Sunday, June 25, 2017 This Week's Paper

Metro Parks receives advice on sponsorship strategy

Metro Parks could boost revenue from sponsorships with a more comprehensive strategy and by reaching out to Seattle-area businesses to add to its mix of Pierce County sponsors. That is among the advice of IEG, a Chicago-based consulting firm hired to assist Metro Parks with its sponsorship efforts. The firm was asked to do a comprehensive analysis of the park district’s assets so Metro Parks staff would better understand the breadth and depth of facilities, programming and events. The firm identified the most valuable assets, determined fees for different sponsorship packages and provided revenue projections. Metro Parks Commission recently heard a presentation from Jennifer Wolbrecht of the district’s staff. She said IEG employees spent two days visiting sites within the park district and speaking with current sponsors.

Their visit identified strengths. The consultants found Metro Parks to have a good reputation and it is highly appreciated by residents. The zoo has a high attendance relative to the population of the Tacoma area. Metro Parks is more data driven than most agencies. And it provides an audience that sponsors want to reach, with many families, cultural diversity and a range of age groups. They also pointed out challenges. These include a decrease in tax revenue, a lack of a comprehensive understanding of everything Metro Parks does, sponsorships treated more like transactions than building long-term relationships and a tendency toward selling one-off sponsorships for individual programs, events or attractions. IEG wants Metro Parks to focus on the marketing and business objectives of current and potential sponsors. A sponsorship strategy should provide structure while leaving room for customization. It should also protect the integrity of the Metro Parks’ brand and align partners with its vision.

The consultants predict that sponsorship revenue could increase each year, accounting for $870,000 in 2015, $1.2 million in 2016 and $1.53 million in 2017. Current and potential sponsors should be placed in different categories based on their level of support. At the top are mission partners, with four to six. These are organizations who strongly support Metro Parks’ mission while also feeling they can boost sales through their association. The next level is community partners, with six to eight. They would not be involved in sponsorships on a year-round basis. Attraction partners would be six to eight organizations. They would sponsor some aspect of a major attraction, such as the zoo or Northwest Trek. Last are event sponsors, with no limit placed on the number. Wolbrecht told commissioners that staff has established a committee to implement the recommendations. There will be employees designated to be liaisons with the various foundations that partner with Metro Parks to work on future sponsorship deals.