Digital bootcamp

What is Online Marketing and what does it mean to my sports club?

I think it’s important to start with understanding what digital marketing is and how it fits with what we consider to be traditional marketing. You’ll be familiar with a lot of aspects of traditional marketing such as magazine ads, posters, printed newsletters. The great big Yellow Pages book that you used to get delivered to your door is a prime example of traditional marketing.

Digital marketing really came into it’s own in the early 2000s, taking all those messages that you received through traditional marketing and putting them online through a whole host of channels. A digital channel is basically your route to potential customers so search engines, websites, email, social media, mobile apps to name a few.

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The thing with marketing though is it’s not just about advertisements. It’s actually about understanding who your customer is, where they look to find information and knowing what messages work. In the case of a sports club an example of this could be players looking to join a new team, volunteers looking for somewhere to spend their Saturday or someone looking to hire a room for a birthday party. How do these people currently find you?

That’s the awesome thing about digital marketing, as opposed to traditional methods, you can find all of this information out while reaching a much broader audience. Adopting digital marketing is one of the best ways to grow awareness about your club and all it’s offerings. I promise not to get too carried away with stats in this chapter but just take a moment to consider that around 3.5 billion people search for things online everyday, that. is. huge! Now obviously only a very small portion of that would potentially be relevant to your club BUT if your club isn’t online and embracing digital that’s a whole chunk of people who will probably never find you, you can’t afford for that to happen and that’s why we’re here today.
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The basics of marketing for your sports club

Okay let’s start with addressing the fundamentals of marketing in general, be it traditional or digital. We can break the fundamentals down into what is known as the 7P’s: product, place, price, promotion, people, process, physical evidence and one bonus one which is often included, partners. These may not sound like the most exciting words in the world but trust me when I say this is fundamental to all marketing whether you’re a Premier League club selling thousands of tickets a week or a small local team looking to drive recruitment for players and volunteers. We’ll dig into the essentials and by the end of this chapter you’ll be able to name the 7P’s as easily as naming your players and most importantly you’ll have some key ideas to take away to start growing your club online which you can build on throughout Bootcamp.

Let’s get started

As a sports club the first three should be pretty clear you know your product is essentially membership and potentially venue hire, place is your club grounds and price is your agreed fees for being a member, venue hire or drinks for example. People, you know who your members are, including your players, volunteers and staff and you know if you have any skill gaps in your team; you might be looking for a killer centre forward or defensive fullback to complete your squad for example. Process is how your new members go from joining your club to being fully fledged players or how a booking for an event gets handled from start to finish. So that leaves promotion, physical evidence and partners which is what we will look at in more detail in this chapter of Bootcamp.

Promotion: take a moment (or two) to think about all the ways in which you currently promote your club and activities. Do you do anything at all? Do you have a Facebook page that gets regularly updated? Do you have a great member base who promote your club through word of mouth and their social media? A club website? Promotion can take many forms and often seems the most overwhelming part of getting your club online and getting the information you want out there and into the hands of the people who need to see it. Promotion covers everything from your club brand (yes every club has a brand) to the tone and way you choose to communicate whether that be emails, text messages, advertisements, social media… you get the gist. There are lots of promotion opportunities!

Physical evidence: In the case of most sports clubs this is your staff, the people who represent your club as well as your clubhouse and grounds; but it’s also your website and online presence. It’s about all the places where your audience has a touch point with your club that gives them reassurance and knowledge to make a decision such as joining as a new member or hiring a room for a function. We’ve all been in the position of having to buy something and make a decision on a product. Which do you go for: the product that has an informative website and helpful staff if you visit a store, or the product with a website where you can’t find what you’re looking for and no staff to be found? Easy answer right? So think about all the touch points you have with your audience and if they are putting you in the best light.

Last but not least partners or as you probably know them best, sponsors. Sponsors are a fantastic way to team up on digital marketing efforts. If your club is currently looking for sponsors then digital marketing can help you find them. Having one or multiple sponsors is generally win-win for all involved so let’s make the most of them.

