Feature Article - May 2007
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A Child's-Eye View

Expanding Your Audience to the Younger Set

By Kellye Whitney

Consider your strategy

Marketing for kids is based on the same principle as any other demographic—to create awareness, said Ola Mobolade, a director at the Greenfield Consulting Group, a marketing research firm. Recreation program supervisors and others responsible for youth programming must ensure their marketing efforts reflect what's important to kids. Essentially, understand what drives their interest and then focus on those things, such as fun.

"Kids have limited time for fun and play," Mobolade said. "Programs are an opportunity to interact with other kids. Maybe that's a key benefit. Understand barriers to participation. If kids don't know about it or it's not familiar or visible, then marketing is key—it's a main step to be taken. If kids do know about it, and there are other issues that contribute to low participation, marketing can help in some instances. Programs might not be well aligned to kids' interest, and it may require revising the program."

How the information is presented, what materials you produce and distribute to inform or remind about program activities, whether you use bright colors, trendy, pop-culture-inspired themes or even some element of online interactivity, consider how your marketing strategy promotes activities so that programs are well received and well attended.

"We talk to the kids," Hopkins said. "We try to get in front of the kids and talk to them, sell them on the benefits and why they should do this. That tends to work better, being right in their face, as opposed to giving them something to take home like a flyer introducing a program. We go classroom to classroom and visit the schools and have actual conversations with the kids on why this is cool, and what the advantages are."

However you execute a marketing strategy, efforts must be ongoing. Just as it takes months or even years to firmly establish a consumer brand, it takes time to market recreational programming, and establish good word-of-mouth and, ultimately, repeat participation in popular activities. Once programs are up and running, Hopkins said you still must market and sell the kids on up-and-coming programs that you will be sponsoring this week, next week, next summer.

"Marketing is constant because the goal is to keep their attention," Hopkins explained. "Once you lose that, it's hard to get people back. You strive to keep finding those things that keep them hungry. It's like dangling the carrot. You have to keep dangling that carrot in front of them to keep them coming back."

Determining what marketing strategy to follow may vary by location as well as by participants' age. At the City and County of Honolulu Department of Parks and Recreation, all classes, programs and events throughout the year incorporate physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health benefits, and culture is key.

"We offer traditional sports such as basketball, volleyball, tennis and swimming and of course Hawaiiana," said Jaysun Chun, who runs the Hoomana Project in Waipahu, a low-income, high-risk area. "Hawaiiana classes consist of all aspects of the Hawaiian culture such as music, dance, games, arts and crafts."