By Mike Watkins//Correspondent | Thursday, April 6, 2017
This #SwimBiz Spotlight shares leading practices from clubs to promote themselves – through social media, sponsorship, communications and marketing. Please join us for the 3rdAnnual #SwimBiz Conference on April 9-11 to learn from industry experts and other leading swim clubs.
Almost as quickly as he arrived at the Pelican Athletic Club not far from New Orleans in July 2012, Head Coach Vic Moore worked diligently to effect sweeping, positive change in and around his team.
He started inside the team – creating a culture of acceptance and excitement – and slowly worked his way outside and into the community.
Relying mostly on grassroots marketing and social media, Moore slowly but surely made things transparent and fun – energizing his club members, their parents and the community to accept positive change as the present and future of the team.
“The team had experienced lots of bad press in the community because of the way the previous coach ran the team, so I knew changing the perception of the team began with how everyone responded to and accepted me as the new coach,” he said. “
“I knew I had to tackle things one-on-one, starting with the team and parents and go from there. I had to get their buy-in before I could do anything to change the image of the club in the community.”
Realizing his most important audiences were his team members and parents, Moore encouraged and started dialogues between and among them to get their opinions and thoughts about what needed to change – and some good ways to change them.
Conversations revealed a lack of “ownership” and feeling of inclusion in what was being done at the team – and it had little to do with swim instruction.
“Neither the team members nor their parents felt appreciated, and both groups knew they had valuable insight to bring to the table to help make things better,” Moore said. “We had some very unhappy swimmers and parents, and my coaches and I wanted to make sure we heard what they had to say.
“We used some of those ideas to create change for the better. Swimming should be fun, and we learned they hadn’t been having fun for quite a while.”
One way he worked to accomplish his first objective was to make team apparel – previously sold at cost to team members – free to them as a way to engage and change team culture.
He also changed apparel colors, going with black as the main color, and went with a collegiate-style font for a fresh start from the foundation of team colors and brand.
He also gave everyone a Pelican-branded swim cap – something else members were previously expected to purchase for their own use during meets.
“I wanted to re-inject lost pride in the team, and by giving them team merchandise that they could wear proudly at meets, school, in the community, etc., was important to get them feeling good about their club again,” Moore said.
“I knew it would pay off, pay back in other ways. In all, we have spent thousands on giveaways, but it was a minor but very impactful way to re-engage. If your club members and their parents don’t feel connected to their team, how can you expect anyone outside of the club to also want to be engaged?”
As more and more team members started proudly wearing PAC team gear out in the community – to school, to the mall, etc. – Moore said he saw a great opportunity to do more outreach in the Mandeville community to improve team visibility and image.
Moore and his coaches started going to community meetings, giving presentations and interacting with the community.
He personally became involved with the local chamber of commerce and was recently elected to be president of the business association.
In the process, he and his team members (and parents) handed out more than 1000 car magnets emblazoned with the PAC logo on them – and with the intent of raising team as well as civic pride and awareness that things were different at PAC.
“At one point, we had over one-tenth of the community driving around town with our logo magnet on their cars,” he said. “I wanted the community to know about the team, but I also wanted them to know they were welcome to come to meets and use the aquatic center for lap swimming, water aerobics and other events”
Once people started coming to the aquatic center – for whatever reason – Moore and his team started taking the time to introduce themselves, accommodate visitors as needed (if they needed room for water aerobics, he adjusted his team’s lane needs or schedule) and reward their interest and involvement whenever possible.
“I gladly walk over, introduce myself and learn the names of lap swimmers or people in the center for whatever reason, and my coaches are on board with doing the same thing,” he said. “It takes a concerted team effort to create change, and it’s taken us a few years to accomplish it.
“The transformation in our visibility and image, inside and outside of the team, has been amazing to be part of, and I see things continuing to improve and change. Everyone is and has been committed to making it happen.”
Social media has also been an important part of Moore’s and PAC’s strategy – promoting the great accomplishments and fun experiences of his team members as often as possible.
And it’s working. Since he arrived almost five years ago, PAC has increased from 60 swimmers to 240, including summer, club and high school.
He’s also worked to be more flexible and accessible to swimmers involved with other sports and activities – not requiring them to be at the pool five or six days a week so they can be involved with other things as much as they want.
“From our bubble blowers (young swimmers) to our national level athletes, shortest to tallest, we want everyone to have a great experience and be successful in the water as well as outside of the water,” he said. “This includes our parents, who have been incredibly active in helping this culture change happen and sustain.
“We have our annual red vs black team costume contest, potluck dinners and other fun activities that complement what we’re doing in the water. Swimming should be fun as well as rewarding, and that’s what we have here at PAC. That combination has created a chain reaction within our team and within our community.”