Like everyone involved in running grassroots rugby, you’ve got very little time available and even less money to spend! We’re going to explore how can you design effective marketing for your club that gets you results, even if you’re a beginner at marketing. In this article, we’ll work step by step to get some marketing up and running at your club with the following outcomes:
- Create clear goals that allow you to measure success
- Help you focus your marketing efforts to ensure maximum growth
- Equip you with the tools you need to start marketing your club
How to use this guide
Before we start, I want to stress that this is a guide to get yourself up and running based on the assumption that you’re not time rich when it comes to marketing your rugby club. Marketing is a huge subject and rugby club marketing could quite easily take over your life! Therefore we’re going to be shooting for maximum effectiveness and efficiency. With this in mind, we’re going to target some specific goals rather than trying to write a complete marketing strategy for a whole club. However, once you’ve done this process, you can definitely repeat it with a new goal in mind. And in fact, if you follow pretty much any sports club there will be multiple strands of marketing. Over time, your marketing profile will build, but focusing in on key areas first will help you to build results rather than posting lots of content but not seeing much return.
Each section will introduce the concept at a high level and explain why it’s relevant. It’ll end with a couple of questions for you to answer to help you devise a strategy specific to your own environment.
Setting a marketing goal
One of the most important parts to start marketing is to work out what your goal is. How do you come up with a marketing goal? If you already have club goals, or a five year plan or anything like this then your marketing goals become easy – they’re just the marketing required to get you from the start-point to the end-point of that point in the plan. Let’s say that your club has a goal to go from 100 supporters at home matches to 200 supporters at home matches. Your marketing goal is therefore to attract 100 new supporters to home matches. It’s literally as simple as that.
If your club doesn’t have broader goals – and a lot of clubs don’t, then there are two main ways to get to a goal:
What are my immediate problems?
Sometimes a marketing effort can be to shore up an area of your club that’s struggling. Our fictional team above sometimes struggled to get a full XV out to games – so a good marketing goal for them might be “to recruit extra players to ensure they have a full team each week.”
What would I like to see happen in the future?
If there aren’t any burning problems, then you’ll have to take some time to think of where you’d like to be in the future. For example, you might not be lacking players for your existing teams but you want to add a new team over time, or start a women’s team – so this could influence your marketing goal. Perhaps you’re generating healthy revenues but you want to increase your bar revenue and have decided to increase attendance at international weekends – this might lead to a neat marketing goal “to increase the number of people watching international matches at the club.”
What if my goal is more abstract?
You might just want to increase awareness of your club generally rather than have a specific goal in mind. This is fine, but I’d still recommend turning it into a goal statement. So if it was just to increase awareness, who do you want to start finding out about it? Anyone in the world or just people within your city/town? Are you trying to increase awareness to rugby fans who haven’t discovered your club or are you trying to target members within your own club so they’re more aware of the various things your club offers?
Perhaps you’re trying to position your club well in the community to help promote current sponsors and be attractive to new ones. So even if your goal is less defined than a specific target, I still think there’s a huge benefit to defining your goal as clearly as you can – it will only help in the long run. A common theme of marketing is that if you try to appeal to everyone, you will end up appealing to no one!
Questions for you
- What is your marketing goal?
- What problem are you trying to solve or what growth are you trying to create? If you found this article in response to an existing problem then this might be quick to answer but if you’re just getting started it might be harder to form.
A final note – although you’ve now developed a goal, perhaps for the first time, it’s not set in stone! You might find as you go through the article that you gain some additional clarity and want to change your goal – this is perfectly acceptable. The whole point is to make a marketing plan that works for you.
Hopefully you’ve now got a relatively clear goal for your marketing and it’s time to take a look at your target audience. When people first hear the advice to narrow your audience, most people worry – I want to reach the most amount of people right?! The theory being that the more people you market to, the better the chances of achieving your marketing goal. However, the truth is that the vast majority of people have absolutely no interest in your organisation – what we’re trying to do is find the RIGHT people. As mentioned earlier in this article – if you try to market to everyone, you’ll end up attracting no one.
Let’s take a fictional team, who are trying to recruit extra players. As an adult men’s team, we can instantly identify a broad target group – namely adult men of rugby playing age. This is a good start, but we can go deeper and get more specific. It’s a lower team and a social team so we’re not going to appeal to players who want to take their rugby very seriously. One thing we can do is to take a look at the existing players to help us narrow our focus. Let’s say in our social team that most of our players are 28-45 which gives us an idea of who might fit into the team. Our 28-45 year olds are likely to be in steady employment and either have a family or be starting a family. Their free time is therefore lower – which we’ve identified as a potential issue.