This is the starting point of your digital marketing, so start top to bottom and think about how each P is relevant to your club. I would suggest you make two lists, what you currently do and most importantly what you want to be doing. Taking partners as an example, write down how many sponsors you currently have and how many you want to have. With people, do you currently have 100 members but want to grow this to 120? It’s important you make your list achievable, adding 500 members would be incredible but consider if that is likely to happen in the next year. Doing this will help to give you structure and goals for your digital marketing efforts, consider this your trophy for a winning season.

How to promote your sports club

We briefly touched on digital marketing channels earlier so let’s look at those in more detail with some pros and cons, so you can decide which options you think will best work for your club.

1. Website

Difficulty level: easy to moderate

As far as digital channels go a website should definitely be considered as step 1 and the great news is that there are many website providers who now make setting up and running a website really easy. Long gone are the days of needing to be able to write html. A website covers both your promotion and your physical evidence online we talked about earlier. There are a lot of options out there when it comes to choosing who provides your website and how it will look and it is worth taking some time to choose the best option for your club’s needs. One important thing to consider is finding a website provider who offers a responsive website. This basically means a website that is designed to respond to whatever device it’s being viewed on such as a desktop or phone. It’s the difference between your website looking bad and hard to read or looking awesome and easy to use:

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As promised earlier I won’t get too carried away with stats but it’s estimated that over 100 billion searches take place on mobile devices every month and it’s expected that by 2020 this will grow approximately 30% year on year. Once again that is huge! You may well think “what does this have to do with my sports club?” but that is your audience, particularly your young up and coming players - they are all searching online through their phones. Having a website that recognises and responds to modern, portable devices is as an absolute must and if you choose a website provider who does this as part of their service, you don’t even have to do anything, it’s pretty much an instant improvement with no work on your part. Bonus!

Use your club’s website to your advantage and it will be by far and away your best digital asset. That means up to date contact information, team and training details, photos of your club and members, basically all of the things that will give people a taster of what it’s like to be part of the your club. Whenever you are setting up a website it’s really important to think about it from a user perspective. Put yourself in their shoes, is the information easy to find and are you answering key questions through your content? Ask a friend or family member to test it out and see if they spot anything missing or anything that could be improved. A fresh pair of eyes will always help and don’t be afraid to ‘recycle’ ideas from other websites; have a look around at other sports clubs to see what they are doing and consider what might work for you and your club’s website.

Pros:
  • A central point where anyone can easily find out information about your sports club that is fully in your control.
  • Easy to set up with a website provider.
  • You can get free or low cost websites now that are really good and look really smart, so they won’t break the bank.
Cons:
  • This isn’t really a con as such but you should bear in mind that a good website needs to be updated fairly regularly so there is a bit of ongoing maintenance.
Tips:
  • Fresh content such as news articles, upcoming fixtures and the latest match reports will keep your website looking up to date and relevant for new and returning visitors. Aim to update your website at least once per week.
  • Spend time on making sure you have good images of your club and your team if you choose to use them, don’t use images if they look distorted or a bit blurry. Good imagery can make a massive difference to people’s first impressions of your website and can quickly convey a lot more about your club than you can in words.
Your website will be key to getting you sponsors as well, we’ll go through this in further Bootcamp chapters when we cover analytics and revenue. For the time being keep your focus on getting your website looking great and featuring all that up to date and relevant content, this will drive people to your website and keep people coming back which in turn will lead to revenue opportunities but more on that later in Bootcamp.

2. Email

Difficulty level: easy to moderate

Emails can be a great way of keeping your members up to date with what’s going on such as match fixtures or club events. However, you’re only as strong as your email list (the people whose email addresses you have) so this is more about making the most of the people who already know you. Send out regular emails and keep them full of interesting and most importantly relevant information. A simple way to do this is to set up groups of email addresses so you can send the parents of your under 8’s an update about your club kids sports day while you send your ladies team details for purchasing tickets to the end of season dinner, for example.

