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Marketing Athletic Program Necessary to Gain Community Support

By Dr. David Hoch on April 16, 2019 hst Print

In the corporate world, marketing is the process of promoting the positive aspects of a company’s products or services. The hope and expectations are that these efforts will yield a better understanding, appreciation and support for what they produce and the company as a whole. Why should it be any different in high school athletics? The simple answer is that there isn’t or shouldn’t be any difference, because the ultimate, desired outcomes are exactly the same.

Around the country, a number of athletic administrators share many of the same concerns. Budgets are usually insufficient in order to properly and fully cover the cost of operating the athletic program. There never seems to be enough money to provide for all of the needs or desires. This means that athletic directors often have to make hard decisions on what to cut or how to raise additional money. Also, this money crunch does not even venture into or cover future, large-scale projects or initiatives.

As an alternative, booster clubs or parent support groups often attempt to fill this void; however, it has become more difficult to fill these volunteer positions. Also, it isn’t always easy to find other individuals to fill supportive positions such as scoreboard operators, chain crew personnel in football and parents to work in the refreshment stands. Many schools struggle to find people to help.

A possible solution to these problems is marketing. In order to gain support in terms of manual labor or finances, it is necessary to explain the value and purpose of education-based athletics. It is only through this effort of education and promotion, which does have to be repeated, that parents and the community will sincerely understand why the athletic program is important to student-athletes and their growth and development.

Once a basic level of understanding is accomplished in the community, the next outcome – appreciation – may be in reach. While it is always important that athletes and their parents value the athletic program, it is also critical that members of the community see that athletes and teams contribute to more than winning seasons. Community service projects, academic achievement by athletes, positive examples of sportsmanship and serving as role models represent concrete examples for those associated with the athletic program and residents in the community to rally around and be proud.

Understanding and appreciation should lead to support, which can come in different forms. When the extended school community understands the hard work and effort put in by the athletes and coaches, and they appreciate the education-based concept, attendance at games should grow. In addition, there should be less resistance to adopting proposed budgets and referendums when athletics is appreciated in a community. And don’t be surprised if it may be a little easier to find volunteers when they recognize the value of your program. It is all a natural tie-in!

What can be done to effectively market your program?

  • Recognize that marketing is not a frill. It is an essential effort to gain support for your program and to thrive not only today, but in the future. Your program’s existence may depend upon this endeavor.
  • Find and devote the time to marketing your program. While you may be extremely busy and this represents one more task, it has to be done. You may also need to identify a few individuals who can help with technical aspects of social media and websites in order to make your job a little easier.
  • Focus on promoting aspects of your program beyond winning. Things for which the community may not have any or limited awareness should be central to your efforts.
  • Realize that you should use as many varied methods and vehicles as possible in order to reach the different segments of your community. Technology and trends change quickly.
  • Understand that your marketing efforts have to be periodically repeated, because your target – various components of your extended community – is constantly changing. There is always someone new who hasn’t heard the message.
  • Frequently update your marketing content to include the latest accomplishments so that you are totally up-to-date. Don’t miss the moment.
  • Watch and be aware of what some of your colleagues are doing and adopt their best practices. Also, continue to attend professional conferences and read the latest professional publications in order to incorporate the latest approaches.
  • Remember that if you don’t market the positive aspects of your program, no one else will. You are and have to be the chief spokesperson and cheerleader. This is also part of the true definition of being a leader – someone able and willing to inspire, guide and propel others to greatness.
  • Be prepared that you may eventually enjoy marketing your program. Why? Because instead of only dealing with problems, complaints and the daily minutia of your position, you get to immerse yourself in all of the positive aspects of your program. Which is more fun and uplifting?

Does marketing represent one more thing to do in the busy life of an athletic administrator? The answer is “yes.” Will it take time and effort to be effective? Again, the answer would be “yes.” But there is little doubt that marketing can be the answer to a number of problems by the community gaining understanding and appreciation of your program with support to follow. It’s time to get started.