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?
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.
Dr. David Hoch is a former athletic director at Loch Raven High School in Towson, Maryland (Baltimore County). He assumed this position in 2003 after nine years as director of athletics at Eastern Technological High School in Baltimore County. He has 24 years experience coaching basketball, including 14 years on the collegiate level. Hoch, who has a doctorate in sports management from Temple (Pennsylvania) University, is past president of the Maryland State Athletic Directors Association, and he formerly was president of the Maryland State Coaches Association. He has had more than 630 articles published in professional magazines and journals, as well as two textbook chapters. He is the author of a book entitled Blueprint for Better Coaching. Hoch is a member of the NFHS High School Today Publications Committee.