Showbiz, Fan Engagement & Social Media
by Jessica Zoo – director of CHEER PRO™
When we look over at our american cousins across the pond, we cannot help but admire their pioneering business sense when it comes to the sports industry. What’s the secret of their success? They understand that even though the talent of the team comes from the players and coaching staff, the heart belongs to the fans. Without fans, there would be no ticket sales, no TV advertising and no sponsorship deals, and as a consequence no sport to play. The business of sport entirely depends on having a following and works as a cycle: more fans means more tickets, larger sponsorship value and as a consequence bigger budgets to draft better players, hire talented coaching staff and set up junior schemes to develop talent from an early age.
The USA are masters at understanding this – and they know that for bigger fan engagement they don’t just need to appeal to the die-hard fan, but also to his brother, his wife, his sister, his children (and sometimes pets!) – this way, the love for the team becomes embedded as part of a family tradition, and everyone finds a way to get involved in the fan fun.
Showbiz and ancillary team products (not just merchandise) have developed to be a key aspect in fan engagement both on and off the field. As we have moved towards an age dominated by digital communication, the experience of being ‘part’ of the team extends far beyond wearing the Tshirt and switching on the telly. You can now follow and even interact with the players, coaches and management staff via Twitter, Facebook and every other gizmo that’s trending that month.
Your question may be – “I thought I was reading an article about Cheerleaders?” You are, and it ties in fully with the scenario we have set above. The UK and Europe have become more influenced by the American style of entertainment and marketing in sports in the recent 5 years, simply because what was reserved to American fans has now been made available to the entire world through digital means. And the fans like it.
You may think “What’s some pompom shaking got to do with it?”. There are two versions of this answer. Firstly. if you hire a group of dancers who throw on a ra-ra skirt to jiggle pompoms of the football field, it won’t do very much at all. It will even raise eyebrows and have fans scratching their heads not understanding the correlation between football and cheerleaders. Done correctly, with a marketing and crowd engagement strategy in mind, it can do a lot, lot more: they become part of your brand, and the values that it stands for.
Let’s take the Miami Dolphins as an example. Their cheerleaders are gorgeous, talented, look friendly and approachable. Did I mention that their “Call Me Maybe” cover has over 20 million hits on Youtube? Or that their Facebook page has over 200,000 page likes and 32k followers on Twitter? That is an exact additional 10% online engagement for the football club overall. That is 10% more interaction, potential sales and sponsorship value which is nothing to turn your nose up to.
Everyone knows the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders – they are the epitome of Cheerleading royalty and they set the standards of professional cheerleading since the 1970s : every cheerleading team aspires to be like them (and some manage better than others). Americans do it best, so what is it exactly about these american Sirens that make them so superior to the standards we’ve seen in the UK/ EU?
Firstly, it is essential to understand that there are three worlds of cheerleading. Yes, you read correctly: THREE.
Professional Cheerleaders - those that belong to a professional sports team, and mostly perform pro cheer dance style
Varsity Cheerleaders - cheerleaders belonging to an educational institution such as college or high school, performing mostly sideline entertainment including acrobatics and can also be competitive teams in national and international cheerleading championships
Allstar Cheerleaders - Cheerleaders who’s sole purpose is to push their skills for competition, and belong to an independent gym. This type is more associated to gymnastics that cheerleading itself: you will not find any pompoms or chants here! Expect most of these routines to be spent in the air rather than on the ground. This is an entirely fascinating concept of it’s own, and emerging as a sport in it’s own right
In America, those belonging to the first group (Professional Cheerleading) have all spent many years learning their skills rigorously by taking part in either Varsity and Allstar cheerleading. When you combine that experience with exceptional dance skills, experienced coaching, marketing know-how and decent dancer fees, you get the magic of NFL cheerleaders. It requires a very specific type of expertise to understand the subtleties that give that wow factor/girl next door look and that make the cheerleaders appealing both to a male and family audience.
In the UK, the cheerleading community has been somewhat segregated (we’re almost talking about separate changing rooms for cheerleaders with pompoms and those without). For the most part, this country’s competitive cheerleaders (you may be surprised that to date there are over 60,000) – do not wish to delve into the world of professional cheerleading because it has been regarded as subsidiary activity left to dancers with limited or no cheerleading background.
Lately, however, a number of UK sports teams have shown that introducing cheerleaders managed with a marketing know-how, has been a very successful tactic to attract more fans and increase engagement on and offline (with some having more success than others). The key into making a cheerleading team successful requires 5 main steps:
- Highly skilled professional dancers with a background in cheerleading or enough technical cheerleading training
- An overall look and style that is both appealing to a male-oriented audience but equally family-friendly in order to engage
- A budget decent enough to secure professionally trained dancers
- Management of the cheerleaders with a good understanding of marketing and digital communications
- Coaches and choreographers with a strong background in cheerleading (not just dance)
If this is something that you may have struggled with in the past or require external help, CHEER PRO™ might just be the solution you have been looking for . Aside from providing cheerleaders for hire for specific events (with our flagship team Zoo Fever cheerleaders being crowned 2014 National Grand Champions at the British Cheerleading Association, competing against 75 other teams), our team of professional cheerleading and digital marketing experts can help you set up your team using local talent, but managed by our expert coaches through a number of different services.
We select, audition, train and manage the cheerleaders for your club until they are ready to pass their Certificate of Professional Achievement in professional cheerleading (the first qualification of it’s kind). We also set up cheerleading classes for all ages (children and adults) with Cheerobics® fitness classes taught by the club’s cheerleaders so that everyone can get involved in the team’s spirit. We work in a number of flexible ways depending on your budgets and your requirements, but the result is guaranteed to provide you with an exceptional team of cheerleaders to suit your team’s marketing and fan engagement objectives.
To find out more how we can make your sport better with cheerleaders, visit www.cheerpro.net
(Interview and live performance on BT Sports with Jessica Zoo and Zoo Fever London Cheerleaders’ CHEER PRO team – after their 2014 Grand National Championship Win)
About Jessica Zoo
Jessica Zoo, the creator of the Cheerobics® brand and co-director of Social Media Mentors started her cheerleading dance career at the age of 18 when she was the captain of Royal Holloway University Cheerleaders, and had a strong attraction towards commercial, or ‘PRO’ style cheerleading – her coaching and choreography skills have allowed her London Zoo Fever Cheerleaders to be crowned 2014 Grand Champions at the BCA Nationals. In 2011 she launched the Cheerobics® brand, which offers cheerleading fitness classes, apparel and instructor training programmes worldwide and now has over 200 instructors in Europe, the US and Asia.
With over 10 years experience in cheerleading, media production, digital marketing and event management – Jessica has fused her combined valuable knowledge into CHEER PRO™: creating and managing top class teams with a strong focus on the marketing objectives, as well as an innovative system of training & choreography.