This might lead us to try and target some younger players – however, marketing is a two-way street. Yes we want to target a specific audience, but we also have to have a product that attracts them. It might be great for our social team’s on-pitch fortunes to have 3-4 university students who are fast on the team, but is it something that they’re going to want to join?
So we have to try and consider a “good fit” of what we want out of it and what the customer would want. For our fictional team, we might decide that 25-35 is a good age range to help lower the average age of the team, but 18-21 is probably too young to create a good fit because of a different life stage.
When recruiting players, it’s easier because of the natural limits of a team. What about an earlier example of getting more supporters to home games? How do we target an audience when there’s lots of potentially interested people. Like with our own team, we can look at our existing supporters for an idea – since these are people who are obviously already interested in your product. If you can find some common characteristics among these supporters it might help you to define a target audience. However, you can also think about what kind of a person you would like to have. Do you want supporters who are going to drink lots (i.e. adults) or do you want your club to have a family atmosphere? How might that change your target – if you’re targeting families then obviously you need to target people with children.
You might end up with a target audience that’s already part of your club, in which case you don’t need to work out a target audience – it already exists! Internal marketing is generally for a couple of reasons – either you want to offer something new to an existing segment of your club or you want to increase engagement within your membership. Some examples of internal marketing might be targeting the parents of your minis to attend 1st XV fixtures, or creating a list of former players that you invite to events.
Creating an Avatar
Once you’ve got some ideas down, this can be where you stop, or if you want to add some more details and make future steps easier, you can create an “avatar.” This is basically a description of your ideal customer. The reason we do this is because it can help us to understand the mindset of our customers – not just their demographics (age, stage of life etc) but also things like their values. In the long-run, this allows us to target our messages in a way that we know will resonate. Feel free to give your avatar a name if that helps you imagine them! But write down some information about them and what they might want or value. Obviously if you’re marketing internally you have a pre-defined group so you can skip this step.
Questions for you
- Who is your target audience? What characteristics do they have as a group?
- (optional) Write a profile for your “avatar” – your ideal customer. Not just the characteristics from question 1, but also some of their values, likes & dislikes etc.
Type of Marketing & Channels
At this point, you should have a marketing goal and a target audience. Our next job is to work out the best type of marketing and which channel to use. I’ll define some of these terms.
Marketing Types & Channels
When we talk about a type of marketing, there are several different types and these can also be categorised. I don’t want to spend too long getting into technical terms – a summary would be that each type of marketing operates slightly differently but has many of the same characteristics. Some examples of types of marketing:
- Social Media
- Word of Mouth
- Direct Mail
After a type, there are also channels, so for example under the type of “social media marketing” the channels would be the various platforms, e.g. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram.
Selecting your type and channel
We talked about spending some time to create an avatar – one of the benefits of this is that we can start to identify what type and channel of marketing will work best for us. If we’ve got a clear picture of who we’re targeting, then we should also know where they’re likely to be found. As an example, if you’re aiming at people in their 30s then Facebook and possibly Twitter can work well. If you’re aiming slightly younger, then Instagram might be good.
The point is to make sure you know what social media platforms your customers will be on so that you can be on those ones and not waste time on the others. Don’t be fooled by the guides that suggest you have to be on the latest platform or that you have to be on 12 different networks to succeed. The only important social media platforms to be on are the ones which your target audience are on.
Let’s not forget about more traditional forms of marketing. Although this article is about doing it with no budget, if you have someone with graphic design skills, you might be able to create and print some posters very cheaply or even for free. Just like with digital marketing though, if you’ve created posters or flyers, you need to give some thought as to where these are distributed. My least favourite bit of advice ever is to put posters up in pub toilets – unless the pub in question happens to have a ton of rugby players and/or supporters drinking there!
The easiest way to summarise the selection of type and channel is that you should be marketing to people in a format that they’re going to see and understand. If you’re creating a Vice Presidents newsletter and all your VPs are over 70 years old, then posting the letter may be the best method, but if the average age is 30s-50s, then email should work just fine. Either way, you’ve got to be able to reach the people you’re targeting.
Finally – since we’re trying to be as effective as possible, our aim is to pick only one or two channels to ensure that we don’t end up creating too much work for ourselves. That means we want to pick the best type and channel possible.
