• Ian Sandbrook

The marketing technique all amateur sports clubs should adopt

'People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you make them feel' - Maya Angelou

Nail. Head.

That quote probably surmises my entire approach to club development and sports participation but in this article I'm relating it to a much mis-understood area within amateur club sport - marketing.

There's no doubt that marketing has pervaded all areas of sport. Winning the fight for people's discretionary time and money is the big battlefront of the sports industry, and marketing is the heavy artillery of choice. Rightly or wrongly, we have seen an explosion in marketing spend by NSOs in the last 5-10 years that has had many positive benefits on the whole. It's definitely upped the ante in terms of broader reach, better analytics and insights to drive engagement, and greater noise and excitement around events and programmes.

However, for most amateur sports clubs, marketing is a bit of a scary topic. They don't have the budget, they don't have the time or skills, and they don't know where to start.

They see the shiny campaigns and don't know how to compete or they think that a nationally led campaign on its own will have people flooding to their doors (they generally don't). The reality is that national campaigns create great awareness but don't necessarily convert into increased members, registrations or ticket sales at local clubs. It is what's done locally that truly gets people over the line.

So while marketing can be a bit daunting for your volunteer run sports club, it does have an important part to play for any club with ambition. Therefore, it begs the question, how can we get more clubs to take that step and start to actively market themselves?

In my opinion, we should start with the marketing technique that I believe is the most powerful and something they can all do - Storytelling.

Storytelling taps into the fundamental human experience of emotional connection. We are wired to seek out these experiences and if your stories can create feeling you will increase the likelihood of someone taking action i.e. joining your club, registering for your programme, coming to your event. And you know what the beauty of storytelling is - it doesn't have to cost you anything, anyone can do it, and it's the most powerful technique you can employ in creating and growing connection with your club.

By using great stories as the basis for promoting your club, you are also creating a new entry point to your club based on an emotional feeling, so often the overriding factor in people's decision making. Share something demonstrating the real life experiences of someone at your club telling their story and the impact it's had on them - and you've got me interested, particularly if I've never been involved in your sport before.

So why should clubs focus on storytelling:

1.  It creates an emotional connection that resonates with people, making them more likely to find out more.

2.  You personalise the experiences at your club, and by doing that, you are unwittingly creating a 'personality' or 'brand' for your club.

3.  It makes you stand out - in a world where people have access to so much information people are looking for the unique.

4.  Stories share real experiences - you get away from just listing benefits, it doesn't sound 'salesy' and desperate, and people can relate to it.

Therefore, telling and sharing the stories associated with your club is a wonderful, human-centric way of creating awareness for your club. And one of the great advantages for all clubs now is we are in the age of social media. Social media has levelled the playing field in many regards, and any club now has the ability to reach significant audiences for little or no cost other than a little bit of time and effort.

So my advice to all amateur sports clubs when dipping their toes into some marketing, is don't get sucked in by expensive campaigns, the marketing speak and strategies, and don't try and be Manchester United from the get go. The most effective first step for a volunteer run, amateur sports club, is to get really good at telling your stories and share them as widely as possible.

Here are some simple tips to help clubs with their storytelling:

1.  Relevant and sharable - know who you are trying to target with your story and make sure it appeals to them and is shared on platforms they use.

2.  Make it part of what you do - try and share different experiences with each piece of content you put out. A one-off video is great and will be powerful but the glow only lasts for so long. If you have regular, impactful stories that go out you will keep your club on people's radar.

3.  Base it on the culture/values you're trying to portray - if you're trying to become the most family-friendly club in the area, then make sure your stories demonstrate that and emphasise values that are important to families.

At every point of the club experience we should be considering how we make people feel. Therefore, it makes sense to me that clubs should make their marketing an extension of this ethos. By telling and sharing great stories that bring to life your club's personality I guarantee you will evoke feelings in your audience and you might just be surprised at how it starts to set you apart.

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