For the Love of the Game
Noisemakers. Stadium mugs. Giant foam tomahawks decorated with the refreshingly direct team slogan of "DECAPITATE THE OTHER GUYS." The sports world is overflowing with promotional products, beheading-themed or otherwise. More importantly however, the sports world is also overflowing with opportunities to sell them.
From the NFL to the local Little League team, there are almost too many sports teams in need of fan and spirit products to count. You can go big and try to sell a sports merchandising program to a local college, you can go small and create a fundraising program for your local pee-wee football league, or you could do something in the middle, say for a nearby minor league baseball team.
Sound good? Like printing money one sheet of fully licensed temporary tattoos at time? We thought so. Check out the list of pointers below to help get on your way to that sweet, morale-boosting fan and spirit money.
1. COLORS AND EXPECTATIONS
Sports teams can be particular about the color of their items. If a T-shirt or foam hand doesn't match a team's colors closely, the products will seem cheap and inauthentic. Since an exact color match isn't always possible however, you have two objectives when explaining coloration to sports clients: getting all the necessary color details, and also managing expectations. Lisa Bascom, vice president for AmeriFoam/The House of Foam, Brooklyn, Mich., explained.
"Always remember to ask for the team's PMS numbers," she said. "But do not forget to let your customer know that PMS ink matches are not always guaranteed." This way, you're managing your client's expectations ahead of time, while also doing your best to get accurate coloration.
2. ALWAYS ASSUME CHILDREN WILL BE PRESENT
If a product is likely to be used by children, it significantly raises the product safety requirements of the item. And while you may feel positive that no children will be present at the sporting event you're providing items for, say something like a UFC event or 40-and-over corporate softball league, it's never a 100 percent guarantee that there will be no children present.
"No matter what event, there will most likely be young children there," said Malia Anderson, TAS, marketing manager for CleggPromo Inc., Gardena, Calif. "Even if you don't think it's an event geared towards children, don't assume, play it safe. Think about college basketball games," she said. "You typically think of rowdy college kids and faculty. In actuality, many faculty members take their kids to games and college students take their younger siblings who are visiting or who live in the area," she explained. "Our light-up products are a huge hit for sporting and outdoor events, so we make it a priority to make sure they're tested and CPSIA-compliant."
3. DO YOUR RESEARCH
Don't assume you know everything about a prospective sports client just because you've been to a few games. Doing a little research beyond what you've observed at the venue can be helpful in making the sale. Does the team do a bobblehead promotion every year? Are the fans in stadium allowed to have glass bottles? What kinds of co-sponsors, if any, has the team worked with in the past?
These are the kinds of questions you should be finding answers for. Michael Bistocchi, senior vice president of sales and marketing for CleggPromo Inc., also noted the value of doing research on what teams in the prospect's league or market have done before.
4. PRE-SELL CO-SPONSORSHIPS
A "co-sponsorship" is when you get a third party to pay part of the cost of an item in exchange for having their logo or desired advertising copy placed on said item. Examples would be the sponsors you often seen printed on the backs of complimentary T-shirts at 5K runs or drink vendors sharing decorative space along with sports teams on stadium cups. It's a handy tactic for reducing the cost of the promotion for your client, as well as an occasional way to boost your own profits. (If you sell a co-sponsorship space for $1,000, you could pass $800 in savings on to your client and rest on to yourself.)
So, co-sponsorships can be a valuable addition to your sports marketing, to say the least, which is why it sometimes pays to seek them out ahead of time, before you even pitch to your intended client.
"Some of our distributors report success in pre-selling the idea/product to the sponsor before approaching the schools," said Mark Jenkins, MAS, sales director for Pioneer Balloon, Wichita, Kan. "This is especially true of high school game night giveaways."
5. TRY HIGH SCHOOLS FOR REPEAT PROGRAMS
Along with co-sponsorships, another way fan and spirit programs can be lucrative is the high likelihood of repeat business. Few are the sporting events that are one-and-done, so if your first program with a sports client is successful, it's likely that you'll be asked back the following year to repeat the program.
Jenkins provided one example of a sports market that is likely to result in repeat business. "High school game giveaways have a high rate of repeatability year after year," he said. "Once the program is sold, the likelihood of a repeat order for next year's first home game or homecoming game is favorable."
6. DON'T FORGET THE PTO
When working with K-12 schools, remember that the school itself does not handle 100 percent of the buying. Outside parent-teacher organizations (PTOs) will sometimes be involved in the sports marketing or fundraising for a school. Sometimes, especially in the case of primary schools, PTOs can be an easier sale than the school itself. "It is sometimes difficult to get into primary school," said Bascom. "We have found the best route for our distributors to go through is a PTO member."
7. TRY TANGENTIAL MARKETS
With so many sporting avenues to sell to, it can be easy to get tunnel vision and only focus on specific sporting event sales. However, there are lots of tangential markets available off to the sides of sporting events.
"Fan and spirit items may not just be used at sporting events," said Bascom. "Keep an open mind. Fan and spirit products can also be used for parades, political rallies, wedding receptions, etc."