Does your soccer club, team or town have a brand?
Updated: It's SPRING! It is a time for renewal - and a time of tryouts and new teams forming. And, it is a great moment to evaluate marketing your soccer club. As a soccer expert, you may not be sure about how to market your club or team. Here is a simple marketing guide for soccer clubs.
I have been in the marketing industry for nearly 30 years, owned a public relations firm on Madison Avenue in New York City and this is the best, simple guide to understanding How To Brand I have ever read. Diane Scavuzzo - Editor in Chief.
What does your brand say about your soccer club?
How you represent your club to your community speaks volumes about your play on and off the field. Everything from your logo, uniforms, web site, communication and organization effects how people perceive your club. It even impacts the types of players you attract. Is it time to do a brand audit of your soccer club? Here is a simple guide to help you be more successful.
Pick 3 things and get started today!
Why Brand Matters
Chances are, you haven’t given much thought to the concept. Out of 55 state-level U.S. Youth Soccer (USYS) organizations nationwide, only four states have dedicated marketing staff. But this is a missed opportunity. Building a successful and reputable soccer organization is about more than wins and losses on the field. The experts – coaches and administrators who’ve grown clubs from grassroots clubs to regional organizations – know branding and marketing are key elements in a solid game plan.
So what exactly is a brand?
Interpreting the American Marketing Association’s definition, brand is the personality that identifies a product, service or company and differentiates it from the goods of other sellers. Brand also personifies company or product philosophy, situating it in relation to its key constituencies – customers, staff, partners, investors and the wider community.
Brand gives your product – in this case, your soccer club or team – “definition and personality,” former Microsoft CFO and Nike and Korrio Board Member John Connors says. “Every aspect of branding is important to telling a concise message to a broad audience. There is a magic chemistry that occurs when brand aligns with a superior product.”
All clubs want to grow through increased membership, community support, visibility and financial resources. A well-crafted brand is a powerful tool that can help accomplish ambitious organizational goals. Experience shows there are a number of strategies soccer organizations can implement to create a well-built brand that will attract the best players, coaches and volunteers, raise funds, build community and elevate the level of play, creating a richer experience for youth.
You Represent Your Community
Creating a brand for your club is an exciting opportunity to define and communicate who you are and what you believe in. Whether you’re a competitive, premier club or a family-oriented recreational league, your organization can benefit from a strong brand. A brand builds trust. It’s a commitment to a unique identity and set of principles. And it’s expressed through every facet of your organization – from your logo design to your staff.
Creating a brand is easier than you think; it simply requires self-knowledge, thought and strategy. Start by assessing your mission and values. Brainstorm on your marketing, communications and financial objectives and suss out what sets you apart from any competitors. Identify your top three goals and then relentlessly align your actions with these aims.
Once you know who you are, your leadership team should create a Brand Guide to get everyone – coaches, managers, parent volunteers, even players – on the same page. This is a marketing toolbox that contains the following: a logo design, design and font choices, your colors, your mission statement and your “Elevator Speech,” the 15-second explanation everyone in your club will give when asked what your organization is about. Your guide should also contain your “Boilerplate,” a few paragraphs of official language that explain your organization succinctly for your website’s About Us section and press releases.
Your brand is also expressed through your team’s appearance, from the coaches to the players. Assess your uniforms, bags, coach jerseys and even balls to present a cohesive, neat and professional look. The pride and self-respect that players – and by extension, their families – draw from being part of a tight, well-branded organization is immeasurable; everyone feels part of something larger and that feeling strengthens relationships and commitment to the team.
Your Reputation Matters
Once you identify who you are and plan how you’re going to communicate your message, take a step back and assess your reputation. How are you perceived by your community and target members? Is your club fun or competitive? Perceived as affordable or expensive? Are you known for sending players on to higher levels of play? How are your coaches and referees perceived? They are key to your brand.
Have you had any negative incidents, and if so – how did you handle them? Are you trying to rebuild or improve you reputation? If so, you must think strategically about how the message you’ve created – through your Brand Guide – can help you re-establish a positive reputation that accurately reflects your brand. If you’re not sure how you’re perceived, ask your players’ parents or others in your community for an honest assessment.
Families Are Your Customers
Next, look at your membership numbers. Are you growing? A good brand sells itself and savvy marketers know that word-of-mouth is more powerful than any paid advertising. Broadcasting your message to the community will ensure that you reach and attract your preferred player demographic – whether it’s highly-competitive or fun-loving. Make sure people can find you easily online, with a well-designed and current website.
