Popup Playgrounds; An Intriguing Marketing Idea

It’s not like I look to the New York Times for all my good industry advertising and promotion ideas. Still, once in a while, they come up with something that gets me thinking. Their “Presto Instant Playground” article is one such idea. You may have to register to read it, but it won’t cost you anything.

“During a two-month period last year, seven civic coalitions in New York neighborhoods like East Harlem and the South Bronx got permits from the city to close certain local streets to traffic for designated periods of time — say, between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. on a summer weekday. Working with the police and other city agencies, they re-designated the areas as temporary “play streets,” encouraging neighborhood children to use them for exercise and offering a range of free games, athletic activities and coaching.”

My immediate reactions was that this was an especially good idea for skate brands because a skater’s playground is the street and brands already have connections with skate parks and park and recreation commissions. But I really liked it because it connects with parents and kids, doesn’t appear to cost much if you don’t want it to, involves the local community, and gets kids outside and active. We have a business as well as a social reason to want to see that happen.
I know retailers and brands (sometimes in cooperation) have done some similar things. And I recognize it might be a little harder for a snowboard or surf company to make the connection. But the approach I was thinking about was not for a brand to do it themselves, but to contact their local civic organizations and see if they could do something similar in cooperation with those groups.
I’d start by contacting some of the groups that did it in New York and find out just how they pulled it off and if they had contacts in other locations that might also be interested. My hope would be that the civic organization would do most of the organizational work using already existing contacts with the local government and other stakeholders. The brand, or retailer, would be left to provide maybe a bit of cash, some product, the presence of team riders perhaps, pop up tents, and maybe some food and drink. I don’t know- it would depend on the specifics.
I also recognize that a snowboard company, for example, might have to be a bit cautious in their approach if they were doing it with lower income, inner city kids whose chances of going snowboarding were poor. But maybe, for example, you give some of those kids a chance to go and maybe you’re just there to get the kids outside and active at a low cost and you hope for some brand benefit somewhere down the line.
Anyway, it just seemed like a low cost, positive, valuable thing to do, so think about it.



3 replies
  1. Rob Valerio
    Rob Valerio says:

    I agree this is a great opportunity to introduce communities to action sports. I myself have been involved in putting on street fairs in my local community and am amazed how easy it is.

    The key element is to get the local city councilman (or woman) involved. These local politicians have all the connections at the City to get things done on the cheap with various departments.

    I live in a dense urban area of Los Angeles but locally it still operates like a small town. You invite the local fire station, and they conveniently block the street with their trucks. Invite the local beat cops, give them some food and they’ll hang out instead of driving around the neigborhood. The local politician will be there shaking hands and kissing babies. In our area, as long as there are no bus routes on the street that need diverting, the politician can get all the street closure fees waived.

    • jeff
      jeff says:

      You make it sound so easy! Hope it is. Here’s an interesting link somebody sent me. Seems the police have been doing this since 1914. I can certainly see the skate companies calling up the cops and offering to help out. I guess they’d have to get the cops to promise not to arrest them at the event.

      Thanks for the comment.

  2. john bernards
    john bernards says:

    Rob, it is good to see you are still out there–this is a good idea, kind of lilke crossroards, but in a neighborhood—would the skaters have to wear knee pads?

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