The Role of Marketing in Municipal Recreation Programming Decisions: A Challenge to Conventional Wisdom


  • C. Paula F. Johnson Tew
  • Mark E. Havitz
  • Ronald E. McCarville


marketing, segmentation, programming, client-focus, municipal recreation


Though leisure programming represents an important component of public leisure service delivery, we are still unsure how leisure agencies actually develop and refine their programs. Anecdotal evidence suggests that a marketing orientation is now widely adopted by public leisure programmers. This research was conducted to address several questions. First, how is programming undertalcen? More specifically, are we marketing? Second, if we are marketing, how is it reflected in our programming efforts? Sixty-six municipal recreation agencies located in a Canadian province responded to a mailed questionnaire. The data provided considerable evidence as to how these agencies program and suggest that the agencies have not comprehensively integrated marketing techniques into programming efforts.Agencies were divided into three groups based upon their use of market segmentation, a theoretical cornerstone of marketing-oriented organizations. Over 30% of all agencies did no market segmentation, instead directing all programs and services to "everyone." Less than 5% segmented for all programs. Few agencies placed clients first with respect to marketing mixed decisions. For example, program development and change decisions were largely internally driven as opposed to client driven. The sampled agencies were prolific at developing new programs. Most agencies in the sample charged user fees for at least some of their programs. The data provided some evidence of marketing orientation among agencies as price levels were influenced by a client's ability to pay. However, meeting agency costs was generally considered first when setting price levels. The majority of agencies felt that they were doing a good job communicating their intended messages. A full range of communication objectives was evident with educational and persuasive messages dominating.The data also suggest that printed messages, especially seasonal program brochures, were the dominant mode of delivering promotional communication. Agencies that did not segment at all tended to spend more of their budgets on promotion than did the other two groups. Agencies relied much more heavily on internal considerations when locating and scheduling programs as opposed to client convenience. Contrary to conventional wisdom, these municipal recreation agencies seem not to have taken a marketing perspective in recent programming efforts. While some agencies in this study demonstrated a sophisticated marketing perspective, others areless sophisticated and many, it would appear, do not market services for a variety of practical and philosophical reasons.





Regular Papers