Donor Recognition or Naming Rights in National Parks?

national park naming rights

There’s been some controversy over the years about corporate branding in the parks, and though many think it doesn’t happen, it does to some small extent already. In one case, NPS Director Jon Jarvis waived agency policies in April 2015 to sign with Anheuser-Busch on a multi-million dollar deal giving Budweiser previously unparalleled branding opportunities during the Centennial Campaign for America’s National Parks.

New guidelines are being established currently regarding donor recognition. If approved, these would allow donors making certain levels of donations to have their name added to specified items or areas, none of which include the major attractions, or names already established, and most items would be inside facilities rather than outdoors in nature. This plan would be similar to what some sports arenas offer, putting a placard on sections or benches.

Some concerns with the new plan include the language regarding Park Superintendent’s roles in the process. The language could be read as if commanding those in charge to do this type of fundraising and possibly penalizing insufficient donations to a park. Some are also concerned this could allow possibilities of corporate branding on items bought and maintained by donors, such as park vehicles or buses showing large commercial signage and branding.

However, many say corporations are unlikely to participate in commercial branding within the parks since that could easily be construed as a negative against their organization for bringing too much commercialization into areas where people go to get away from it all. The NPS feels donor recognition with be used more by individuals, families, and philanthropists.

Jeff Reinbold, assistant director for partnerships and civic engagement at the NPS, said, “It’s not something that a lot of corporate donors have come seeking. The interest has been much more on the individual level.”

With an $11 billion backlog of maintenance projects needed in the many National Parks, it is no secret why the NPS is looking for ways of increasing income. But could that need prompt actions such as allowing major attractions to be used with corporate branding in ads? Something like a picture of Old Faithful spouting off to imply the dependability of an auto repair company.

Would this kind of PR end up being more helpful or damaging to a company? What do you think? Leave a comment telling us about your thoughts on the matter.

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