How to Set Up a Cheerleading Team for your Football Club

You may be toying around the idea of setting up a cheerleading team for your football club in order to maximize fan engagement (read more about why your football club can benefit from a cheerleading HERE). You may, however have some reservations when it comes to cheerleaders, which may include:

  • How much is it going to cost?
  • Is having cheerleaders seen as sexist nowadays?
  • How will female fans react to the cheerleaders
  • Will our fans have a positive reaction to it?
  • How can we use them effectively?
  • Who will manage them?
  • How do we ensure that their image is of quality and reflects our comms strategy?
  • How do we ensure QUALITY?

Asking yourself these questions is only a positive thing because you are being thorough with your job description and ensuring the welfare of the team’s marketing. Cheerleaders may or may not be the right thing for your team, but if you do decide to go down that route, here are some things you may want to think about.

Cheerobics Video Promo shoot. Photos by: 1. Recruitment of management team

The first step with ensuring your cheerleading team goes in the direction you want to go, is selecting the right manager which has a unique combination of:

  • Cheerleading Qualifications and Insurance
  • Strong background in dance and choreography
  • Thorough understanding of marketing and Social Media

These three skills are absolutely ESSENTIAL in ensuring you are running a cheerleading activity as it is the only way to ensure that you will be getting a team of quality, experience and alignment with your marketing strategy. Hiring a recent dance graduate to head your cheerleading team is as detrimental to letting a learner driver getting behind the wheel of a Ferrari. Your cheerleading team will be a representation of your football club and you do not want to be giving this responsibility to someone with an amateur background. Finding coaches with this particular skill-set is very rare – which is one of the reasons we wet up the CHEER PRO™ recruitment, consultancy and training services. In the UK and Europe we have an extensive network to find and train talent in this particular area.

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2. Sponsorship & Budgeting

If you really want the quality of the cheerleaders to reflect the quality of your football club, then this is not an area where you can cut important corners. Sure, it has to fit in within your budget but you have to consider that hiring trained, professional dancers (with a choreographer / team manager) cannot cost you £25 or £50 per dancer as is the current case with a lot of teams. Consider that for a cheerleader to turn up to your game and dance, she has to:

  • Rehearse between 3-5 hours per routine (in one season they will most probably learn 4-6 different routines)
  • Travel (for away games or to cover petrol / public transport)
  • Take the full day or half a day off to be at the game (therefore not able to book another job on the first day)
  • Be managed and choreographed by a coach / team captain who in addition to the hours above needs to count one extra day of admin, costume sorting, etc..

Additional expenses will include uniform kits and appropriate training for your cheerleaders. It is safe to say that you must calculate between £110.00 – £150.00 per game per cheerleader depending on the timings and activities (this cost should include rehearsals and team management) if you wish to have a team of professionals. Away games and additional travel may require a higher fee.

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Even though this may seem like an unnecessary expense – if you budget any less, you will encounter the same problem we have experienced time and time again, with a number of teams:

  • You cannot afford professional dancers, so your team will look amateurish
  • Uniforms and styling may be too provocative / unfitting with your comms strategy if not right people are put in charge
  • Team will make no effort to go the extra mile to rehearse or be part of your comms strategy
  • Dancers / cheerleaders will drop out because it is no longer in their priorities as it is costing them more to take part than what they are earning

A good way to ensure that you are covering the right ground, is to offer further opportunities to your existing sponsors by offering them the chance to brand the team’s cheerleaders and include visibility of their sponsorship activities (which may also include PR opps / TV appearences / Youtube Videos / Calendars / Merchandise / Prizes, etc..). Instead of giving them a price per game – offer them a full sponsorship package for the entire season – including an appearances calendar and comms activity that you can work together with the cheerleading team manager.

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3. Plan the look and the Comms Strategy

Before you start working on a comms strategy, find out from your fans what they would like from the FC’s cheerleading team: with an online poll campaign you can get the fans engaged with the choices you are making by always keeping them in mind. If you do so and listen to their suggestions and requests, the cheerleading team will be a much bigger success because the fans have been involved in the setup, as opposed to something that has been sprung to them.

