Public Attitudes Toward the Corporate Sponsorship of Park Agencies: The Role of Promotional Activities and Contractual Conditions


  • Andrew J. Mowen
  • Alan R. Graefe


corporate sponsorships, contracts, promotions, public opinion


Park agency professionals are increasingly using corporate sponsorships to acquire additional resources. Existing sponsorship literature emphasizes corporate needs and has not explored public attitudes toward such activities. Moreover, sponsorship research has not explored how public preferences for specific contractual conditions and promotional activities relate to overall sponsorship attitudes.This study identified citizen preferences for a range of sponsorship promotional activities and contractual conditions at an urban park agency.  A mail questionnaire was sent to a systematic sample of 810 Fairfax County Park Authority (FCPA) magazine subscribers in August, 1998. Respondents were asked to indicate their level of support for corporate sponsorships of park agencies as well as their attitudes toward specific sponsorship contractual conditions and promotional activities. Results indicated that 53% supported, 32% were neutral, and 15% opposed corporate sponsorships of public park agencies. Specifically, sponsorships with local companies, monetary sponsorships, and sponsorships of free programs were perceived most favorably.Support for park sponsorships was regressed against 21specific contractual conditions and promotional activities. Citizen attitudes toward nationally based companies, corporate names in the title of FCPA special events, the use of three or more sponsors, an exchange of supplies, sponsorships lasting more than one year, and corporate logos on inside banners/signs were positively and significantly related to their overall level of sponsorship support. Citizens who preferred national sponsors and the use of many sponsors were also most likely to be the most supportive of corporate sponsorships in general. Consistent with previous literature on corporate managerial preferences, a strong positive relationship was found between the public’s support for park sponsorships and their preference for long-term sponsorship contracts.Since a sizable portion of this sample was either neutral or negative toward sponsorships, metropolitan park agencies should remain conservative when pursuing certain sponsorship activities at the agency-wide level. Park marketing professionals and policy makers should also continue to obtain public feedback concerning sponsorship activities and conditions because of their potential to alter on-site visitor experiences and influence subsequent public support. Further research can build upon this exploratory study by assessing public reactions across different settings and park systems (i.e., nature-based settings, natural resource agencies) and by addressing sponsorship attitudes at specific events, programs, and facilities.?