Digital bootcamp

Using digital to grow your membership

Members are the very beating heart of your sports club. They coach your juniors, they maintain your grounds, they run the clubhouse and ultimately they give up every one of their weekends turning out performances on the pitch in the name of your club.

As a level of importance then, maintaining your current members and attracting new ones should be central to everything your club does on it's journey into the online sphere. This week, we'll point your club in the direction of a few digitally-infused ideas for catching the eye of potential new members, an area that grassroots clubs consistently struggle to find a solution for.

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First of all, let's just quantify how important digital is in finding and keeping hold of those members. According to a 2015 survey by Ofcom, 90% of 16-24 years olds now own a smartphone. In 2013, a survey from Pew Internet & American Life Project Chances found that 94% of teenagers use Facebook. As a result, almost every single member of your club, both young and old, are part of the technological revolution that dominates so much of our lives.

If attracting a new, younger generation is paramount to the longevity of your club, you and your club members need to speak the tech-savvy language that appeals to them.

How digital can help potential new members find you

Jen covered some pretty mammoth stats on the power of search engines last week, and our first stop is ensuring your club is ready to be found online.

Essentially, the first stop to finding anything from the “funniest cat videos”, the “best movie deaths” or the secret to a good Yorkshire pudding is Google. Online encyclopaedia of pretty much everything, Google (where 70% of all global searches take place) can also point people in the direction of a “local sports club” - and that is where you come in.

There are a number of steps to take to ensure that when someone in your local area does that, your club is the first on Google's list.

Let Google know you exist

One thing to remember about Google is that ultimately it's in place to help people find the things they need. So first, you need to let Google know that you're a sports club in location X, Y and Z.

You can do that by “claiming your business” on Google. To test it out, type “football/cricket/rugby (or whichever sport your club plays) club” into Google now. The search engine uses your location information to highlight the nearest clubs around you.

Are your club listed? If not, you need to claim your business. There, you can add contact information, website details, photos and even hook it up to Google Maps so people know exactly where your location is. Without it, your visibility online is diminished considerably.

Why content is king

There is a popular phrase that's never too far from the edge of a marketer's lips – content is king. Content will play a huge role in everything your club does online, and it's central to getting picked up on Google.

Think back to a couple of paragraphs ago, when I said that Google just wants to supply the answers to their customer's searches online. So, if someone wants to find a local sports club, chances are they want to see a fun, engaging and vibrant club that they'll instantly want to get involved with.

No doubt your club is all of those things, but does it shout it from the digital rooftops? The way you can is through content.

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Everything that goes on at your club should be communicated in the form of a news item, match report, photo or video that you can place on your club's website. We'll be covering the hows of creating content in future weeks, but for now the whys.

When Google provides that person with a list of local clubs to choose from, it looks for a cricket club that is active and engaged online. The way you can show Google you are exactly that is by producing great, varied content about everything that goes on at your club.

Plus, when those potential new members do then find you near the top of Google and click onto your website, they see an exciting, well-run club that's part of their community and in tune with the modern age - and who wouldn't want to join that?

When marketers speak about content, they mean that small businesses and organisations (just like yours) have now become publishers, who use content to sell their products; for you, that means 'selling' your club to potential new members. Ensure all your content mirrors the dedication and passion that your club show every single day.

Don't forget social media

As a branch of online content, social media is another digital tool your club can utilise to get noticed online.

Social media ties back in with the stats I mentioned on smartphone usage earlier. A smartphone and social media accounts go hand in hand for children entering their teenage years; in fact the average person checks their phone 85 times a day! Getting your club's social media channels in front of those members isn't easy, but you have the perfect starting point – sport.

Twitter, Facebook and Instagram are all about viral content. Something hilarious, weird or ridiculous that captures an emotive subject and leads to us sharing it amongst our friends online. Sport can often be any and all of these things, so your club has the perfect opportunity to jump aboard the social media bandwagon and get noticed by people who don't necessarily follow you.


Do you take photos or create video of your big games? This sort of content is great social media bait (a bit like Pitchero's very own above). If your star striker just volleyed in from the half-way line, or the referee's had a comedy fall, capture it on camera and shove it online. Similarly, do you passionately live tweet your club's matches or openly comment on controversial subjects in the sporting world that affect your club?

These sporting tit-bits are perfect for social media. If your followers share it, chances are their friends living in the local community will spot it – and suddenly you're looked upon favourably by new, young, tech-native audience.

Engage your local community

As a grassroots sports club, you are an integral part of your community – and you can use digital to enhance your reach with local residents.

One big potential goldmine for local outreach is the media. As a local sports club, you've likely got a million stories to tell that might be of interest to local press. Has one of your juniors just made the move to a pro academy? Got a player who has battled back against unbelievable odds to take their place on the pitch? Have you recently raised some significant cash for charity?

These are examples of great stories that your community will value - and if they do then so will the press. Get in touch with the local paper and give them an passionate run-down of all that's good about your club. Coverage on their website likely has a wider coverage than the paper edition, and those potential social media benefits are tied in with online coverage.

Another area where the local press might want to get involved is events. Could your club organise a family fun day, inviting the whole community for a day of sporting activities? Again, this could be of interest to the local media, who might drop by to take some photos and run a story on the positive impact you are having in the area.

Local businesses are another resource worth taping into for that extra level of coverage online. Ask your sponsors for a reference on their website, and launch any new partnerships on both social media channels (something which again could be of interest to the business editor of your local paper).

Note: For those of you who don't have sponsors and want to increase revenue via this channel, we'll be covering that in much greater detail in week 6.
As a grassroots club, you have a part to play in maintaining a healthy community. Take a look inward and find the stories your club has to tell. It's just another way to get your club talked about online which could in turn lead to an uptake in members.

Continuing your digital journey

As we go into deeper into your voyage of digital discovery, we'll relay back onto the points made above. Communication, tone and your club's voice are key to getting the message right for different members of your audience, and that's something we'll cover in future weeks.

Once those members are onboard, you've got to keep them. Engaging your current user base is just as valuable as trying to reach new ones, and we'll also be covering that as we progress.

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Content Marketing Specialist.
Amateur cricketer.
Professional Ryan Sidebottom look-a-like.




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