Say the name of your parks and recreation group out loud. What comes to mind? Better yet, try the exercise with members of your community and ask them what words, colors, and images pop up. That’s your brand.
Although recreation brands are a relatively new concept, those parks and recreation groups that actively work on their brands are realizing the benefits. A strong recreation brand helps your organization stand out from the crowd by creating a positive identity that your community can relate to.
With a strong brand, you can:
- Build loyalty for parks and recreation services
- Stimulate growth of programs and services
- Get better resources and support
- Increase bargaining power and independence
- Attract talented people to your community organization
- Involve the public
Here are some guidelines for building a strong recreation brand:
1. Build a brand your community can relate to
Relating to your audience is the most important part of brand building. It doesn’t have to be complicated. A great example is California Parks & Recreation Society (CPRS), which developed a brand strategy that was successfully adopted throughout the state in municipal parks and recreation agencies. In a research study, Californians were asked why parks are important to them, which led to this simple yet effective slogan: “Parks Make Life Better!” This campaign is well-recognized across the state and beyond, and provides a clear identity – all in four simple words.
2. Listen to your community
Consider investing some time and resources in market research and identify what key benefits your recreation facilities offer to the public.
Ask participants how they feel your services positively impact them and their families. Your staff can also offer a wealth of insight. Staff surveys or focus groups are a great way to get a comprehensive view of your services and will provide the foundations for your recreation brand. This is an inexpensive way to get to know what your community values and how you fit into that puzzle.
3. Use short simple and consistent messaging
Once you identify the core benefits of your parks and recreation services, create a message to convey this to your community. Messaging that is short, sweet and to-the-point is memorable. A standard message and clean design across all of your marketing channels will create a consistent image of quality and also make your marketing efforts easier. Focus on one campaign that builds a single identity, rather than separate campaigns with different goals. Through consistent use of colors, logo and design, your participants will become familiar with your brand and begin to associate your organization with the values portrayed, in turn, building trust and loyalty with your organization.
4. Create memorable messaging
In our recent article, “How Memorable is Your Domain Name?” we looked at the City of Arlington as an example of how to get creative with branding. The City of Arlington, TX uses the “Naturally Fun” tagline throughout its marketing and cleverly incorporated this into its domain name. Through consistent use of its logo and tagline The City of Arlington has successfully created a simple, memorable message that resonates with its audience, in turn increasing loyalty and participation.
5. Launching Your Recreation Brand
Once you have developed a recreation brand it’s important to convey it through all marketing channels and educate stakeholders, staff and the community on the core messaging so it becomes an integrated part of your business. Coordinate training sessions for your staff and invite community members to share in the new branding with celebratory launch events and promotions. That way, your staff and the community will be on board in building a brand together.