National Park Area Seeks More Sponsorship

As reported by Neco Cockburn of the Ottawa Citizen, the National Capital Commission (NCC) wants to explore sponsorships or philanthropic arrangements for assets such as Gatineau Park, recreational pathways and its public art program. Those are a few of the agency’s properties and programs that currently lack adequate sponsorship support, the NCC said in tender documents issued last week. The Christmas Lights Across Canada/Capital Illumination and Sunday Bikedays programs are also listed.

Some of the programs already have “strong market equity” and some sponsorship support, “but lack full development in terms of market potential,” the documents state. The NCC isn’t looking for traditional sponsorship opportunities such as signage, said Guy Laflamme, its senior vice-president, capital experience. Instead, the agency is looking for ways that sponsors can provide programs, activities or services that enhance a user’s experience, enrich programs and generate visibility for them, and offset the agency’s costs.

Laflamme pointed to various examples of partnerships that have already been formed: Subway holding a learn-to-skate clinic on the Rideau Canal Skateway, Alcatel-Lucent helping with and providing volunteers for Sunday Bikedays, the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation placing media ads about the Winterlude bus shuttle — a service for which it also paid — and Rogers Communications loaning cellphones to pathway users. As it looks to outside help, the NCC must “maintain” and “protect” the “symbolic and heritage integrity of our programs and assets,” Laflamme said.

That means being careful not to “over-commercialize” places such as Parliament Hill on Canada Day and the Rideau Canal Skateway, for example, “and I think we’ve been able to walk the fine line of not going too far,” he said. The NCC was one of the first federal government agencies to implement a sponsorship program about 30 years ago, “primarily to offset the cost of presenting public programs through the acquisition of private and public-sector sponsors,” the tender documents state, and sponsorships are now a key part of programs such as Winterlude and Canada Day.

Such an undertaking was completed by the Saskatchewan Capital Commission’s Wascana Centre, the showpiece park in the provincial capital. The identification of assets and valuation of those assets to ensure true market value for partners was delivered by the Partnership Group – Sponsorship Specialists™ last year. The focus, similar to the approach by the NCC, was to ensure the beauty of the park and area was maintained and did not turn into a commercial property with massive amounts of signage and such marketing materials. The program for Wascana, though mentoring provided by the Partnership Group – Sponsorship Specialists™ as well, was very successful with additional revenues and new partners being brought on board.

The closing date for bids is Aug. 31. The successful bidder “will analyse the programs and the sponsorship market in terms of unexploited sponsorship opportunities; will develop strategies to realize those opportunities and will sketch out an implementation plan for a subsequent phase of the project,” the documents state. The new sponsorship initiative’s objectives call for at least six corporations to be identified for future development of each program or activity, as well as a preliminary three to five-year implementation plan for each program. The tender happened to be issued as the City of Ottawa launched a “Community Champions” program (released in Breaking News last week) aimed at attracting sponsors for city programs, services and facilities.

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