The Chicago Park District has generated an estimated mid-to-high-six figures in incremental revenue since launching a new sponsorship sales strategy in 2012.

New sponsors include Tommy Bahama, Unleashed by Petco, The North Face and an expanded partnership with the NHL Chicago Blackhawks. The park district also is close to finalizing an estimated seven-figure deal with The Coca-Cola Co.

The CPD launched the sponsorship strategy to maximize nontraditional revenue and minimize the need for higher taxes.

“We understand that tax dollars only go so far. Our goal is to keep things accessible for our patrons and prevent an increase in taxes,” said Kelly Sheetz, the Chicago Park District’s director of new business development, a new position.

In addition to hiring a dedicated sponsorship staffer, the park district enlisted Pasadena, Calif.-based Good Solutions Group as marketing agency of record. The park district and the agency spent the first six months of the relationship identifying new assets, creating packages and identifying potential partners.

A key component of the strategy: moving beyond signage and other static inventory in favor of integrated marketing partnerships.

Case in point: CPD’s partnership with Tommy Bahama includes a cash payment, value in-kind and promotional support in the company’s flagship store on Chicago’s Magnificent Mile.

The apparel company provides swimwear for lifeguards, a scholarship for the park district’s junior lifeguard program  and promotional support via a lifeguard perch and product display in the flagship store.

“That’s exposure we’re not used to getting,” said Sheetz.

Restructures Beverage Category
As part of the new strategy the park district has restructured the beverage category to include marketing benefits as well as pouring rights.  

“The goal is to expand the partnership beyond the sale of product.”

For example, The park district’s new partnership with The Coca-Cola Co. may include sponsorship of fitness programs, park refurbishments and donation-with-purchase programs at grocery stores, restaurants and other companies with whom the beverage giant does business.

The CPD now offers exclusivity as part of sponsorship package.

“We need to be certain they provide us with the necessary funds for an exclusive arrangement. We’ll accept a number below our minimum amount, but we’ll have to negotiate what that exclusivity looks like.”

The park district plans to ink similar relationships with other companies with whom it does business, said Sheetz. “We would love to replicate the model in other areas.”

The Coca-Cola Co. replaces a partnership PepsiCo, Inc.

Below, IEG SR highlights the park district’s three other new partners:

Unleashed by Petco. The pet supply company aligned with the park district to promote its new urban retail concept. The company receives interpretive signage and six activation days at three dog-friendly areas.

Chicago Blackhawks. The hockey team gains naming rights to seven outdoor ice skating rinks and branding on Zambonis and dasherboards.

The North Face. The outdoor products company sponsors six overnight camping events. North Face provides cash, a discount on merchandise (tents, etc.) and promotional support in local stores.