In terms of comms strategy and look, we strongly suggest that pushing the athletic and performance level is something that the fans would be proud to have their daughters take part in. as opposed to a team look that may be too provocative and inappropriate for family audiences. This is especially important to consider at a time where gender equality and sexism is a hot topic, which is why ensuring the appropriate time and budget is allocated to your cheerleaders: leaving these important details to people with little experience is a recipe for disaster.

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4. Including female & family-friendly activities 

The reason why cheerleaders are so popular in the USA is because the teams are not designed with a so-to-speak “take the husbands away from their wives” approach (some teams do this better than others. The Dallas Cowboys’ Cheerleaders are considered America’s Sweethearts. Beautiful? Yes. Provocative? Never. Even though their shorts are short, their polished routines and activities are always aspirational rather than patronizing towards women. They are involved in the community and engaging with the female fan-base. To have the same effect, here are some suggestions:

  • Involve ladies in choosing / designing the uniforms. This will make the female fans also part of the decision-making and allow them to feel represented by the cheerleaders rather than having the uniforms just designed for their male counterparts.
  • Equally, involve them in song choices: make them get up and dance in their seats because they chose the playlist instead of Tweeting angrily about why there are cheerleaders on the football ground.
  • Ensure choreography is fun, cheeky but never provocative. Otherwise this will ring alarm bells with the women and likely to cause stir-up with the comms department.
  • Offer Cheerobics® ( www.cheerobics.net) classes for women at the club. Not only this is a great way to boost involvement of women with the club’s activities, but it is also a great PR story as you are helping female fans to be active – AND they will engage with the cheerleading team on a friendly level and support them. Plus – this could mean additional subsidizing the cheerleader’s expenses so and all-round winner!
  • Offer a cheerleading club for the children, with opportunities to join the junior league who can also perform on the field during the season. This is done in the USA on a regular basis and is one of the most popular activities. Just be extra careful that the coaches are fully qualified in cheerleading and have the appropriate experience.

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5. Recruitment and Training 

Cheerleading is not a profession here as it is in the USA. It is therefore ESSENTIAL that the recruits are chosen with care, and trained to be fully qualified cheerleaders before allowing them to represent your football club. Most FCs make the mistake of recruiting trainee dancers or girls who dance as a hobby, with the result of an amateur team. The only option to fully make your cheerleading team a success is to audition and train a combination of professional dancers and high-level competitive cheerleaders, and then giving them a month of intense training (or up to 15 hours total) to learn the techniques and routines of the team – lead by an experienced professional.

This way they can be moulded to the same standard, just like you would do with your players on the football team. Recruitment is just as important as training, as you want to calculate 5 auditionees per space on the team to ensure maximum talent. This is a combination of a strong comms strategy that you can work with your Cheerleading team manager, and putting the new recruits through their paces. CHEER PRO™ have for this very purpose created the very first Professional Cheerleading qualification of its kind – to ensure the standard of performance, fitness and appearance is consistent throughout the whole team. More info on: http://bit.ly/CHEERPROqualification

If you have any questions about setting up your very own cheerleading team, please email us at cheerpro@cheerobics.net or tweet us @CheerPro_Teams

How far can football clubs go to maximise commercial income before it all gets too much?

With the English Premier League growing in stature and global appeal year on year, are we about to see a change in dynamics from football clubs with regards to their identity, in order to further increase exposure and commercial gain?

This saga has been brought back to the surface again over the course of the season, this time by Hull City Chairman Assem Allam. Dr Allam already caused a stir earlier on in the year by changing the clubs company name from ‘Hull City AFC’ to ‘Hull City Tigers’, with the ultimate long-term aim to alter the football clubs name to just ‘Hull Tigers’.

The reasoning for the prospective name change and advertently altering the clubs identity is down to Dr Allam’s preference of using shorter names in business to give a more powerful message in marketing terms. Dr Allam gave an exclusive to the Hull Daily Mail in August stating; “In the commercial world, the shorter the name, the better. The more it can spread quickly. My dislike for the word ‘City’ is because it is common. I want the club to be special. It is about identity. ‘City’ is a lousy identity. Hull City Association Football Club is so long.”