The world of email marketing is actually a really tricky area even for professionals so simplicity is key here. Use an email client such as gmail or outlook to send your emails sticking to text with the occasional image. Alternatively, see if your website provider has an option for sending emails, if they do they will probably give you a template to use which will give your emails a more professional look.

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Pros:
  • A great way to keep your existing members engaged and up to date with what’s going on at your club.
Cons:
  • Email inboxes are getting busier and busier so you need to make sure what you send stands out and gets opened by making it relevant to the people who receive it.
Tips:
  • Set up lists of email addresses so you can group people by relevant content.

3. Social media for my sports club

Difficulty level: moderate

Do you know your Facebook from your Twitter? Your Instagram from your Snapchat? Let’s briefly break down the key social media platforms that are relevant to your sports club:

Facebook: Widely used social network used for posting messages, photos and videos.
Twitter: 140 characters used predominantly for news bites and links for further information. Great for getting a key message across with more info if needed.
Instagram: Image based with captions. Not for news or updates, more for engaging your members with photos from matches, club dinners and such.

Tip:
  • Don’t sign up to every social media channel going, pick one or two and do them well. For most sports clubs this would be Facebook and Twitter due to their ease of use and their large network of users.
There are a lot more social media platforms than these three but as a starting point these are the most likely contenders for being valuable and easy to set up for your club. Ideally choose a website provider who offer social media integration, so your social media channels are linked to your website. This allows members to share the latest news or match report on your club’s social network(s) with the click of a button. We’ll give you more information for how to use and what you should post on your social media channels in our communication and engaging your audience chapters.

Pros:
  • A great way to regularly update your members and club network about everything going on at your club.
  • Social media offers a community that you don’t get through your website or email, as people can easily respond to, comment on and share your posts.
Cons:
  • Most social media platforms have a way of filtering content per person so if people don’t visit your social media page for a while they may not see your updates anymore as Facebook or Twitter will think they aren’t that interested in your content. The best way to tackle this is to regularly update your social media pages to keep your followers coming back for more and to remain a firm fixture in their feed.
Tips:
  • Promote your social media channel(s) on your website so people know to follow you.
  • Set up specific social media accounts for your club, don’t use your personal account.
If you’re feeling particularly adventurous you could also venture into the world of social media advertising. You have the option to pay money to get your message to a wider audience, so for example at the start of the season you might want to grow your team members. A facebook advert could be an option for this; you can set a budget and target people who live in your local area with an interest in your sport. All social media platforms have a lot of information around their paid options, Hootsuite have an awesome blog on this which is worth a look if you are thinking this is a route you want to go down.

Next Steps

Start with a website, if you already have one really take a look at it and evaluate if it is doing what you need. If it isn’t, do something about it to make it better and work for your club. If you don’t already have a website start looking into website services or more specifically sports website providers and choose one that fits your club’s needs. I can’t stress how important it is that you get this bit right otherwise no matter how many people hear good things or find your website, if it looks bad and doesn’t give them the information they need then you will probably lose that visitor and no one wants that. Look at all the options you have for getting a great website, I bet you will be surprised at how much easier and inexpensive it is to set up than you think.

When it comes to your website and marketing activities try and share the workload, don’t take it all on yourself if you don’t have to. Ask other people to contribute, especially to the ongoing maintenance of keeping the content up to date. Think about who you have in your club and how they can help, do you have young player who could write some really interesting news article on what it’s like in youth sports or do you have a budding photographer who could take some photos of the team? Just like being part of a club, running a website and your online marketing should be a team effort, you’ll find your members are even more engaged when they get involved and you’ll reap the rewards of some great online assets and marketing.

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Fan of all things marketing and creative.
A Geordie and NUFC supporter (for my sins).
Slight coffee addict.


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