Business of sport: How to get your club sponsored
19th February 2018
Building the commerciality of volleyball is on the agenda as Volleyball England looks to develop income which can be reinvested back into the game. As a vibrant and dynamic sport, there is also no doubt volleyball has many values that brands would want to share and promote.
In the first piece in our ‘Business of Sport’ series, we looked at the plans to increase revenue through commercial partnerships and the Volleyball England events which have been identified as the most attractive to potential sponsors.
As we delve deeper into the discussion on the commerciality of volleyball, we take a look at how your volleyball club can generate vital funds from its own commercial deals.
For a club based in the small village of Frinton-on-Sea, Tendring Volleyball Club are a shining light of how to raise money through sponsorship and partnerships. Incredibly, the club has seven sponsors, three commercial partnerships, and fundraising support from various companies.
The income this generates helps put Tendring VC on such a sound financial footing that they can concentrate on getting results on the court – and that is paying dividends. Tendring Volleyball Club Ladies can lay claim to being one of the best women’s clubs in the country, as they look set to secure a top five finish in the Super 8s, while the Tendring Men are riding high, undefeated at the top of the Men’s Division Two South.
Wouldn’t it be great if your club could boost its finances from commercial partnerships with local businesses? Well, there’s no hidden secret to it! No matter level your club competes at, the key to securing deals is understanding the value of your club to potential sponsors and articulating this to the right people.
Volleyball England caught up with the club’s chairman, Alex Porter, who has worked so hard to develop these commercial deals. Here he shares his top tips for maximising your club’s commercial potential…
1 Network, network, network
Most of Tendring’s corporate deals have come through connections to the club or people Alex has encouraged to get to know the club.
“When the club started searching for sponsorship deals two years ago, we hosted a ‘Friends of Tendring Volleyball Club’ evening,” explains Alex. “We invited everyone from the local high street and about ten or twelve people turned up. One of those was the owner of local business directory, Love to Shop Local. He not only helped develop our commercial packages, but Love to Shop Local are also one of our key sponsors, in a package worth thousands of pounds.”
“I also attended every business breakfast meeting in the area. You have an elevator-style one-minute pitch. I told people about the club, how far we’ve already come and what we want to achieve in the future. Many of them did not even know we existed, but liked what we were doing. For some people, they have not been able to offer help or sponsorship but have said they would look out for the club in the future.”
“Our deal with GML, which is an IT company, came through a former player. Networking is absolutely vital. Getting to know people means they get to understand who the club are and what you’re about – they’re much more likely to support the club, in whatever way they can, if they have that relationship with it.”
2 Don’t just ask for money
Not all of Tendring’s commercial partners pay for sponsorship. Some have provided services for free or offered to help the club.
“When I went to the business breakfasts, I didn’t just ask for money,” says Alex. “I asked if there was any way they could help the club, whether that was with money, services, or volunteering to help the club.
“Simon Rich Photography is one of our commercial partners. He gave us a free photoshoot in his brand new studio. The owner of Love to Shop Local is also on the board for a charity. The charity gave us free use of their minibus for all our away games. All we have to do is pay for the petrol.”
3 Sell your achievements
Potential sponsors need to be excited to want to invest in your club. You need to make them believe in your vision and achievements, as if you can’t get excited by your own club then how can you expect sponsors to?
“You need to sell your achievements,” says Alex. “The things you have already achieved and what you’re going to achieve. At Tendring, we tell commercial partners how a club from a small village has produced 37 England players and people are always like ‘wow!’ It gets them interested and excited. Our local league side Tendring Heatec, who are sponsored by a local plumbing company, have also gone unbeaten for over 50 games, people locally know that and will look out for their scores so we tell sponsors about that too.
“Corporate partners don’t want to hear sob stories. Get them interested and don’t bore them with mundane stuff.”
4 Build your club’s profile
Thanks to social media, everyone these days is a publisher and has a story to tell. Build your club’s profile so it is recognised and connects with as many followers as possible. Having an audience will gain more support for your club and make it more appealing for sponsors.
“We have four or five people at Tendring who have access to the club’s social media to post content,” says Alex. “I rarely post as there are a couple of people who post about the local league teams and others who post about the NVL team. You can also schedule posts too. So if you wanted to let everyone know about when you’re playing, you can schedule all those in to save time.”
Don’t forget more traditional media outlets either. Most local newspapers will be happy to feature your club if you provide content for them. “I have a great relationship with our local newspaper,” says Alex. “We get 400-800 words in there every week.”
5 Give your sponsors coverage
Companies which support your club benefit from developing their reputation as a brand that promotes an exciting sport and a business which gives back to the local community. So don’t forget to give your sponsors coverage! Your club is probably spreading the word about their business to more people than you realise.
“All of our sponsors are featured on our kit,” says Alex. “Their logos also feature on our live streams for all the matches we broadcast, on the pre-match page and during breaks in play.”
“The club are featured in the local paper which gives sponsors coverage and every new commercial deal the club agrees is covered in there too, with a photograph of the sponsors receiving a framed shirt. For each commercial package, there is also an agreement to share sponsors’ content on social media and their logo on our website.”
6 Approach big companies too
Local businesses are part of the community so are most likely to support your volleyball club. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t approach big brands though.
“Last year, we ran a raffle and I went to the local Subway and asked if they could provide a prize,” says Alex. “They gave us a voucher and it helped build a relationship with them. I went to Tesco too. Just go into the store and find the member of staff who works with the local community. They usually have funds to support local projects or will let you fundraise by doing a bag pack in the store.”
7 Put on events
Being part of a volleyball club is about more than just playing – it is about being part of the community of the wider club. Organising events will help build that collective spirit and gives the perfect opportunity to welcome your sponsors to being part of the club too.
“Try to put on events and invite your sponsors,” says Alex. “We welcome sponsors to come and watch the teams and make the matches an event. We started out by putting seating and carpet out and have now developed into mobile bleacher seating. We’re trying to develop the games into spectacles; having a DJ at every game will be our next step. We run other events like quiz nights and end of season awards nights too. Sponsors are always being impressed by being involved and feel part of the club.”
8 Keep in touch
When a company supports your club, it is important to show that you appreciate their backing. If they invest their money and never hear from you, they’re probably not going to renew their commercial deal.
“I make sure I keep our sponsors up-to-date with what is happening at the club,” explains Alex. “Businesses appreciate that, even if it is just an email or quick phone call every month or so. At Tendring, we provide every sponsor with a framed shirt which they can display. We gave one to Simon Rich, the photographer who gave us a free photoshoot, and he was delighted. He put it on the wall in his studio.”