Teaching sports marketing has given me the opportunity, if not the excuse, to look closer at specific sponsorship deals that…
A lot of time and effort is spent on pricing, selling, and executing big-money sports sponsorships. Rightfully so. I mean, perhaps I’m biased … but in my opinion, sports are the best way to reach mass audiences in this time of heavily fragmented and time-shifted TV audiences. Sports broadcasts routinely attract the highest share of audience and are almost always one of the highest-rated programs on TV on any given day or night.
Sports are fueled by stars that can influence consumers in a big way. The tribal nature of sports also yields great influence. Stadiums are built with scale in mind. Sporting events bring thousands of heavily engaged fans together. These events are a great place for your brand to be represented.
How, then, can you find value in a youth sports league with no famous athletes, no media, and little market affinity beyond the families that support them? Where is the value in sponsoring a bunch of 10-year-olds playing soccer? Better stated, how does a youth sports league structure sponsorship assets to better sell them to potential sponsors?
Well, it’s all perspective, and candidly, or perhaps more importantly, it’s how you structure said sponsorship that makes it work for even the biggest brands. Let me explain.
I maintain that you can find tremendous value in any type of sports sponsorship, regardless of size, when you take time to properly assess your deliverables and structure them in a way that is most impactful for a brand.
Let’s get back to those kids. How can a brand find value in sponsoring a youth sports league? Here are important factors to consider.
What’s the real value of youth sports?
Depending on the size of the league, youth sports can be scalable. 15,000 kids and their families gathering for weekly events over multiple months can be worth a brand’s attention. Events like this can afford sponsors a significant amount of access.
No, I’m not talking about logos on uniforms or signs in the outfield but I am talking about other valuable touchpoints with audiences that must engage messaging from league officials. Things like emails that communicate game or practice schedules. Websites with game location details, player statistics, league standings, and other information that parents of young athletes need or want to receive.
Both websites and emails can feature branding and deliver important information directly to your specific audience.
I see this as the ‘easy’ component that generates measurable impressions. Additional, and perhaps even more value, can be generated with these targeted touchpoints that a sponsorship can’t offer. With a typical sports sponsorship, these can be activated in several ways.
- Kids playing sports need refreshments. Having them drink your product exclusively is a great way to build brand affinity. Want kids to like Powerade over Gatorade? Get them used to drinking it when they are young and impressionable.
- On-site vehicle displays for big tournaments value in sponsoring a youth sports league are one thing, but what about raffling off a lease? You could grow your database and perhaps sell a vehicle or two to a family that needs room for kids, equipment, and perhaps a relative or two.
- Let’s not discount (pun intended) the value of a coupon or some other incentive to drive families to your restaurant for a post-game meal. Save printing costs by serving that offer digitally.
Most importantly, you cannot miss on the intimacy of this relationship. As a brand, you are literally involved in a key activity that thousands of families engage in (w/great passion) each and every month of the year. You have better gender balance in these activities than you get with professional sports and you can speak to your audience in ways that make you look like a resource, not an advertiser.
Scholarships & Spending
Lastly, youth sports has taken what some would deem a challenging course. Participation is not free and depending on the sport, the equipment can be costly. Providing ‘scholarships’ to underserved children who need assistance has a wide array of benefits for our community and for the brand. I’d make that a part of any sponsorship agreement knowing that brands typically have funds specific for community engagement.
By no means do I think that any of the local professional or collegiate teams have anything to fear by way of revenue loss to sizable youth sports leagues in the valley. But, I do think brands should look hard at where they are spending their money and seek the kind of engagement that a properly structured and well-executed youth sports sponsorship could deliver.
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