By Mike Watkins//Contributor | Thursday, March 16, 2017
#SwimBiz Spotlight shares leading practices from clubs to promote themselves – through social media, sponsorship, communications and marketing. Please join us for the 3rd Annual #SwimBiz Conference on April 9-11 to learn from industry experts and other leading swim clubs.
Submit your club’s creative marketing work in USA Swimming’s Club Marketing Awards. Nominations due March 22. Win a crystal kickboard and bragging rights for a year!
Sunkist Swim Team Coach David Orr acknowledges that not all coaches have the marketing background he does.
As an actor and filmmaker in a past life, he learned much about promotion and graphic design – and has used that experience along with social media messaging to grow membership and connect with the swimming community in and around Flowood, Miss.
It’s resulted in Sunkist winning four #SwimBiz Crystal Kickboard awards from USA Swimming, including back-to-back Marketing Club of the Year honors for 2015 and 2016.
“Like most swim clubs, we don’t have much of if any money earmarked for marketing, so we use social media – which is free – to reach our audiences,” said Orr, who appeared on a variety of TV shows, namely The Young & The Restless, in the 90s and 2000s before moving into coaching full-time.
“Not only is it free, but social media is the best marketing method because it allows us to create fun, interactive messages to connect and engage with everyone important to us.”
While social media – Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, in particular – is no doubt instituting waves of interest in Sunkist (and most swim clubs), it’s also connecting parents and club alumni with what’s happening at the pool.
Orr said he’s seen more than a 100 percent increase in social media marketing since his first year at Sunkist – but it’s more than just likes and follows.
In his experience, true engagement begins and ends with people already connected to the team – getting them excited to like and share posts about team activities and the joy his team members experience on a daily basis.
From there, the social media chain reaction reaches friends of friends of friends.
“We definitely have a lot of fun every day, and I want our social media posts to reflect that,” said Orr, who took over Sunkist seven years ago and was honored by his Mississippi Swimming peers with the Age Group Coach of the Year award in 2014. “It’s infectious when we post photos or video of our team members having fun or enjoying a successful meet; it gets everyone excited.
“Swimmers share, parents share, coaches share – and in no time, hundreds if not thousands of people have also seen and enjoyed. It doesn’t take long.”
One area – along with being colorful and young and full of energy in his posts – Orr has focused on at Sunkist is producing championships results.
When he arrived in 2010, the team ranked 7th in its LSC, and he made it a priority to re-establish a championship culture.
By the next year, the team won its first state championship, and it has now won seven consecutive state titles.
Orr has a simple philosophy that has translated into team growth – from 59 members when he arrived to 172 today – and overall success.
“Swim fun; swim fast,” he said. “It’s something I’ve always believed. When you can win and have a lot of fun doing it, people react and respond to it. That’s what we want people following us on social media to recognize, and they do.”
“We want to share our victories with everyone on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram – and then encourage them to share with their friends. It’s really amazing, and very engaging.”
Orr said before he, his team captains and parents jumped into social media, he bought some space on a digital billboard rotation in the community.
For several months, an advertisement about the team traveled throughout the community, but it wasn’t until he took a photo of the billboard and posted it to social media that the team really started to see some marketable results.
"I’ve never been one to study analytics or metrics, but we could see an increase in engagement and awareness pretty quickly through social media response,” he said. “In no time, the billboard went viral, and it became clear right away that social media was the more effective, efficient way moving forward.”
As for having an advanced level of experience with marketing, Orr said there’s an easy way for less-experienced coaches and teams to enjoy a similar level of success with their social media.
“Look within your team – your coaches, your athletes and especially your parents – because, most likely, there is someone who has the skills to raise your social media and marketing,” he said.
“And whatever they might not be able to do or know, USA Swimming provides a communications toolkit and seminars like (upcoming) #SwimBiz to help. But remember, despite the technology, marketing and social media are still about relationships. It’s always about communicating and connecting.”
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