Social Media and Email Marketing
Most people will likely choose social media or email marketing, since the barriers to entry and cost of these formats are so low and there are lots of people on them. If you chose, say, Facebook, don’t forget that there are a lot of “places” on Facebook – all sorts of groups based on location and/or interest. Don’t just set up a page for your club – go posting in groups. This is especially useful if your offer can target kids – whether that’s as potential players or as potential supporters. There are tons of communities available – for example, parents of kids at school.
This raises the question – how to get access to these groups? Some are open – anyone can join. Others may be closed though, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find access in some way. The best form of marketing remains word-of-mouth – i.e. someone recommending you directly to a friend. To use this to your advantage, get the people around you to help you promote. If you’ve created a Facebook event for a recruitment event, get your existing players to share it. If you’re running an open day or have a great offer on, ask your current members to share it in groups that are appropriate. Don’t think that starting a page is enough – you’ve got to push yourself out to the people who might be interested.
HOWEVER, this doesn’t mean post it absolutely everywhere. Remember, the point of a targeted audience is to save you time by focusing on the areas where you’re going to get your best return. If you spam every group you can find, your most likely outcome is getting kicked out of a load of groups and causing a lot of people to have negative associations with your club. Try and find groups which are likely to have people who are interested and ensure that you’re following any group rules. As an aside, I frequently see player recruitment posts in groups that are full of people who are running the game (e.g. fixture exchanges). To me, that’s not targeted recruitment – are there likely to be unattached players in these groups or is it more likely to be a ton of people who are already attached to a club?
Questions for you
- Using your avatar, work out what is the best type of marketing for you to use (likely social media) and which channels are going to be most effective.
- Once you’ve chosen your type and channel, you can start working out how to find the people you’re looking for. If you have a pre-defined target audience, this is as simple as creating the list of people and designing the content. If it’s not a pre-defined group then you can also start creating a list of places to post your marketing – whether that’s Facebook groups for your location or people that you want to @ Tweet (e.g. local council or sports bodies). This planning will make it easier when you actually start posting.
Your Marketing Message
At this point, you’ve got a goal in mind and you’ve got a target audience that will help you to reach that goal. You’ve also had a think about how to reach these people – in terms of what method of marketing. With all this information, we can also start to think about the message of your marketing.
What is a marketing message?
When it comes to marketing, our message is essentially “what you’re going to say” to your target audience. This may include:
- What you’re actually offering (e.g. come watch some fantastic rugby)
- Why they might need what you’re offering (e.g. bored on Saturdays?)
- Any supporting information that might help to convince them to choose your offer over someone else’s (e.g. kids welcome, bar open)
For products and services, marketers often talk about solving a customer’s problem – so if you can understand your customer’s problems and your product can provide a good solution to that problem, then you’ve got a good chance of making the sale.
When it comes to rugby, it’s often the case that people don’t have a “problem” in the traditional sense – if anyone had a burning need to watch or play rugby then they’d most likely already be down there doing it! However, there are some fairly common problems that rugby clubs are able to solve, for example:
- Exercise & physical fitness
- Being part of a team (belonging)
- Social experience & friendship
- Giving back (volunteering)
Hopefully with all the effort we’ve put into understanding our target audience, we’ve got an idea of what their biggest problems are – so if our social team is recruiting and our target audience is looking for social connection then our marketing should say that. If we can really understand the mindset of our target customer then the message will resonate better with them. For example, we might know that our target customer’s number one priority is making friends, in which case our message might follow the lines of “There’s a place for everyone in rugby – come be part of the team.” However, if our target customer’s most important priority is exercise, but with social connection also important to them then we might push our form of exercise as superior to a solo exercise – something like “Want to get fit but can’t face another run by yourself? Come play rugby – you’ll enjoy yourself so much you won’t even realise you were exercising!”
If you can use the exact words they use then you’ll format a great connection with them – they’ll almost feel like you can read their mind! This can be both positive and negative things – for example, new players might say they want to be challenged or want a new challenge – so you should be using the word “challenge” in your marketing. Likewise, they might only be able to define it as something that they don’t want – e.g. a new player might not want too much pressure at training, in which case you’d want to use “low pressure” as part of your messaging. Alternatively, you could focus on the positive part that demonstrates the lack of this negative – so instead of saying “low pressure” which may imply that it’s boring or low skilled, you might talk about your positive learning environment or how mistakes are encouraged because that’s how we get better.
