Fence Banners and Beyond

Last week, I was leaving the gym after my daughter’s high school basketball game. As I walked, I overheard a family trying to figure out where they were going to go for pizza. My ears immediately perked up when I heard the family talk about a restaurant that was one of the team’s sponsors.  Just a few days prior, the restaurant gave away a few free pizzas and t-shirts as part of a game sponsorship. Sure enough, the family made their decision for the sponsoring restaurant.  Was this a result of the restaurant's generous sponsorship?  Was the wall banner and game giveaway paying off?  One example is not proof, but it’s something worth exploring.

The Banner Sale

A major component of high school and youth sports fundraising is the ubiquitous vinyl banner.  Whether you find it on the fence at the football, baseball, softball or soccer games…or it’s hung proudly in the gym for basketball, volleyball…this mode of fundraising is a very big arrow in the proverbial quiver.

But when approaching local businesses, it’s hard to communicate the benefits that sponsoring a local sports team brings.  Sure, good will is great, but small businesses have limited budgets and without a clear understanding of how their financial supports helps their bottom line, they are understandingly hesitant.  It’s hard for them to see the value.

So, boosters/coaches/players must focus on how their sponsorship dollars benefit the local business. They must show value that is much greater than the cost of the sponsorship.  One approach when talking with local business is drawing a parallel to why big corporations use sponsorships and social responsibility marketing to increase profits.

Corporate Parallel

Everyone knows that corporations send billions of dollars to associate their names with sports: Stadium naming rights, Super Bowl ads, and nascar paint jobs filled with logos. Perhaps a closer analog, however, is that corporation also spend billion on social responsibility efforts, including non-profit donations.  To a small business, sponsoring a local youth or high school team feels more like a donation.  Well, there’s good news.  In the last few years, real evidence has surfaced that shows buying decisions are largely affected by a corporation's social responsible image.

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) departments are becoming the standard, instead of the exception. Big success stories include Toms Shoes, who donates a pair of shoes to a developing country for every pair of shoes sold.  Or Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream, who in 1985 started setting aside 7.5% of its profits for community-oriented projects.  These companies had huge hearts when they started, but research is now showing their altruistic actions, when done right, are actually helping their bottom line (one study found a 3.5% increase in profitability).  One key finding from these studies was that financial returns were related to both how well the corporation marketed their goodwill AND how well aligned that goodwill was with their customers beliefs.

Fence Banners, schedule posters, and game brochures all fit the bill for being both sports sponsorship marketing and being socially and community responsible.  And youth and high school sports typically align with the interest of most of your local community.  It really is a one-two punch.

Beyond Banners

At FanAngel, we love banners, posters, brochures.  Every team should consider using the tried and true option.  And that’s why we’ve made it easy for booster to asks business to purchase them online (no need to have your athletes canvas the town).  But we’ve gone beyond banners, and believe teams should too. For example, campaign team news updates can easily be printed for display in counter/wall displays. We also recommend sponsors post these sports updates socially and share on their websites.  These small efforts helps build their company image, showing they are community minded and giving back.

A Page from the Playbook

Team Playbook:

  1. Outline the benefits the sponsor will receive: how many home games and tournaments are there?  How many fans typically come to games?  Is the sign visible during other sports or other local events (e.g. if little league or adult leagues use the same fields on the weekends, this means more visibility to the sponsor).  Is there street visibility for drive-by traffic
  2. Can you promise to post weekly or game updates (get a volunteer team parent agree to do this)?  If so, then sponsors can print and display these updates at their place of business. Moreover, businesses can share on social media to further spread the word about their goodwill.
  3. Will you announce sponsorship at select games?  Can the sponsor hand out fliers at the game, setup a booth, or engage in other promotions (free gift card, t-shirts…)?

Sponsor Playbook:

  1. Consider spreading your sponsorship dollars across different seasons.
  2. Consider the geography of potential clients.  Sponsoring multiple schools/leagues, including different age groups, will cast a wider net.
  3. Share your sponsorship.  The banner is great, but show you are a supporter at your place of business (counter or wall displays), post on social media, link the campaign on your website. Showing you are an active supporter of the community as a whole is key to success.

David Burton

CEO, FanAngel