By By Rachel Lutz//Contributor | Thursday, February 21, 2019
Last year, the King Marlin Swim Club in Oklahoma City won the 2018 #SwimBiz Marketing Award for Best in Fundraising. Here’s their story:
The booster club at the King Marlin Swim Club in Oklahoma City is responsible for just that – being the booster club. The coaches have their own system, which frees up the booster club to help swimmers offset the costs of swim caps, swim meets, travel, scholarships for club dues, and anything else they might need.
“We had to think a little bit outside of the box of things that we could do as a non-traditional swim team booster club,” Suzan Haizlip, booster club president, toldsftest.usaswimming.org.
For example, at all of the events they host, the booster club has its own branding separate from the swim team.
At the Swim-A-Thon they hosted, they sold towels and T-shirts with the booster club branding. Meanwhile, the team sold merchandise with team branding. They also have their own meet-specific merch at all of the competitions they host.
For three years, they ran a vendor fair. Different vendors sell clothes, makeup, or kitchen supplies, and local crafters can purchase a booth space to sell their merchandise at the vendor fair. The vendor fair also had a chili cookoff or something similar at each edition, Haizlip said.
The money from the vendor fair in turn goes to fund the prizes for the Swim-A-Thon.
The booster club also provides opportunities for the swimmers to do community outreach for their fellow local athletes. Since the team practices in two different locations, these are also a chance for the team to socialize outside of the pool.
For the past five years, they’ve sent 25 or more swimmers and parents to volunteer at an aid station during a triathlon in Oklahoma City. In turn, the triathlon organizers make a donation to the booster club.
“It helps our kids get back out in the community and get noticed a little bit but then see other athletes,” Haizlip said. “Maybe that’s something that they may be interested in down the road in doing other multisport events.”
The booster club has also deployed swimmers to work at a food pantry, but that’s just to give back to the community.
They also participate in traditional fundraisers. About once a month, parents and swimmers can get together at a restaurant and the team receives 10 percent of the proceeds from the evening’s receipts. It’s another way the team can socialize outside of the pool.
Between 2017 and 2018, they’ve raised about $35,000, Haizlip said. Part of the money is used to fund 10 swimmer scholarships per month, which costs the booster club about $1,200 per month.
Getting parents of younger swimmers interested in the booster club early on is key to keeping the wheel turning, Haizlip said.
“We try to recruit some parents of younger swimmers so that way they can have some of us with older swimmers to walk them through some of the process,” Haizlip said. “That way whenever we’re gone, there are people left behind that can keep things moving the way they’ve been going.”
And it’s true that everyone has their own specialty. Finding where they fit in the best is another way to make sure the booster club functions at its best.
“We have a lot of parents that put a lot into it,” Haizlip said. “We have merchandise parents that just specialize in merchandise. We have parents that specialize in different aspects of the meet, a meet operations group. We have parents that specialize in different areas. [It’s about] finding the talent in the parent group and putting them where those talents are.”
Nominations are now open for the #SwimBiz Club Marketing Awards! We want to hear about the best and the brightest promotional efforts from the swimming community. A panel of industry professionals will review submissions and select the winning USA Swimming member clubs will be recognized for marketing excellence. Awards will be handed out at the #SwimBiz Club Marketing Awards Dinner on Monday, April 29, 2019.