To attract sponsors in youth sports, we are getting it all wrong. Our tendency is to try and emulate how sponsorships are done in the college and pro world, but we are a unique property that has to be positioned differently. It’s time for some tough love to change our approach.
Here are the five biggest mistakes in youth sports sponsorship:
Using the Phrase: “We Need a Sponsor.” When I hear anyone say that, my response is, “So what?” We all want a sponsor. It’s not about you. It’s about the sponsor and what that company can get in return. If you want a donation, just ask for money. If you want a sponsor then be prepared to show a return on investment and make it a two-way street in benefits and get that phrase out of the vocabulary.
Don’t Confuse Your Passion with the Sponsor’s Needs. Even worse than saying, “We need a sponsor” is saying (and believing) something like “these are such good kids, and we have such a great team,” blah blah blah. So what?! That’s not the reason for a sponsor to get involved. How can you help the sponsor drive their business? Winning helps, but this really means “butts in seats” or “heads in beds” or any other cliché that makes the cash register ring.
Let the Coach Be the Coach. The coach often spends most of his/her time focused on the field of play. Few teams dedicate someone to marketing and PR for the team and this is left to the coach who has hundreds of other duties already. Most teams have a hospitality chairperson, but few think about dedicating someone to marketing and promotion.
It’s Not a Quantity Game. Every sponsorship proposal needs to be grounded in reality and have a solid pricing strategy, but for youth sports to compete, we have to position it differently. The reality is a sponsor can likely reach more people with one ad in your local newspaper than through your team. So, youth sports needs to position itself as a “quality” investment vs. “quantity.” Youth sports families are typically an attractive demographic. The USA Swimming demographic for example has 75% college graduation rate and a household income of $122,000 and, like other sports organization the parents are involved, attentive to the sponsors and loyal.
Media Doesn’t Look the Same. Shrinking newsroom budgets mean fewer reporters going out and covering youth sports. We often myopically feel like it only impacts our individual sport, but look around and you will see misery loves company across all youth sports. We also live in a “gotta have it now” generation with social media, tablets and smart phones setting our expectations to receive instant information. So, this means in the youth sports business we ARE the media. Teams must be savvy with their own social and digital channels like never before and grow those properties. If you don’t like Twitter for example, get over it, because that’s how many people consume their news today.
Every school, youth group, sports team and community service organization is out there looking for money. To succeed in this cluttered fundraising environment we have to position and promote ourselves differently and change our way of thinking to get there.