This is an excerpt from Sport Club Management by Matthew Robinson.
Meeting the needs of the partner is based on using the club’s inventory. A sport club needs to determine what elements are in its inventory and which ones it is willing to offer a potential partner to meet that partner’s needs. Each inventory item has the ability to be a part of a partnership deal depending on the individual partner’s needs. The old partnership model was “One deal fits all,” and often the partner’s specific needs were not met. Being a problem solver involves assessing each situation independently and using the inventory to meet each partner’s needs.
Securing the naming rights of a facility is a great opportunity to build brand awareness. The business that purchases those rights will have its name used every time the facility is referenced by a person or a media outlet. The partner can also use the facility to entertain and build employee morale. A swim club could trade memberships to a local computer dealer in return for laptops, printers, and service on those computers. The memberships could be used for employee morale, and the pool could be used for a swim party to entertain clients. A soccer club could allow a local business to use its facility for pickup employee soccer games two nights a week or during lunch breaks.
Clubs can sell naming rights to club events as well. This builds brand awareness because the brand’s name is used with every mention of the event. What is the name of the all-star basketball game in which the top players in the country compete? Did McDonald’s come to mind pretty quickly?
A business can gain brand awareness by having its brand or logo strategically placed in the facility—on the boards of an indoor soccer complex, the scoreboard of a baseball field, the T-shirts of the coaches and participants, or the bumpers and sides of the equipment that prepares the playing surfaces. The value of a sign is based on the number of people that will see it and is figured as a cost per thousand. If the cost per thousand is $10, and if the club’s facility has 50,000 visitors a year and each of those visitors will see the sign three times a visit on average, the sign is valued at $1,500 annually.
Publications, Public Relations Materials, and the Web Site
A business can also gain awareness by having its logo placed on all printed and electronic items produced by the sport club. This could include registration forms, programs, and advertisements for the club or its events; yearbooks; and the club’s Web site. A link to the business can also be placed on the club’s Web site so members or visitors can access the partner’s Web site easily.
Coupons, Special Benefits, and Affinity Programs
As part of a partnership with a sport club, a business can distribute coupons in club mailings, provide links on the club’s Web site, and give out goody bags at club tournaments or events. The club, for its part, may be able to offer special benefits to its members. In each case, the value of the partnership is determined by the number of coupons redeemed and the number of club members who take advantage of the special benefits.
Consider a local restaurant that pays $5,000 for a partnership deal. A benefit of the partnership is the right to distribute 1,000 $5-off coupons over the course of the year. Suppose 75 percent off those coupons are redeemed. The average meal for a family of four costs $30; minus the $5 coupon, the gross profit for the restaurant on the meal is $25.The restaurant has generated $18,750 in business from the $5,000 partnership with the club. The key to the partner’s success is the club encouraging members and visitors to patronize its sponsors.
Another partnership deal could involve giving club members a 10 percent discount on purchases from the corporate partner. That discount may encourage the club members to purchase from the corporate partner rather than another business.
Finally, a partnership designed to promote loyalty to the club and enable the business to contribute also involves a member discount. In this case, however, 10 percent of every member’s purchase from the corporate partner is donated to the club. To support the club, members patronize the business, and in turn, the business may develop customers for life.
Unique corporate partnerships such as those discussed in this section may take time to develop. The club may need to patronize the business before approaching it about a partnership. A club may hold its monthly board of directors meeting at a restaurant to form a relationship with the business. The next step would be for club leaders to present how a partnership could expand the business the club generates for the restaurant.
Stands or Tables at Events
Setting up a table or a display at a club venue during events so that attendees can sample, take home samples of, or purchase a product is called tabling. This form of corporate partnership provides brand awareness and also offers product trials and sales opportunities. To identify potential tabling partners, club leaders should think in terms of the products club visitors might be interested in buying. They could range from home improvement products to food to automobiles.
If a club is comfortable, as part of a corporate partnership a car dealership could strategically place cars around an outdoor facility or in the parking lot of an indoor facility. A salesperson would be on site to talk about the cars and offer test drives. This arrangement benefits both the car dealer and members. With all of the kid activities on the weekend, members may have no time to visit a car dealer, so the club has brought the car dealer to them. The car dealer, for its part, gets 30 good leads and sells five cars.
Contests and Sweepstakes
A corporate partner can increase sales and product awareness by hosting a contest for the members of the club. The sweepstakes may involve inviting club members to go to the business’s Web site to fill out an entry form, or offering club members eligibility for a major award if they use a product 10 times. The business gains information on potential customers for future contacts, promotes its product, and increases awareness of its product among members of the club.
Use of the Facility
If a club has its own facility, it can offer a corporate partner the use of the facility as part of the deal. The club is giving up revenue from renting it out, but it is not spending any money. The corporate partner can use that time in the facility to improve employee morale (e.g., with pickup games) or to entertain clients.
Community Relations Programs
If a club has an interest in supporting a worthy cause or offering opportunities to those who may not be able to afford to participate in club activities, it can approach a corporate partner to sponsor the initiative. In the case of a league for special needs kids, the corporate partner can cover league expenses in exchange for having its name embedded in the league title. The partner is making a valuable contribution to the local community and enhancing its image by supporting a worthy endeavor.
The partnership proposal may include one or several of the inventory items that were presented (e.g., tabling, signage, coupons) if the partner has multiple needs. As stated earlier, the key for a club is to be a problem solver. By listening to the potential partner’s needs and using the inventory to meet those needs, the club becomes a true partner for the business.