High School Sports Marketing 101

The following guest post comes courtesy of Joe Barcellos, Athletic Director at Los Banos High School in California.  Joe has done an outstanding job the past several years marketing, promoting and branding the high school athletics program at Los Banos.  He has been kind enough to share some of his experiences with our readers on our blog click here for more info. Thanks Joe and keep up the great work!

First some quick background….I am in my 23rd year of teaching, which I spent the first 21 also coaching. I have coached sophomore football, sophomore basketball, sophomore softball and varsity basketball all for the same school I went to and town I grew up in.  During my time as varsity basketball coach I utilized a lot of various fundraisers for my team which was really my only ‘stab’ at marketing my team. I became athletic director three years ago and one of the first things that crossed my desk, or maybe it was an email, was this conference called “High School Sports Marketing Summit” hosted by Chris Lindauer with Sports Career Consulting. It looked interesting (and it was in Vegas) so I figured why not…..the rest is history!

While at this conference I learned so much from Chris, his presenters, and others in attendance that I utilize today and have started my quest to learn as much as I can about ways to market my athletic program and raise money. Many of the things I learned at that first conference, I attended the second one in Portland as well, I still use and implement today. Handwritten thank-you notes, how to brand your product, how to promote your events, game operations, rate cards and social media to name a few. I have been fortunate enough to do this all at the school where I graduated from so many years ago and where I bleed cardinal and gold!

We currently don’t offer a sports and entertainment class, but I have been working hard to get this class offered and I am close to that goal. The biggest setback was discovering that I needed an additional credential to teach this class. It has been offered for next year and I am hoping I will be the one teaching this course as planned. So I have tried to incorporate as many things that Chris has empowered me with. Below is a brief sampling of some things I have implemented over the last 2 plus years to market our athletic program and help raise some money.

I have had numerous items printed or made to promote our ‘brand.’  Here is a sampling of some of the items: lanyards, magnet schedules, buttons, pens, schedule key tags, weekly e-letters, Twitter, Facebook, shirts, sweatshirts, hats, decals, etc. Promote, promote, promote!

Los Banos promotional items...

I started a Facebook personal page not knowing the difference between that and a fan page. I soon found out that a personal page allows only 5,000 friends to follow you. We hit this goal in 17 months. I posted our page in as much stuff as I could. I tracked down numerous alumni through Facebook (a process that was much easier to do when you could search by school and graduation year…not sure you can do that anymore, as I have tried). As soon as we hit the limit I started a Fan Page through Facebook and it has 1200 likes so far. Facebook is a great way to spread the word on things like fundraising activities, your team’s results, accolades, newspaper articles, and pictures. I modeled our fan page profile picture after one USC was using. I noticed it after opening a link up that Chris sent out on twitter.

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Tiger-Nation/184460278276191?ref=tn_tnmn
https://www.facebook.com/losbanos.tigers

Since I am at most home games and many away games (oldest daughter and son are a senior and junior who play multiple sports) I purchased a camera and take lots of pictures, which drives traffic because most people want to see a picture of themselves competing or show the relatives who can’t make a game. To date, I have posted over 4,500 pictures on our fan page. This a great tool to get people to our site.

Soon after I opened a Twitter account and currently have 700 followers. It acts as another way to get information out, especially to those who want up to the minute posts regarding our athletic teams and how they did that evening.

https://twitter.com/LosBanosTigers

When I took over as athletic director I wanted to keep those updated who weren’t quite into the social media craze with a more prevalent way to communicate….email. So I made a website which has a link to sign up for our e-letter, a weekly report I send out that includes the week’s schedule, previous week’s results, any pertinent news such as all league selections, big games, fundraising events and a couple of pictures. I created the website myself and over the last couple of years it has included podcasts as well. There are currently 250 plus people on our distribution list. Some of them have signed up through the website and others have signed up by filling out our information card which I make available at awards ceremonies (turn in card and automatically entered into a drawing for a sweatshirt that night), incoming 9th grader orientation, and our registration day for all students prior to school starting. Website is below.

www.lbsportsboosters.com

The site is titled “Boosters” instead of the high school name because I eventually want to start selling apparel on the site, which will be easier to do so through our boosters club. This boosters group was basically treading water when I took over. I started an actual paying membership to join with perks included (brochure is in package I sent). In order to get members to join you better have some pretty good perks. Sooooo, I installed stadium seats at our stadium. The first year I put in 68 seats. Instant success as all seats were sold out months before football season started and the waiting list was so great I installed an additional row of 29 the 2nd year for a total of 97 seats. All 97 stadium seats were sold out this year. There are also 84 bleacher seats of which 70 were sold. I incorporated these seats into our membership packages, which included reserved parking for the two highest paid packages. The parking around are stadium is at a premium because it is located slightly off campus and in a residential area, leaving few spaces available. In fact some people just want to buy the reserved parking…not an option.