At this point, you should also consider your registration process and whether it discourages or encourages new members. If you’re hanging on to an unwieldy process that requires parents to sign up in-person or mail forms, you could be driving less-committed parents and players away. This is where automation can be extremely useful. Most people are now accustomed to doing business online and some simply expect that option. Online sports automation platforms, such as Korrio, can provide a user-friendly one-stop home for all club business, including registration and payments. So take a good look at your system. Do you need an upgrade?
Remember, too, that retaining loyal members is as important as bringing in new ones. It does no good to bring new members into your organization if current members are leaving in equal measure. Look at your numbers. What’s the big picture? It doesn’t take much to make families feel valued, which makes them want to stay; it’s the little things. Coaches and managers should communicate with parents, drawing them into the organization. Updates, notes and even little gestures like recognizing players’ birthdays or reaching out to siblings can make families feel plugged in and cared for. There’s an opportunity here to influence the entire family and loyal parents can make or break your organization.
More Money, More Resources
A solid brand also helps you raise more money on a number of levels, as everyone is more excited to support an organization that appears professional, tight and goal-oriented. Parents are more likely to sign their kids up for – and pay the necessary fees to – teams and clubs that offer the most value. Likewise, local businesses are eager to support clubs and teams with solid reputations. A well-designed website with room to plug your sponsors is a big plus, as is finding ways to include your sponsors in branding or media opportunities.
Recruiting the Best
A strong brand is a powerful recruitment tool, helping you attract the best players and coaches. If you’re having trouble recruiting the staff you want – paid or volunteer – ask yourself why such people would want to join your organization. Then make sure you’re telling that story to your community and professional and personal networks.
Excited, inspired leaders attract people who want to work together on shared goals – enthusiastic, hard-working people who want to join quality teams with excellent reputations and efficient organization. You can attract the right staff and volunteers by creating buzz and communicating a solid game plan. Organize and mobilize them along their interests and expertise. Volunteers are looking for fulfilling experiences that make good use of their generously-donated time. These are influential individuals – volunteer coaches, for instance – who wield vast power on the field. The quality of your coaching will literally dictate whether your young players enjoy the sport. And the lessons they learn in youth soccer can last a lifetime.
From a pragmatic standpoint, again, a strong brand will also help you raise more money. So if you’re looking to recruit sought-after paid coaches, you’ll have additional resources to do so.
Visibility Breeds Respect
Does your community know you exist? Make sure you’re using the local media to help communicate your message to people outside your direct circle of players and families. It’s not hard to fire up an ongoing media effort. It’s just a matter of finding out who at your local daily or weekly newspapers and websites handle photos and news items, and then submitting material to them on a regular basis. This is an excellent task for ambitious parent volunteers, who can email photos, captions, press releases, calendar listings and announcements regarding registration and events to your local newspapers and news websites.
Media coverage will raise your profile, create team pride and show donors and local businesses the benefit of affiliating with you. And it will provide your players and their families with invaluable recognition – newspaper clippings they’ll keep for a lifetime.
Your website is also an invaluable tool for spreading your message – it can’t be stressed enough.
It is your face to the world and where your brand lives. A strong online presence is imperative for brand identity in this day and age. Your website is where your players and parents will look for real-time information and updates on a number of topics, so it must be easy to administer and update. You don’t want maintaining your site to be an unwieldy chore. Look for current web hosting technology with user-friendly and intuitive tools for easy editing and updating.
Last, but not least – communicate, communicate, communicate. Make sure everyone is aware of your success and progress. Strive to make your entire organization feel connected and part of a larger soccer community, geared towards making children successful on the field and at home.
“The most important component of brand is the Customer Experience,” says former Starbucks and Reebok President and Korrio Advisor Martin Coles. “Working hand in glove with your customers will create a truly differentiated and remarkable experience for coaches, players and fans to build your unique brand.”
Remember, building, maintaining and growing a successful soccer organization or club is a perpetual effort. Establishing a strong brand can help ease some of these challenges. Know too, that you don’t need to take all of these steps at once. Pick a few ideas to strengthen your brand – say, writing a mission statement, designing a logo or improving your website – and start there. You can continue to build on your brand as you have the time and resources.
And don’t fear failure. If something doesn’t work, move on and try something else. Turn it around quickly and recover, just like you’d coach your players to do on the field.
Want more information? Download the entire Why Brand Matters booklet for free.
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