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Parks Looking For Corporate Sponsors

Besthesda Now, May 30, 2014

By Aaron Kraut

Montgomery Parks will seek Planning Board approval next week to start a corporate sponsorship program it thinks can eventually bring about $1 million a year.

You won’t see corporate sponsors take over naming rights for Cabin John Regional or Caroline Freeland Parks, but the department is hoping to find four to six companies interested in naming rights for dog parks, ice rinks, playgrounds and other facilities within county parks. Last year, Parks hired sponsorship consultant IEG to look at what sponsorships should cost and which kinds of companies to target.

The firm came up with three levels of corporate sponsorships. The most substantial would be the Mission-level sponsor, which would bring in $100,000 per year, per sponsor over three-year contracts. That would get the sponsor signage in the park, social media mentions, its logo printed in Parks materials, year-round advertising on the dasher boards at Cabin John Ice Rink, outfield banners at ballfields and other perks.

The Community-level sponsorship would run sponsors $40,000 a year over two years and include many of the same features. Parks also pushed to include an Events/Facility-level sponsorship to accommodate the single event, smaller local sponsors who sometimes put their name behind Parks events now.

While promoting the corporate sponsorship program, Parks staff has been clear to point out any revenue is unlikely to ever be enough to be considered a replacement for tax funding.

Wall Local Park, the small park that includes the Shriver Aquatics Center on Executive Boulevard, is expected to be transformed into a larger park and serve as a central gathering and civic space in redeveloping White Flint. Parks officials have said that project presents a major opportunity for corporate sponsorship.

If the Planning Board gives final approval of the program next Thursday, Montgomery Parks will hire a full-time manager of corporate partnerships (at a salary of $50,000-$75,000 a year) who will be tasked with reaching out to potential sponsors.

IEG’s research showed park events — such as outdoor film series — are attractive for corporate sponsors. Beer companies are 6.3 times more likely to sponsor festivals and events than the average of all other sponsor categories. Parks doesn’t allow alcohol in its facilities, which means banks, car companies and insurance firms are likely to be big initial targets.

Parks estimated the program could bring in $200,000 in revenue in year one, $390,000 in year two, $690,000 in year three and around $980,000 in year four.