The Role of Social Marketing in Leisure and Recreation Management

By Bright, Alan D. | Journal of Leisure Research, Winter 2000 | Go to article overview

The Role of Social Marketing in Leisure and Recreation Management


Bright, Alan D., Journal of Leisure Research


Consistent with the "social welfare" philosophy of park and recreation, much work has been done to identify the benefits of leisure and incorporate them into recreation management. The benefits of leisure constitute all aspects of human existence; including psychological (e.g., improved self-concept, reflection of personal values, peak experiences), psycho-physiological (e.g., cardiovascular health, disease control, mental and physical restoration), sociological (e.g., promotion of community stability, family solidarity, cultural identity), economic (e.g., employment, income, reduced health care costs), and environmental (e.g., preservation/conservation). These benefits should not accrue only to those who can afford to participate in activities and/or actively seek them out. Leisure's potential to improve the quality of lives of individuals with mental and physical disabilities as well as at-risk youth, adults, and families speak to the potential that recreation has for social welfare. Making the benefits of recreation available to the public requires that individuals, heads of households, and community leaders are aware of and buy-off on the benefits of specific programs. The job of recreation professionals is not only to provide opportunities for achieving benefits, but to get the word out. "Unless each of us promotes and articulates the benefits of leisure, the tremendous value that parks and recreation adds to human welfare will never be recognized and appreciated fully outside the leisure profession" (Driver 1998, p. 26). These benefits are understood by leisure professionals, academicians, and students, but experiencing of the benefits by the public at-large as well as special populations will not reach its full potential without techniques designed to educate, and influence the public regarding available opportunities.

To plan, develop, provide, and communicate recreation opportunities, and the enjoyment of their benefits, park and recreation agencies should utilize a systematic process of doing so. One way is to adopt technologies from the field of marketing, however, recreation managers are often hesitant to utilize these technologies for a variety of reasons. There is a misconception that marketing is synonymous with advertising and selling. Marketing entails product and service development, distribution and pricing as well. Another problem is the stigma that marketing is a tool for increasing profits and market share for businesses. Recreation professionals also cite a lack of money, time and personnel resources available for adopting marketing techniques. Given limited resources, attempts at doing "marketing" have often been haphazard, limited to semi-annual or annual advertisements and brochures. Finally, marketing recreation behaviors, experiences, and benefits differs from tangible manufactured products. Recreation professionals should examine and adopt marketing technologies that recognize this difference.

One marketing process takes into account concerns of recreation professionals while emphasizing the social welfare philosophy. Social marketing was derived from the private sector as a way of "marketing" social ideas and behaviors in order to benefit individuals and society as a whole. It has been used to distribute condoms in 3rd world countries, in AIDS/HIV prevention, and in child/infant nutrition. Social marketing can be used in providing recreation opportunities designed to improve quality of life for a variety of populations with special needs.

Traditional Marketing

Traditional marketing has brought products that have changed and improved our lives. Companies selling automobiles, home computers and their software, ready-prepared meals, and microwave ovens have benefited from the development of mass markets, aggressive advertising, and expanded distribution networks. Growth in the service sector has led marketing professionals to reexamine the marketing mix in order to apply them effectively to the development and selling of services and experiences.

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