With the turn of the calendar to 2015, the Olympic Games are now officially “next year.” Here are a few items on my mind for the future of marketing in the sport of swimming:
- Coming to America – One of the biggest drivers of opportunity (sponsorship and participation) for the sport could be a U.S.-based Olympic Games. The USOC will make a decision in January 2015 on which of the four cities (Los Angeles, Boston, San Francisco & Washington, DC) to put forward onto the international bid stage for the 2024 Games.
- U.S. Olympic Trials – The U.S. Olympic Trials is “the major” event focus for us with eight nights live on NBC and 170,000+ fans in attendance. We are working on new twists for the event presentation and a wow factor addition to the Aqua Zone fan experience.
- TV – In addition to Trials, we now have more TV properties than ever with the Arena Grand Prix Series (Universal Sports), Mutual of Omaha Duel in the Pool (NBC), Phillips 66 National Championships (NBC), AT&T Winter Nationals (NBC) and even the coverage of FINA World Championships (NBC).
- Non-Event Content – We have to diversify the online and TV coverage of the sport beyond events. We are exploring how to expand that content generation to tutorials, entertainment, documentaries and profiles that go beyond the racing competitions.
- Merchandise – Look for more lifestyle swimming apparel in the coming years, as USA Swimming started an exciting partnership with SwimOutlet.com to grow apparel lines beyond the pool deck.
- Press Releases Become Events – The days of news distributed via traditional press release are leaving us. We will turn more interactive, digital announcements that would traditionally be done with a press release into webcast events, such as the live announcement of the U.S. Olympic Trials time standards we webcast in September 2014.
- Telling our Story – There are so many great stories of people, programs and podium finishes in the sport that we will be even more pro-active in telling these great stories of USA Swimming in the media and socially.
- Focus on “Funnest” – You will see the continuation of the “funnest sport there is” tagline and the SwimToday campaign, despite some of the eloquent (yet pointed) letters we received from English teachers.
- New Way to Try the Sport – We have an exciting project on the drawing board now that will create a fun entry to the sport drawing inspiration from Punt, Pass & Kick, Wipeout and American Ninja Warrior!
- Sigma Gamma Rho – This continues to have the potential to be one of the most inspiring partnerships. SGRho is the African-American sorority that has fully embraced the benefits of getting involved in the sport.
- Marketing & Sponsorship Education – Later in January we will release details of a first-ever marketing & sponsorship conference targeted to club and LSC leaders. Look for an announcement of the #SwimBiz: Social Media, Sponsorship & Swimming conference.
- Hispanic Outreach – Look for a test multicultural promotion in San Antonio – site of the 2015 Phillips 66 USA Swimming National Championships – to draw new people to the sport. The Hispanic community is the fastest-growing in America.
- New Partnerships – Historically, the pre-Olympic lead-up is when we see new corporate partners join the fold at USA Swimming, so we will be looking for the “right” partners.
- Trio to Rio – It is go time for this joint sales effort of USA Swimming, USA Track & Field and USA Gymnastics. The USOC and other National Governing Bodies will be watching closely on whether it succeeds in bringing in new partners.
- Game On – Another item on the drawing board is bringing a game element to Deck Pass. An NPR story in 2014 gave me confidence that we can create a game for swimming that isn’t repetitive!
- Special Promotions – In 2014, we started the #CoachesAre promotion to allow swimmers to recognize their coaches. This will continue in April along with a March promotion recognizing the great work of volunteers.
- Look of Events – Forgive this one being a bit more cryptic for now, but we also will be looking at the identity of major events soon.
- Social Media Growth – With social media becoming a primary communications vehicle and news source, we will continue to build on the 400% increase in followers.
Things That Keep Me Up at Night There are always a few topics that have me puzzled. I call this my personal “drawing board” as I feel these are topics that need attention, but I can always use others’ insight or ideas into how to make them happen. Below are themes that keep me up at night:
- Competition from Other Sports – More youth sports than ever are becoming aggressive on drawing participation.
- Parents Don’t See the Team Aspect of Swimming – in our research it became clear that parents don’t see the team aspect of swimming but think of it only as an individual sport. We have to work on that perception.
- Focus on Millennials – In a 2014 USA Swimming research study we found 36% of millennials were most likely to consider swimming for their kids, the highest segment by 10% or more. Just know they are instant secret shoppers and will share their experience – good or bad – faster than any other customer. Understanding this group is vital to our business, as this is the next wave of parents, and even young, assistant coaches!
- Creating New Sponsor Assets – There is only so much space on event deckboards and within TV broadcasts, so we have to continue to create new properties.
- Integrating Digital & Print – One of the most tangible benefits of USA Swimming membership is receiving Splash magazine. We will continue to provide this print version, but will challenge ourselves to have more digital integration that includes bonus material.
- Three-Peat – Returning to Omaha for the third time for the U.S. Olympic Trials brings familiarity which also amps up the pressure to make it better than ever.
- Wearable Technology – With Apple’s release of the iWatch, Garmin’s release of its swim product, Fitbit and more, this will start to hit the swimming industry.
Any feedback and ideas are welcome, especially those that help me sleep just a bit better this year!