We’ve mentioned a couple of times now that word of mouth is still the most effective form of marketing. You can use this to help craft your message. Ask your existing players or members what they think is the best part of your club/team. If your team is full of your target customers, then use the exact words they say. For example, if you have a player who says “it’s great to run around for an hour and forget all my stress” then use that. Think of it like a review on Amazon – the more people that review it positively, the more likely others are to buy it. If your target audience can see people just like them included in your marketing effort, saying how good it is, that’s going to increase your chances of converting them into a customer.
Questions for you
- What is the best part of your club or team? If you don’t know – ask your current players or members!
- What is your target audience looking for? How would they describe it to you? What specific words would they use?
- Using the answers to the previous two questions, come up with some messages for your target audience. These should be a list of short phrases or summary sentences. Depending on the content you create, you might need longer-form content (paragraphs or a whole article) but it’s easier to have some concise ideas that you can expand on.
How to Create Content
Now that you’ve given some thought to your message, it’s time to actually create your marketing. Depending on where you want to put your marketing, it can take various different formats. Most people, however, are likely to be using social media and/or email so we’ll focus on those.
What is your audience expecting?
Some of this may already be answered by your work defining your target audience and your marketing channels. For example, if your customers are all on Instagram, you’ll be using image or video. If it’s Facebook, then there’s more text involved, but image and video still tend to outperform text.
This type of content will be fairly prevalent in email marketing, but may also be used in a briefer format on Facebook and Twitter. Additionally, even if you market using image or video, most platforms have the opportunity to add text as well, e.g. a caption on Twitter or Instagram. It’s well worth putting something in here.
To craft your content, we’re just going to use what we worked out in our message, and put it in a readable format. There are loads of ways of crafting a message, and I can’t possibly list them all and do them justice, so we’ll focus on a very simple format you can use. You can follow this format with a single sentence for each if you’re doing a short form (e.g. Facebook) or a whole paragraph for each if you’re writing an email, where you can add some additional details.
- Start with a “problem-question”
- Present a general solution
- Present your offer as a great example of the solution they need
An example marketing email, using this format:
“Are you sick of trying to find the motivation to go for that run you promised yourself you’d do? You had the best intentions this morning, but now it’s dark and cold and pounding the pavement doesn’t seem so attractive.” – start with a question that poses the problem – in this case we’re targeting someone who finds it hard to get the motivation to exercise regularly.
“What if there was a better way to get fit? One that gave you just as much exercise as your run but was a lot more enjoyable and allowed you to connect with other people as well. I don’t know about you – but that sounds like something I’d definitely be a lot more motivated for!” – in this part, we’ve identified that their problem is motivating themselves, and have offered a general solution of some exercise that was a) more enjoyable and b) had a social element to it. We’ve also been careful to ensure that we’ve linked it back to their problem by highlighting that this is something that would motivate us.
“At GRG Rugby Club, we run weekly training sessions on a Wednesday evening – it’s a great work-out (one guy found out on his smart watch that he’d ran 10k last week!) but because of all the mates around you it barely feels like exercise. No rugby experience necessary – we’ll teach you everything you need to know.” – finally, we make our specific offer – notice how we tried to appeal to someone who feels the exercise part is important (e.g. by mentioning that a player did 10k of running) but showing how it’s not going to bump against the motivation issues in the same way that a solo run would. We also have put a bit of fear-allaying in by saying no experience necessary – which may be a barrier for some people.
“If this sounds like something you might be interested in, we offer everyone a free trial session – email us back to book yourself in.” – finally we give them something to do to take us up on the offer – in this case, just email us back.
Image & Video
When it comes to Images and Videos, it’s very easy and tempting to create amazing looking graphics or posting some really slick videos, but the most important thing is to make sure that these all tell the story of your messaging. For example, if you’re selling yourself as a social team and you include some photos of your team playing, make sure people look like they’re enjoying themselves! With an image especially, you’re limited in your real estate, so everything has to support the message. If this is building to an event, for example, your image should have all of the key points – what, where, when, how much, how to sign up – on the image itself.
If you have no specific image skills, then I really recommend Canva as a tool – it’s all drag and drop and has templates for all the major social platforms.
Questions for you
- What type of content is your audience expecting?
- Have I ensured that my messaging is contained on my content?
Conversion/Call to Action
Now you have got your marketing ideas and plans together, it is time to go back to your original goals – do you think that what you have supports these goals? If not, has it changed for a reason or have you lost your way a little during the process? It is easier to correct this before you post than it is to try and change your voice during a campaign.
