How do consumers perceive sponsorship of parks and recreation departments? How have their attitudes changed over the years?

Looking to answer those and other questions, Virginia’s Fairfax County Park Authority in 2012 teamed with researchers at The Pennsylvania State University (Andrew Mowen) and the University of New Hampshire (Nate Trauntvein) to measure public sentiment regarding sponsorship of FCPA programs and facilities.   

Objectives for the study were threefold:

  • Assess public attitudes and preferences for sponsorship of FCPA programs and facilities.
  • Identify the extent to which general public attitudes toward corporate sponsorship of FCPA assets have changed
  • Gauge the level of acceptability and unacceptability towards various sponsorship platforms.

Below, eight key takeaways from the survey.

TAKEAWAY #1: Support for Sponsorship is High
Across a variety of questions, support for sponsorship between corporations and the FCPA was widespread among survey respondents.

Level Of Support/Opposition For Sponsorship

Level Of Support/Opposition For Sponsorship

In general, how would more sponsorship between corporations and the FCPA affect the quality of your recreation experience?

In general, how would more sponsorship between corporations and the FCPA affect the quality of your recreation experience?

Overall, I approve of sponsorship of park facilities/programs

Overall, I approve of sponsorship of park facilities/programs

TAKEAWAY #2: Support for Sponsorship has Increased
The degree of support for sponsorship of FCPA facilities and programs has improved markedly since 1998 when the last FCPA sponsorship survey was conducted.

The opinion shift has come from the middle—more of those previously neutral on the topic have become supportive—while the small core of those who are opposed to sponsorship efforts in the parks has remained at a consistent level.

Level of Support/Opposition for Sponsorship

Level of Support/Opposition for Sponsorship

In general, how would more sponsorship between corporations and FCPA affect the quality of your recreational experience?

In general, how would more sponsorship between corporations and FCPA affect the quality of your recreational experience?

TAKEAWAY #3: Concerns over Commercialization Remain
Opinion is mixed regarding whether sponsorship will over-commercialize the park experience.

Corporate sponsorship will over-commercialize the park experience for me

Corporate sponsorship will over-commercialize the park experience for me

TAKEAWAY #4: Sponsorship is OK in a Variety of Venues
In general, sponsorship development was considered acceptable to a majority of those polled across the entire spectrum of FCPA facilities/programs include in the survey.

How acceptable is it to seek sponsorship for….

How acceptable is it to seek sponsorship for...

Appropriateness of the following sponsorship activities…

Appropriateness of the following sponsorship activities...

Sponsorship High-low.jpg

TAKEAWAY #5: Are Naming Rights OK? It Depends…
Naming rights are more acceptable in some places than others, but not necessarily where you might think.

How acceptable are multi-year naming rights at…

How acceptable are multi-year naming rights at...

TAKEAWAY #6: Obvious Connections are the Most Acceptable
Respondents considered some types of sponsors more appropriate than others. Product categories with the most direct associations to parks had the highest acceptability ratings.

Which of the following would be appropriate sponsors…

Which of the following would be appropriate sponsors...

TAKEAWAY #7: The People Who Don’t Like Sponsorship Are…
Sixteen percent of survey respondents indicated some level of opposition to FCPA use of corporate sponsorship.

Demographically, opposition to sponsorship was highest among those with a higher education, middle and upper income, white and middle age and older.

TAKEAWAY #8:  Ease into Sponsorship
Some written comments suggest a measured approach to development of a sponsorship program is preferred among survey respondents:

“I’m all for sponsorship as long as it is tastefully done and in moderation.”

“Do a trial. Don’t overdo it.”

“I think sponsorship holds a lot of potential—they just have to be done selectively and well.”

Survey findings derive from responses from 1,600 consumers.