By Rachel Lutz//Contributor | Thursday, March 14, 2019
March 15 is the deadline 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.
2018 Marketing Club of the Year Winners
1-150 Swimmers: Pikes Peak Athletics; Colorado Springs, Colorado
151-300 Swimmers: TEAM Charlotte Swimming; Charlotte, North Carolina
301+ Swimmers: Waterloo Swimming; Austin, Texas
Three different clubs won the Marketing Club of the Year Award at 2018 #SwimBiz Conference, broken up into categories based on each club’s size. Here’s how they did it:
1-150 Swimmers: Pikes Peak Athletics in Colorado Springs, Colorado
Pikes Peak Athletics opened its own facility in April 2018, and while doing so, their main goals were to stay true to their core values. They kept in mind their principles of “teaching that works; craftmanship with care; and dedication to relationships.”
With those in mind, Tracie Kerr, Director of Operations, said they were able to develop “buyer personas” to imagine the type of patron they wanted. From there, they were able to pinpoint how to best market to those patrons.
For example, meet “Molly Mom.” They wondered where Molly Mom might find information for her kids. They marketed on a few local mom’s blogs for a swim camp, as well as a back to school promo on the blogs. Kerr called those a “very good tool.”
Another focus for Pikes Peak Athletics was helpful, and not disruptive, marketing. If Molly Mom was Googling, ‘When should my child start swim lessons?’ their goal was to be the team or program that pops up with al the information about when to start taking lessons, why it’s an important skill, and resources about how they can get started. That type of marketing is helpful, they said, especially compared to a disruptive ad they might get while playing sudoku on their phones that Molly Mom would then have to exit out of.
“We identified the types of things Molly Mom wants and how that fits in with our core values,” Kerr said. “We want to make sure the fit is correct. We didn’t want just anybody off the street. We wanted the fit to be right for both parties.”
151-300 Swimmers: TEAM Charlotte Swimming in Charlotte, North Carolina
The coaching staff and parent-led board of directors at TEAM Charlotte swimming wanted to find a way to distinguish their club from others in the area. They also wanted to create meaningful and mutually beneficial partnerships with local businesses at the same time.
“Two of our main goals were to seek partnerships with local businesses to help provide meals for our volunteer officials and coaches, so that we weren’t spending funds on catering meals,” said Kristina Bond, Director of Operations at TEAM Charlotte Swimming. “And [the second was] to seek monetary donations from area companies to offset our need-based swimmer scholarships, so that we could continue to offer financial assistance to swimmers who wouldn’t otherwise be able to participate in our program. Area businesses were really receptive to this idea and jumped right in to support our program.”
The club hosts a “TEAM Challenge” fundraising event that brings in between $40-50,000, but it takes more than that to run the organization, Bond said. Their main fundraisers – and this is where the meals are factored in – were two meets hosted each year in Charlotte. A three-day and four-day meet brings in about 1,200 swimmers from the North and South Carolina areas, and for the second meet, swimmers travel from all over the country to participate in the Sunkissed Championships.
Bond said one tip is to ask the team families for help in taking the first step to starting a partnership.
“Many of them will have direct connections to businesses they work for, or people they know,” she said. “It helps get you a direct connection with someone in management, not just an email address from a company website.”
301+ Swimmers: Waterloo Swimming in Austin, Texas
Waterloo Swimming’s owner and director Mike Varozza’s first career was marketing and sales at Dell, as well as running some parts of their website.
“Got to do a lot of advertising, whether it was print or online, as one of their brand managers for a number of years,” Varozza said. “Then my last job was almost like a sponsorship position where we went out and solicited sponsors.”
Varozza said all of this tied neatly into his experience building and running a new swim center from the ground up. He realized he might struggle with the online aspect of things, and that’s when he partnered with the social media-certified Monica Thomason.
The pair used a two-pronged strategy to build their brand using both online and traditional marketing.
“If people see your name in a print advertisement, or a banner, or a sponsorship email sent out by a local group, and they go to Google you, you have to have done the online marketing portion to make that work,” Thomason explained. “The online marketing portion makes the other part worthwhile. They very much go hand in hand. I think the mistake a lot of people make is they just try to do one thing and they get lost.”
Waterloo also won the 2018 Best Use of Social Media Award.