorship is high and has increased over the years
- That being said, there are still concerns over commercialization
- Pursuing sponsorship and Naming Rights deals is considered acceptable depending upon the type of venue/facility
- Coupons and special offers for park users and logos on publications are appropriate forms of sponsorship activities
- Of course, the industry categories that are considered appropriate also differ with regards to the type of property. In the case of parks, sporting goods and home and garden categories were considered most appropriate
- People are for sponsorships if it is eased into and is done tastefully
Although, this study was done on a small scale, the results do show promising signs for corporations. Although tasteful and understated execution of activities may not provide corporations with the same high profile that they receive from sponsoring, lets say a major stadium, what it does provide is a boost in local presence and an unobstructed share of mind, which can prove to be valuable.
As far as the park authorities are concerned, it will help inject much needed funds in a system that, as analysts predict, currently needs $12 billion dollars (in the USA alone) worth of repairs across the board. It doesn’t help that the US Congress set an annual budget of only $2.85 billion this year. While facilities may not be able to raise such high levels of cash from sponsors, it will be a start. They also need to make sure that activation is done right. For example, by putting up North Face branded trail markers in some parks, Virginia is showing how it can be done.
So what is our verdict? We feel that the hyperbole around inappropriate sponsors is a little unjustified and parks and municipal facilities can pursue sponsorship in a successful, yet tasteful way.
BWA has worked with and continues to work with numerous municipal properties in order to help them achieve their sponsorship goals.