Is it clear who you are directing this campaign to and how will you know that you have been successful? Likes on a post might look great, but if they don’t convert into players/supporters pitch-side this does not equal success for you. Make sure you are directing people to a way in which you can ask questions/join your club and have a way of engaging with people to follow up with any sign ups. If you’re running a recruitment event, then there’s a very natural call to action – sign up for the event!
If you don’t already, it is worth considering having a dedicated email address set up which is designed to track, follow up and manage these conversions wherein more than one person has access, but one person is leading. This way people don’t fall through the cracks and if there is a change in volunteers during this time, you can make sure that no one is lost in a handover and there is consistency throughout your campaign.
Questions for you
- How can I tell if my marketing has been successful? Do I have a way to track success – is it likes/shares (for a general awareness campaign) or is it number of people attending the event (for a recruitment event)?
- Does all my marketing make it clear to potential “customers” how to engage? Is there a point of contact or a sign-up form that makes it easy for them to sign up or ask questions?
Having certain days and times assigned to posting content is an excellent way to make sure that you are consistently engaging with your followers and generating good content enough to keep people interested. Schedules and caledars are really useful in making sure you don’t forget to post something, especially during busy times when it would be easy to let it slip. Think about your target audience, if you are looking to attract players between the ages of 24-35 your aim would be to post during the rush hour, when they are arriving to/leaving work and are most likely to be checking their social media.
If you have chosen to create a marketing campaign which leads up to an event, having a full calendar which outlines what type of content you wish to create and post at certain dates will help with both time management and keeping things in line with your goals and plans. Countdowns themselves are a great way to generate excitement for an event and provide a sense of occasion, but these need to be updated consistently in order to create that buzz. This is also helpful in avoiding clashes between strands of your marketing campaign and create a harmony between them; so if you send out your weekly newsletter on a Friday, create a social media post highlighting sign ups to the newsletter on Wednesday to give people an opportunity to be involved that week.
If you have a particularly hectic schedule and have a specific block of time which can be dedicated to marketing, there are online tools such as hootsuite which can schedule posts across different media platforms meaning that they can go out at the desired times during the week when you are unable to manage that manually. This can also help you keep a theme running through the campaign and stop it from becoming disjointed, as you can plan the content altogether and make sure the message is aligned throughout.
Hopefully after this guide, you’ve been able to create your own marketing campaign and are getting closer to hitting your marketing goals!
This is obviously a self-contained article about designing marketing but what comes next? The options are really up to you. Once you’ve got a process in place, it’s easier to add new parts to it and it’s easier going through this process a second or third time than it is in the first. So hopefully, as you get more proficient with your marketing, you’ll have extra time available to push new marketing ideas. Depending on the type of campaign you’re running, you have three main options:
- If it’s a general awareness campaign, you can cycle back to the “Types & Channels” and start adding a new strand to your existing marketing. For example, you might have created a Facebook page to promote your club and now you want to add Instagram. Your goals remain the same – the general promotion of your club, but you’ve added a new channel. Or you might start sending match reports to your local paper to market in local press as well as online.
- If your club is a bit bigger and you have several different goals or are working to part of a larger strategy, you might want to start the process from the beginning, coming up with new goals. For example, you might have run a recruitment event for players last time, but this time you want to build some branding that makes you attractive to sponsors. You’d obviously have an entirely different marketing goal and target audience and so the whole campaign would be completely different.
- If you had a specific time-limited campaign, e.g. marketing for a recruitment event, then you might repeat the process again – you’ll start with a similar goal, but you have the opportunity to work out which bits worked well and which bits didn’t work so well and hopefully the next time you run, it’ll be even better. Remember how important word-of-mouth is! If you recruited six players last time, then get each one of them to tell you why they joined – this can form even better content for your next campaign.
As volunteers, we can often find that the amount of work that could be done can get overwhelming. Hopefully this guide can give you a framework to get started – and remember that anything that you can reuse, you should reuse! Defining a target audience really well gives you plenty of opportunities in marketing – when you understand them, you may also notice there are other things that they might want that you already offer. A really simple example for this is that if you recruit a player into your senior teams and they have children, you might tell them about your minis team. Or to flip it round – if you were recruiting for a social team, you might look first to the minis parents in your club! All of which will allow you to increase your marketing output without significantly increasing your time input.
Need more help?
Feel free to ask any questions or share some of the cool marketing stuff you’ve done with your club in the comments below or feel free to send me an email – firstname.lastname@example.org.