By Rachel Lutz//Contributor | Friday, March 8, 2019
The Triangle Aquatic Center in Cary, North Carolina won the 2018 #SwimBiz Marketing Award for “Best in Sponsorship,” their second consecutive victory in the category. As of February, they have 61 sponsors that support the team of 800-plus swimmers. The local economic impact TAC Titans produced was about $8.8 million.
Mark Frank, the Director of Operations for the TAC Titans, said he knows his sponsorship strategy is the best in the country. He shared his process withsftest.usaswimming.org:
First, he said, TAC Titans identify local products and services on a quarterly basis that they think their 510,000 annual patrons would be interested in. They begin courting sponsors on social media, such as liking companies’ posts and interacting with them.
“We’ll court them silently first via social media,” he explained. “Then, what we do is we’ll make those reach out calls. A lot of times because of what we do via social media, they end up calling us first which is great.”
Frank makes a point to close sponsor deals within 90 days. Teams and clubs don’t often have the resources to expend a ton of time and energy into chasing brands. He said the key is to keep the cycle short.
“I don’t want to spend a lot of time chasing after potential sponsors,” he said, adding that with so much business in the area, he has plenty of options.
Sometimes a brand may say, ‘Come back to me when I’m doing next year’s budget.’ And Frank is happy to circle back with brands at a later date; however, he doesn’t expend too much energy chasing brands.
“There’s always somebody else in the market that would have an interest in your team,” he said. “Take the time to identify those businesses and [figure out] how you can best serve those businesses.”
Once the sponsor is brought on board, Frank said he treats them like a partner instead of just a sponsor. TAC Titans doesn’t believe in “sponsor levels.” Instead, each sponsor has a customized plan to see what works best for them.
“You want to treat your sponsors as partners and you want to customize for them to fit their needs,” he said.
While it sounds like an old-school idea, Frank believes in the power of static banners that cover the pool area. It’s one of his primary offerings for sponsors.
“It’s the 2:30 rule: You watch your kid in the water for an average of about two minutes and then you sit around 30 minutes for the next event to happen,” he said of an average swim parent. “You do that for four hours.”
He was surprised at first by how retro the idea sounded, but Frank said he’s done surveys and measured the response on these static banners.
“On average per hour, a patron can identify six signs in your facility,” he said. “I’m making six impressions per hour, is what I can tell our sponsors.”
He also utilizes a 27-foot video LED scoreboard in the pool area, which is used from the time the center opens at 5:30 a.m. to closing time at 10 p.m. They show sponsors’ commercials as well as other information about the team.
The center’s lobby also has digital signage that sponsors can take advantage of. Frank has a sponsor bulletin board in the lobby for parents. Frank said that’s where sponsors can leave behind materials and other coupons for patron use.
And finally, the Triangle Aquatic Center facility’s Twitter page is dedicated to sponsors. They re-tweet sponsors, and interact with them in other ways. Frank has seen “dramatic” growth in the last year on their social media presence. His goal for 2019 is creating a LinkedIn for the center as well.
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.