From AD to Ad Man: A Crash Course
“What do I have and how much is it worth?” This is a question that is becoming more and more important to Athletic Directors. Yes, budgets are being cut and resources are declining year after year. Yes, there is more and more pressure on ADs to raise money from local businesses through sponsorships. None of this is a surprise. Here is something else that is no surprise: ADs are very busy, and rarely have a background in marketing and/or sales. What is one more hat to wear, right? In speaking with ADs every day, I have come across a few FAQs and concerns that come with the territory of selling local sponsorships.
Advertising and sponsorships on a local level are becoming more important to help offset the effects of declining budgets. Many districts that previously had policies against this sort of thing have lifted bans on advertising, which usually opens a door to an unfamiliar world for the AD. So, “What do I have, and how much is it worth?” As important as this question is, it is not always asked. Here is a good place to start: Identify your inventory.
Nobody wants to turn a school into a NASCAR track. It is important to understand how much space (i.e. how many banners in the gym) you are willing to sell while remaining tasteful and offering value to your sponsors. This is true whether selling full-page program ads or a sign on the football field. Once you know what you would like to sell, price it appropriately. How much a particular ad space is worth depends on numerous factors (average attendance, term of sponsorship, etc.) which vary from school to school. However, there is a business case for why being a sponsor at your school is valuable. While a main selling tactic by booster clubs is tugging at the heartstrings, those ads are more valuable to a local business than feeling good about supporting the school. The people seeing those banners in the gym, and buying those game programs, are those business’s direct customers.
Another important factor when determining the price of a piece of inventory is production costs. It is far too common (in keeping with the tugging of the heartstrings) that a school will give a local business an opportunity to put their name on a banner in the gym for a $100 “donation”, only to find out that the banner costs $105 to produce. Then, that same business gets a call from another volunteer at the school raising money for a different department or cause. Keep track of what you are making available to potential sponsors, and also who is selling it. Organizing and focusing your efforts will maximize the funds you raise.
Booster club members and parent volunteers are Saints among men. They supplement their full time jobs and parenting responsibilities with the fun task of helping to organize functions and raise funds, so that the children of the community may have a better school experience. They do this, and they often do it without praise or compensation. Unfortunately, it is also hard to organize these efforts. By the very nature of booster clubs, there is a lot of turnover (kids graduate). Also, a school usually has multiple booster clubs. It is helpful to keep your outreach materials consistent and in one place so that multiple volunteers don’t have to spend time making multiple PDFs to send to the same business. Keeping everyone on the same page, and having a guided, uniformed approach to selling sponsorships to local businesses will make sure you get the most juice for your squeeze.
Leading an organized and focused effort will allow you to be efficient and know your customers. Track your outreach and past purchases to be able to market your inventory more effectively. Set limited terms for sponsorships and reach out for renewals with time to spare. For example, if you sell a banner in your gym, don’t collect a one time payment and leave the banner up for perpetuity. Sell a three year sponsorship, and then after two years reach out to renew for three more years. Tracking past purchases will give you the ability to offer discounts and other incentives for renewals. Managing outreach this way will help to generate cash flow and should relieve some stress of scrambling to raise funds for a season mere months before it starts.
While it may seem alien at first, being successful in the world of marketing and selling local sponsorships is really no different than being successful in any sport; establish a game plan, organize your team, and execute efficiently.
About the Author:
Dan McGrath has served as a School Partner for Home Team Marketing for six years, helping facilitate sponsorship programs that have benefited high schools to the tune of tens of millions of dollars.