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Feb 17, 2016

7 top tips for selling to clubs and teams

By Paul Clapham

Club or team promotions give you a golden opportunity to sell your service and products to 11 or 15 prospective customers at a time rather than one. That’s at the team level. At the club level, you could multiply those numbers by 10 or more.

Selling to teams
Many moons ago I co-founded and captained a pub cricket team. We were self-funded out of match fees and after a couple of seasons or so the landlord - a cricket fan - said: “You blokes must have more kit than Middlesex.” Guess how often the owner of the local sports shop, just over five minutes’ walk away, came to get our business? Never. And he did know about us, because I told him.

Had he, or any reasonably close sports retailer, come to us and said: “Spend your team funds with us and we’ll give team members a healthy discount on clothing, boots, boxes, arm guards, bats and so on,” we would have bought the deal. We would also have referred him on to the other pub teams we played against. He could have recruited the pub’s football team, too.

So keep your ear to the ground and hunt out those self-funded teams who play regularly on local recreation grounds.

Selling to junior sides
Put some focus on junior teams. Children grow out of sports kit as fast as they grow out of other clothing. Fathers in particular think nothing of ensuring little Johnny and Janet have the best, most modern kit. You want that child and the accompanying parental credit card coming through your door.

You might say: “That’s not team related.” You could be right. Every team requirement might be provided by the club they’re part of. Or it might not. They might need a match ball and a couple of training balls. They might need their own flags and nets.

Selling awards and trophies
There’s big value in awards and rewards, too. Junior and youth players covet man of the match, player of the season and goal, try or performance of the season awards, as it’s just like being a proper professional.

Adult players talk awards down, but the truth is they love them, too.

Cups, medals, special caps - you name it - are all part of this and they help cement your relationship with the team or club and, for the long term, the individual player. All of this needs team funding.

Selling to senior teams
I’d also recommend looking for senior teams. They can often be part of a club, but effectively separate. The players are not striving to get into the first 15 or the second 11. Instead, they are part of a distinct group. Senior team members tend to be richer than the rest of the club, too.

Writing to clubs
If you plan to write to clubs, whether by post or email, do it properly. I’ve seen examples in various retail sectors of letters targeting groups, clubs, etc that offered nothing better than ‘we’re your nearest supplier’. I assume the writers had never heard of online buying.

Since plenty of retailers make a poor pitch, a good one will stand out. The key ingredient is ‘what’s in it for you’. The club will save money, you will get truly great service and your members will gain personal benefits. If you can’t genuinely deliver that proposition, you aren’t in this game.

Publicising your promotions
Club and team promotions are easy to publicise. You know precisely where those customers go on a regular basis. You know what their particular enthusiasms are. You know how many members a club or team has.

Therefore, you can over time establish which clubs and teams present most commercial value, so you know how much to spend on posters, vouchers and so on.

Be sure to have the club or team management fully onside from the outset with what you would like to do in terms of internal publicity. If they are keen on the idea of this structure, they should also be keen for you to drive sales, but agree what that means.

Your suppliers should be keen to be involved with your team and even more so club promotions. I’ve written here before about the value of trial in sports goods. If you can recruit a dozen - or several dozen - members to a trial event, a good rep will recognise the benefit to himself and his company immediately. They should do the publicity material for that event, too.

You should also be gently nudging those club and team officials to give you introductions to other teams and clubs in the locality who they play. Post-match, team players tend to be a chatty lot, so it’s entirely possible other teams will be introduced to you anyway, but I still recommend asking. You could incentivise that, but I doubt that approach would be much more effective than just asking.

Putting an effective system in place
You could use a team version of the loyalty card system. It’s grown up and modern and I suspect youngsters in particular would be proud of carrying their team loyalty card.

But if you don’t have or aren’t planning such a scheme, it’s still easy. Especially at the outset when you have recruited one, two or three teams to see how things go, you could ‘put them in the book’.

In other words, you list in a physical notebook purchases made by team members with value stated and the team member’s signature next to it. If the book starts to get full, you definitely know you need a fully fledged loyalty card scheme and that you can roll out the programme to other clubs and teams.

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