When people think about the local sports club you and your children are involved in, what do you think comes to mind first? Is this the image you hope the community has for the association? If it is, then it’s important for you to actively work to preserve this culture and have it adopted by management and members for years to come. If there’s a gap between your ideal club image and what really exists, you may want to upgrade some items to “high priority” for your next board meeting.
It’s estimated that 35 million kids between 5 and 18 played in an organized sport in the US in 2014. For those of you keeping score, that’s roughly the population of Canada! This has spawned an enormous amount of recreational, developmental, and competitive leagues and clubs across North America. Although youth sports aren’t governed in the same way as other goods and services, they are part of a very real industry and each organization should have a marketing plan and branding strategy in place the same way businesses do.
Why should I spend so much energy on this?
Whether youth sport participation is increasing or decreasing in a given year, building a strong brand will ensure the organization’s increased and/or repeat registration. A strong brand creates word of mouth discussion among our [sport] mom and dads who will typically refer your club to the exact demographic you want to attract (geographically, financially, and with kids of their own). Your brand can drive excitement, motivation, and expectations to potential future players and parents. Once part of your club, this brand continues to work by providing a perceived value, trust, and loyalty to members.
Okay, but we aren’t a marketing team, we’re a sports club. How do we do this?
Proper branding requires a thorough, active, and adaptable strategy in order to meet the needs of all those involved. Don’t worry though, you don’t need to be a branding guru to ensure that you’re club is successful. Implementing some tools and rough guidelines will help you to create a culture around your association that parents will respect and trust.
1. Know who you are. First off, make sure you know what you want your brand to be representative of, which should be related to your league’s mission and vision. Whether your main focus is to make a positive impact on your community or to provide elite level training to channel kids towards the big leagues, have your branding activities reflect this.
2. Show people who you are. Once you know your direction, tailor your marketing plan to align with it. Think of your vision/focus as an umbrella covering all promotional and marketing activities.
3. Get involved! Get your teams to help out at local community or charity events and use these opportunities to show large audiences that your club exists and where its priorities lie.
4. Take advantage of the internet. Keep up to date with website maintenance, social media updates, and address all comments and concerns by contributors to these spaces. Utilize your member base and implement some email marketing by getting parents to subscribe to your email list. If you’re having trouble with this, create small offers and giveaways to parents who opt in, and send emails consistently. Again, make sure that what you’re sending is aligned with the organizational values.
5. “Wow” your members. Finally, be personal and find ways to inspire parents and players. For example, highlight selfless stories involving your players and provide recognition to local heroes on behalf of the organization. You can do this using elements from #4.
In the end, if you can really hone in on your association’s direction and values (and avoid an ‘organizational identity crisis’), you can create a strong, lasting brand. This will help ensure its longevity and drive registration year over year in comparison to those who believe that simply existing will be enough to succeed.