Los Banos stadium BEFORE installing stadium seats

Los Banos stadium AFTER installing stadium seating as a perk for boosters

Upgrading current facilities is another way to help promote your product. One of my big goals coming in was to improve our weight room facility, currently located in a 1600 foot portable with decades old equipment.  I told the “powers that be” that I would raise all of the money myself to make this happen. I was given the look, ‘yeah right.’ I visited other facilities, I called builders, etc. The biggest setback was that building in California on any public campus requires mounds and mounds of red tape and inspections which typically drive up the cost of a project by 5 times the normal amount if you were doing it privately. I wasn’t going to be deterred. Our boosters were making more money than they ever had through various fund raisers and a more streamlined snack bar at football games. It helps to have the right people in leadership of your boosters and I am very, very blessed to have had two great individuals at the top who have helped really turn it all around. So, after numerous meetings, talking to the right people, bending the right ears, the district is actually providing a 2,000 square foot building for us. It helped that the boosters were committed to equipping the entire building. The boosters have earmarked $40,000 to supply the flooring and equipment to our new weight room which should get started in March of this year.

We live in a very agricultural area and Morning Star is one of the biggest tomato processing plants in the world and happens to be located in our backyard.  My former principal had a connection with the gentleman who essentially runs the operations for this plant and the owner is a very generous man who has donated in a variety of ways to the school, whether it is something simple like garbage cans or buying numerous animals from our local FFA (Future Farmers of America). So, at my former principal’s suggestion we decided to raise the bar and see if we could get a new football scoreboard donated. After I submitted the proposal, it was just about the timing. After a few months of back and forth, tweaking a few things, making sure all the i’s were dotted and t’s were crossed, they donated a $55,000 scoreboard which was installed 2 years ago. The scoreboard includes a scrolling marquee which allows for revenue to be raised which is very helpful.

Los Banos old scoreboard

Los Banos new scoreboard which features a scrolling marquee

 

 

 

 

New scoreboard prominently displays the sponsor (Morning Star) who helped make the new scoreboard a reality for Los Banos

Our boosters have also helped this year with redoing our wrestling room. The cost of this $10,000 plus make over was helped by the wrestling program, athletics and boosters.

Los Banos wrestling room (old)

Updated Los Banos wrestling room

 

 

Last year with the help of athletics and the class of 2011 and class of 2012 we were also able to upgrade both gym scoreboards so they can now accommodate basketball, volleyball and wrestling as well as added a scrolling marquee this year. The scrolling marquee allows all of our winter sports to sell ads and create revenue for their sports.

Upgrading facilities promotes the fan environment, helps to create additional possible revenue (scoreboards) and just plain ol’ makes the student-athletes feel good about their sport playing environment.

After attending the Vegas conference and visiting the Thomas Mack Center I was able to use some of their marketing ideas in our own venues. Below is a picture of a cement decal, one of 5 at our football stadium.

Never forget those that have come before you

I would like to conclude with what I consider my biggest accomplishment. I started a Los Banos High School Athletics Hall of Fame. This was another goal when I took over, but there is only so much you can get done. I literally walked away from both of Chris’ conferences with so many ideas I couldn’t wait to get started, my biggest problem was time. The HOF was an 18 month endeavor. Names were solicited, then background research had to be done and nominees had to be tracked down if an address or phone number wasn’t provided. The current school was built in 1966, but our history goes back much farther than that, so it was quite a process. Seventy plus people were nominated (something you can do on our website as well) and in the end,  9 individuals (2 from the 1930’s), 4 coaches and 2 teams were inducted in a ceremony which was attended by 175 people. All of the serving was conducted by 12 of our current student athletes, a humbling event for them as well. This was very emotional event for many of the inductees and those in attendance. We had former Tigers who were inducted come back from Kansas, Nevada, and Michigan just to receive this honor. I received many compliments from those I tracked down to inform them of their nomination. Many were overwhelmed with gratitude that someone remembered them and their high school accomplishments.

Los Banos inaugural Hall of Fame induction ceremony

Los Banos inaugural Hall of Fame induction

Thank you for this opportunity to give you a brief rundown of some of the things I have been able to accomplish here at Los Banos High School over the last few years. None of this could have been done without the help of a supportive administration, a great boosters club, super coaches and community support.  I want to add that a lot of these ideas stemmed from something I heard or saw at Sports Career Consulting’s conferences, which have proven to be so valuable.

Thank you,

Joe Barcellos
Athletic Director
Los Banos High School
@LosBanosTigers