17 Marketing Campaigns to Boost Parks & Rec Participation

A few weeks ago, we got together with a group of parks and recreation professionals in the Chicago area. We met at Wood Dale Park District to talk about ways to increase participation in programs they offer and ended the luncheon with group discussions. Here are some ideas presented that you could add to your marketing mix: 

1. Booths & Community Event Presence – When other events take place in the community, think about setting up a booth to show people what you offer. If possible, bring a tablet or laptop to show people what programs you offer and provide them the opportunity to register on the spot.

2. Cyber Monday – Cyber Monday, a digital copycat of Black Friday, encourages people to shop online for one day after Thanksgiving. Take advantage of the movement and people’s willingness to buy online, and discount your programs for that day. Be sure to promote Cyber Monday leading up to it.

3. Early Bird Registration & Pricing – You can encourage people to sign up early with early bird registration. For example, open registration online one week earlier than offline to encourage people to visit your online portal. Or, offer early bird discounts in order to get your classes filled more quickly.

4. Facebook Redirect App – Add the Redirect App to your Facebook page. When clicked, the app redirects people automatically to the link you provide. In this case, direct the app to online registration and post a custom button that reads, “Register Online.” This will highlight registration on your Facebook page and make it one click away.

5. Flyers – At this point, flyers are considered old-fashioned, but they can still be effective. Consider delivering targeted flyers to organizations around town. Also, distributing flyers through schools has been a proven way to get the word out.

6. Free passes – In order to get more people trying out your facilities, offer a free pass program. Allow them to try the rec center for free for one visit, one week, or any other time period you see fit. Another way to offer free passes would be to set up a buddy pass for members. Members get two free passes per month, for example, so they can bring their friends along.

7. Free Samples – People love free stuff. For your next event, consider giving away free samples in order to build the buzz. To help you with this, ACTIVE Network has connections with big brands that want to connect with your customers. Visit Rewards to learn more about getting free samples for your next event.

8. Groupon – Groupon, LivingSocial, Amazon Local or any other group discount program can bring you results ranging from dangerous to impressive. If you try to use one of these campaigns, first be sure to understand your pricing structure for the deal. Also, understand that you will be attracting bargain hunters more than potentially repeating customers.

9. Instagram Challenge – Take advantage of the fact that most parents have smartphones. One idea mentioned during the discussion was to run an Instagram contest during a live event at the zoo. This could be set up as a scavenger hunt where people have to take pictures of clues and post them on Instagram, or it could simply be a contest with prizes for the best pictures. Think about how you can use mobile and social tools at your next event.

10. Instructional Videos – One way to increase participation is to simply make the registration process easier for customers. During the registration process, provide a short video tutorial outlining how to register. This will lower the likelihood that people drop out right before registering.

11. Open House – Consider hosting an open house event and promote it around town. Provide tours, set up booths, and create an experience for people interested in what you offer. Hand out flyers to those who aren’t ready to register that day and be ready to register others on the spot with mobile tablets and registration stations.

12. Passports – Give customers the opportunity to enter a challenge by creating a passport for a season or limited time. Each time they visit a facility, they can ask to get their passports stamped to be entered into a drawing. This incentivizes your customers to visit multiple of your facilities and parks.

13. Rewards Program – Encourage people to register for more classes by setting up a rewards program. This could be set up in a number of ways, but an example would be to give $1 for every $10 spent. That way, customers are encouraged to participate more in order to get a free class every so often.

14. Sibling Discounts – Family is a core pillar for parks and recreation organizations. To get more families through your doors, consider offering sibling discounts. For example, a basketball league could cost $50 for the one child or $80 for two.

15. Social Media Coupons – From a recent Experian survey, the top reason that people follow an organization on a social network is to receive discounts or coupons (60% of respondents). Your Facebook fans are looking for coupons and this could be a good way to get more people into programs. Consider posting a discount on your social networks and have people show it on their phones or print out to redeem.

16. Special Pricing Promotions – Rather than the standard pricing discounts (10% off, 20% off, etc.), consider getting creative with your promotions. For example, one park district ran a temperature-based discount program for aquatic center memberships. During a certain time period, whatever the temperature read that day was the percentage off you received on your membership. The warmer the day, the more you save!

17. Sponsorships – Businesses and organizations with a presence in your community could benefit from sponsoring your events and more. Approach these organizations with the opportunity to sponsor your recreation guide (ad space) and sponsor specific events or programs. Be sure to match up with their goals – if they have green initiatives, can you align those with one of your events?

Offline Marketing