How to use apparel in recruiting players to your team

Finding the players that are going to make your organization the most successful is critical. You probably have a very good feel for the ideal players you would like in your program. You may even know their names or know them personally.

But there are others competing for their time. It might be another club. Maybe another sport. Every player, regardless of whom they are, will have options.

The challenge is getting them to take an honest look at what you have to offer. Once they have checked you out, together you can decide if it will be a fit.

But you may never check you out if they don’t have a reason to take a deeper look.

This is why using some awesome looking gear can be really helpful in this process.

Players love gear

There is no question in my mind that one easy way to get people to smile is to hand them a great looking shirt, pair of shorts, hoodie or just about any wearable.

We see it every time we hand out team jerseys and shooting shirts to our players. Even when they’ve paid for the gear and know what they are getting, new gear always seems to bring a little excitement with it.

So imagine handing a freshly printed t-shirt with your team’s logo on it to a potential player. *When done correctly it can say to the player “I like your game and I care enough to spend some time to show you”.

*We don’t recommend making this your first interaction. Giving away a recruiting item to someone you’ve never met is awkward at best, and most likely will create a weird tension you don’t want.

The best brand to use

If you are going to give away gear, there are a lot of options. Between Nike, Under Armour and Adidas, not to mention a bunch of other specialty brands, the potential is limitless and there is a style for everyone.

However, none of these brands matter as much as your own brand.

Regardless of what you are giving away, remember WHY you are giving it away. You want to create a lasting impression that speaks to what your brand stands for. If you have done it right, this piece of apparel will hit home with the player and will become part of their wardrobe, whether casually, in the gym or otherwise.

When done right, your gear will be worn often and away from the court, field or ice

What about the big brands?

We need to address this, as the big brands are influential with kids. A swoosh, 3 stripes, etc. will certainly play a role. If you have the means to do so, producing gear on these branded items will help.

But, if you are limited on budget or don’t have access to a style that really works for you, using big brands is not a must. For Select Basketball, we use branded gear for all our jerseys and shooting shirts. However, recruiting gear is a different matter. We mass produce these and that gets expensive. This is where getting creative can make a lot of difference and could save you a lot of money.

Getting creative with your gear

First, if you are using big brand gear to screen print or embroider your logo, the main rule is don’t screw up the garment!

These big brands are successful for a reason and usually it is because the items they produce were meant to stand alone without extra stuff. So, if you are going to use a stylish Under Armour item, keep your branding simple and trust that UA knows what they are doing.

If you are not using big brands you can start to get creative. Second and third tier brands (and even fourth tier brands) are typically designed around the level of quality material they use (this is usually reflected in price). They know that you will be adding your image to them.

Here are a few creative ways to do gear:

  • A different type of wearable – shirts are standard and there are a bunch of options. But what about hats, shorts, tanks, cinch packs, socks or sweats? Get creative here and you can get extra points from your recruit.
  • Utilize the time of year and current trends – If the weather is cold then using a long sleeve shirt or a beanie is an easy way to get worn. Staying warm is a necessity so if a player has a unique warm thing to wear then they probably will. The same idea goes for hot weather.
  • Type of material – cotton is easy and standard. So get creative and consider things like a polyester or even a soft tri-blend. These are athletic pieces for athletic players and will stand out from the norm.
  • Colorways – there are a ton of items out there that will stand out just from the unique colors. A 3/4 sleeve baseball shirt with different color sleeves can be matched up with your logo for new look. Something as simple as a different color side panel on shorts can grab attention.
  • Simple designs done differently – did you know that the Select shield was partially inspired by the Baltimore Ravens? Or that our shooting shirts for the previous three years were a remake of the NBA shooting shirts? These things are probably obvious now because everyone is using them. But when we first came out with them they were totally new to our scene. And they were simple to recreate. You don’t need a high end graphic designer. Take something that is already working in a different industry and apply it to what you are doing.
  • Change up the location of your logo – We always see images on the front of shirts or the legs of shorts. Why not change it up? Could your logo fit on a sleeve? Would the name of your team look good on the hood of a hoodie? Just moving things around to an unexpected place can stand out from the rest.

Where to draw the line with gear

Giving out gear is great. Just make sure you aren’t going too far with it. Here are some of the common issues we see that may send the wrong message

  • Setting false expectations – if you are not normally giving out gear on a regular basis, make sure this is implied somehow. It will make the items seem more special and it avoids creating an expectation that you are going to be constantly giving out free stuff.
  • The bait and switch – if you are giving out big brand gear for recruiting purposes, don’t elude that all your team gear (jerseys, shoes, hats, whatever) will also be big brand if that is not the case. You will be setting up yourself and the player for disappointment when they don’t have a swoosh on their jersey.
  • Sponsored teams – we see this one a lot, either because the coaches don’t know what it really means to be sponsored or they are just lying. Just because your team wears a certain brand and may even get a discount does NOT mean that a team is sponsored. It just means they wear that brand a lot. Simply be honest about what your arrangement is if the topic comes up. For example, Select’s top teams wear Nike. We get a nice discount on the gear. But we are not under any contract with Nike and I’m quite sure they would not want us to claim we are under their flag.
  • Flat out lying – unfortunately, this one does happen. And while what a player wears does not define them, they do care. Lying sets a terrible tone for your relationship. We’ve seen examples of coaches promising that they will be wearing a brand and that kids are going to get backpacks and socks, etc. All of this to get the player to agree to playing. When it comes time to get their gear, the coach delivers something different, usually with an excuse blaming someone else for not getting the right stuff. This is not the way you want to operate.
  • Breaking the bank – every team’s financial situation is different. Make sure you have budgeted for recruiting items and then stay within the budget limits. It does not matter if you have the greatest gear and greatest players in the world. If you can’t afford to operate, you are done.

Recruiting gear best practices

Players love gear and and it can give your team a recruiting edge when used appropriately. Whether or not you are using big brands, putting your brand in a positive light with a potential player can set your team apart. By getting creative with how you use wearables, you can find an affordable way to stand out. As long as you are presenting your gear in an honest way, you and your future players will be setting a great foundation.