Are you running a youth sports event like a camp or tryout? What if you have this great opportunity for players but nobody knows about it? What if you do not have a budget to promote?
There are ways to get your information in front of the right players without spending a lot of money. Even if you are getting started, these simple but effective ways will get you more participation at the lowest possible price point.
By not utilizing these basic methods of promotion you are going to spend more money than you should. And you may miss out on the chance to get more players to take part.
We have seen the power of simple promotion in several youth sports organizations. Especially those that are running their first event or want to grow.
Over 15 years ago at our first camp we were able to get 90 participants at $100 each. We didn’t pay a dollar for promotion. But we did use these very simple promotion tactics.
Before You Begin
While all the following ideas are great, they will be ineffective if you don’t create your 5 Ws and your CTA.
The 5 Ws
These are the basics that every event promo needs: Who, What, When, Where and Why. Who is the event for? What is the event? When is the event? Where is the event? Why should the ‘who’ take part?
Who: Girls that are 10 or 11 years old
What: Volleyball camp for girls interested in playing for their junior high teams
When: Friday afternoon and all day Saturday, June 2 and 3
Where: Adams Junior High School
Why: This is a great chance to work on your court skills, learn new skills and meet your future coaches!
CTA stands for Call To Action. This is what you want the player (or parent) to do after they see your promotion.
Register for the camp by visiting the following website and signing up.
Learn more or ask questions by sending an email to…
The Community Calendar
In your community you will want to find as many publications as you can. Anything that gets local readers. This could be the newspaper, magazines, e-magazines, blogs, etc.
Most of these publications will have some sort of event calendar that lists out local events. And while some will want to charge you, most of them are free or have a free area. The publications are always looking for content so find a way to connect and get them your info.
This may be emailing the editor or content direct, utilizing an online form or making a quick phone call. Try them all. If they are free you don’t have anything to lose.
Be sure to include the 5 Ws and your CTA.
Your Email Plan
Email is a pretty common method of communication. Everyone you want to contact uses it. This includes school coaches, athletic directors, previous customers, etc.
Who to attack first
You want to be smart with your time when gathering your email list. If you have run a camp before, make sure you are emailing your former participants as well. They are the easiest to get back because they already know you and have a relationship. Plus, you should already have their email.
To get new contacts, start with the biggest group that is most likely to respond. If you are a school camp, start with your own school’s coaches and athletic directors. Then expand to your feeder schools. If you are an independent camp, start with the biggest school districts.
Finding their emails
If is not a district wide directory you may need to search school by school. Use a spread sheet and capture their name, school, mailing address and position. Since you now know the naming convention for their email, you can determine the email address without seeing it.
What to say
The key to a good email is using a subject line that will get them to open it. Coaches and Athletic Directors get emails all day long. So are your former participants. You have to be able to cut through the noise and make sure they open your email. Don’t make it spammy (here is an article I did on email spam problems) but still try and capture their attention.
For example, coaches want to help their players so a subject like “Will this camp help your players?” will hit them where they care. For athletic directors, it could be “This camp is great for coaches and teams”. Always avoid words like “free” and “guaranteed”. These words will usually trigger spam filters. Click here for a list of 100 words to avoid.
Once you have figured out your subject line, give a brief 1-2 sentence introduction. Then lay out your 5 Ws in the next paragraph and give them your CTA in the third paragraph.
The fourth paragraph is an “about us” area where you explain who you are. This is where you can go in to more detail about the camp and any history of what you do. Find the line between bragging and humble here. You want them to know you are good without seeming arrogant.
Then restate your CTA and in the signature put your contact information.
When to email
It is a good idea to send two emails. Send one about 4 weeks out when you are ready with your CTA. Send your last one about a week before the camp or as a reminder of your deadline (if you have one).
You can send one between these two, especially if your first one is more like 8 weeks out. But don’t over do it. A follow up email or two shows you are serious. Too many emails can come across as desperate. Through testing you will find the right mix of amount and timing of your emails.
Old School Snail Mail
An oldie but goody, the US Postal system is still a valuable way to get your stuff in front of the right people. When you do it the right way.
Snail mail was a big part of how we started building our camps 15 years ago. But there are a few tactics that still work today.
Dress it up
Like email, your former players, coaches and athletic directors are getting mail every day. The toughest part is often getting them to open it.
Unlike email, there is not an automated spam filter. Take advantage of the opportunity to make your envelop stand out from the rest.
Using the spreadsheet you set up in the previous step, do a mail merge to produce your mailing labels. Click here for an article on using Excel for a mail merge.
But when you go print, set the font of the school to a unique font type. I recommend using Bradley Hand ITC (or something similar). It gives the appearance that you hand wrote the address, much more personal.
We have also found success in creating a label that looks like a red rubber stamp. This creates some curiosity and urgency to open the letter. Using clear labels (not white), print labels in red with a font like stencil that looks a little worn out. Print a phrase like “IMPORTANT INFO” or “DEADLINE APPROACHING”. Something appropriate but attention grabbing. Place the label at an angle somewhere on the front of the envelope that will not impair the mailing process.
What to say
If you got them to open it, you are halfway there. Now, you need to include content that gets them to pay attention.
You can use a similar format to the email you did in the previous step. Introduce, 5 Ws, CTA, About Us, contact info.
Snail mail, more than email, is a physical experience. So you can do more if you want. Include pictures of previous camps or shirts that you have handed out. If you have testimonials from previous players or coaches you can add those in.
One tactic we still use is the self addressed stamped envelope included with the letter. This is great for paper registration. Click here for an example, envelope 1 would be your address and the same for everyone. We found that there is a much higher return on our mailings when we make it incredibly easy for the reader to get their information back to us.
Bringing it all together
There are several ways to promote your event that are simple and very cost effective. With some creativity you can get your information in front of the right people. And it won’t cost you more than you can afford.
What do you think? Will these simple tips help your event? Do you have some tricks you can share with us that you have found effective? We would love to hear them and they will definitely be helping others!