#ParkLives comes to Plymouth (Oh, dear)

Post date: 12-Jun-2016 06:43:01

Readers of this blog will be amused to hear that, at the same time that I was getting angry over Coca-Cola’s involvement in the promotion pf physical activity schemes across the country, and unbeknown to me, my local sports development unit were working on and then announcing exactly the sort of initiative that I was railing against.

The Parklives scheme is due to come to Plymouth this summer and will be held on Friday evenings in our local park and outside our fantastic leisure facility, the LifeCentre.

Having the local knowledge that I do, I would be really interested to see how the evaluation of this project is managed. The ParkLives schemes purports to be designed for maximum engagement with underprivileged communities in order that they have the opportunities to be more active when otherwise they would not. Since it opened a few years ago, the LifeCentre has held one of the best examples of youth activity provision that I have seen on my travels around the country. Every week, several hundred young people descend on the centre and for a reduced fee, have the run of the place. This is followed on Saturdays by a very well attended roller disco. To the best of my knowledge, these activities were built into the contract that was signed between the local authority and EveryoneActive (the deliverers of the LifeCentre management contract) and have been great examples of sustainable best practice in engaging with local young people from a diverse range of socioeconomic backgrounds.

I would be interested to see how this is dealt with in evaluating the success of the ParkLives project as I would anticipate the numbers of young people and families that attend the sessions would be quite good exactly because they are already attending the lifecentre at almost the same time. Put another way, if I was working for Coca-Cola and I wanted to locate a marketing roadshow in a place where I would have maximum exposure to the greatest number of young people, I would put it outside the LifeCentre on a Friday evening.

I’ve previously given my take on the form of doublespeak present in much of the promotional material for ParkLives and put forward the idea that in working with underprivileged communities, Coca-Cola are just as likely to increase brand capital with young people in underprivileged communities and to increase sales of their product as they are to raise activity levels. The scheme allows for the brand to engage with young people and families in such a meaningful and connected fashion that a marketing executive would struggle to come up with a project that had more chance of sales impact with this amount of funding.

The local organiser's perspective would be that new provision is important, no fizzy drinks would be present and that budgets and funding are hard to come by but I would suggest that in working with large corporations, we are complicit in promoting their products to exactly the population that we should be protecting. This project has only just been announced in the city and the “collaboration” with the local authority has already started.