Look to the fans in the stands

by Martha Londagin (martha.londagin@legacyar.com) 366 views 

Let’s face it: truly “small” small businesses can’t afford Arkansas Razorback team sponsorships, stadium advertising and television ads during the big game.

However, a local sports team marketing plan is a viable and smart option, as these “fans in the stands” offer a great potential for small business customers. The old saying “people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care” has become very pertinent again today thanks to the rise of social media marketing. The marketing of your services or products in small-town sports venues can really be a hit or a slam dunk if presented in a genuine and enthusiastic manner.

Rid yourself first of the notion that if your business doesn’t sell sports-related gear or services you shouldn’t market your services and products at sporting events. The fans at a Little League baseball or football game, softball or volleyball tournament, or cheerleading competition represent a vast array of target consumers. The stands are filled with young parents and caregivers who are in need of: estate planning services for the first time; lawn care services; a first home loan; child-friendly hair salons; financial planning for college and retirement; dentists and doctors; music teachers for lessons; pedicure salons and yoga studios; life insurance; accountants; and restaurants that offer take-out meals for busy families.

Although corporations can outspend small businesses in big stadium ads, the important marketing advantage for small businesses is that the owners and staff persons can truly build relationships with customers, a fertile ground for referrals.

So consider these tips:
• Choose just one or two schools to support.
A small sign advertising your business on the fence in six ballparks won’t get noticed as much as you and your staff being consistently present at one school’s events by passing out goodies at the gates, “working” the stands and meeting people one-on-one. Consider giving away coupons for “in-store or first office visits only” specials to encourage the fans to come and get to know your business.

• Look to supporting smaller sports programs to gain a big loyalty.
If you want to cover multiple schools in your region and you have a personal or family affinity for say soccer, volleyball or cross country, then you can become known as “that business that supports NWA kids’ soccer” to build a local familiarity and identity.

• Involve your office or store staff on game days.
Encourage all your staff members, and partner with other businesses in your shopping center, to support the local team by allowing all the employees to pay a donation to wear jeans and team shirts on game days, raffle off team gear at your store, or invite the players and coaches to come to your business for a team meal or special treat one day after a practice.

• Post all of the above on your social media channels.
These tips offered make for great social media content to post. If these students, players, coaches and fans are excited and appreciative of your support, they will help spread the word on their channels so their followers then get to know your business too. Be sure to like the team’s pages and share team and fan posts on your business pages, and they’ll return the favor.

• Be genuine and be present.
Don’t just send a check and a logo file for a program insert or field sign. Go to the events, send your staff and managers — be present in person. Consumers look to social media to “get to know” a business before they buy, and seeing a post of smiling business owners and the staff at games helps them get to know you.

Small businesses should truly be part of their communities, not just use the buzz words “local” and “community.” Supporting youth sports in your town or region is an excellent opportunity for any small business to truly connect.
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Editor’s note: Martha Londagin is an SBA/commercial loan officer with Legacy National Bank based in Springdale and a former business consultant with the Arkansas Small Business and Technology Development Center at the Walton College. She is also a licensed attorney in Arkansas and Oklahoma. The opinions expressed are those of the author.

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