It was again brought up in the media once again in early November when Dr Allam confirmed that he plans to rename the football club to simply ‘Hull Tigers’; even after having meetings with representatives from various supporters groups who have aired their displeasure of the name change.  Dr Allam explained that the decision has been made in order for the club to improve its global appeal and to be self-financed with or without him. After recently being deprived of opportunities to acquire the stadium freehold this means that the next best option is to change the clubs name to generate higher commercial income, with Dr Allam stating, “A shorter club name will hopefully enable us to do so, with a stronger, quicker marketing impact all over the world.”

Nowadays football clubs are far more than just a club, they are global marketing brands that have to be well looked after. All with the objective of capitalising on the commercial gains that come with competing in the best competitions in the world, that have increased media coverage. As the Barclays Premier League is watched globally by millions of people, there are so many different markets and opportunities that can be tapped into for these gains, which other clubs outside of England’s top flight just can’t get near to.

A good example of a Premier League club that has well and truly jumped on the bandwagon and reaping the rewards are Manchester United. Although already one of the most successful and recognisable football clubs in England let alone the World, they have been able to tap into various global markets due to the exposure they get through competing in the Premier League, and are what most other clubs aspire to emulate. The club has managed its commercial policy by splitting up their sponsorship rights on a territory-by-territory basis around the World to maximise income.

What with the Financial Fair Play (FFP) regulations coming into force – to prevent clubs spending more than they earn in the pursuit of success and in doing so getting into financial problems – the best way to balance the books is to increase their commercial incomes to the best of their ability using whatever means necessary. On some occasions these commercial ventures can whip up a bit of a frenzy with some club supporters who aren’t too pleased.

An example of a commercial move that went ahead but faced fierce backlash from the clubs supporters can be seen at  Cardiff City a couple of seasons ago. This came after the Cardiff City Owner Vincent Tan, made the decision to change the clubs home shirt colour from blue to red and nickname from the ‘Bluebirds’ to the ‘Red Dragons’. The decision to make these changes was in order to tap into the Asian market, as the colour red is seen as being a more dynamic colour for marketing in Asia, as well as the Dragon being very significant in that part of the World too.

As with the Hull City situation, the club gave their 15,033 season card holders the opportunity to take part in a ballot regarding the name change earlier this week. Although only 5,874 season card holders responded, there was a narrow victory in favour of changing the club’s name to Hull Tigers, with a total of 2,565 voting for the change and 2,517 against the proposal, and the remaining 792 voting they were “not too concerned and will continue to support the club either way”. After the results were published Fans’ group City Till We Die claimed that the result was “largely meaningless”, especially as back in March The Football Association’s membership committee made a recommendation to reject the plans.

Indeed, when The Football Associations Council met this week they rejected Dr Allam’s proposed name change of Hull City to Hull Tigers, with 63.5% of its members voting against the change following the recommendation by its membership committee. Responding to the decision, City Till We Die said that; “We are very pleased that the FA has recognised the importance of the historic name of Hull City AFC to the fans and the wider community of Hull. This is truly a victory for the fans.”

With the decision by The FA Council it seems that nowadays the clubs history plays a major part in stopping such changes to the clubs identity, which might ultimately end up helping the club in the future. As back in the 1960s, then Leeds United manager Don Revie changed the clubs kit colour to an all-white strip that resembled Real Madrid, in an effort for the players to aspire to higher things. Since this change the all-white kit has stuck, and although I’m not certain of the perception of the fans back then, the club went on to have great success on the pitch, both in England and in Europe.

Although not a change for commercial gain back when it was made, how was anyone to know that going against the clubs history by changing the clubs kit colour to all-white would have brought success just by a change in perception? This case study just shows that sometimes change can be good and beneficial to the club even if it goes against the clubs historical values and identity.

But ultimately this begs the question how far can football clubs go with regards to the commercial aspects of the game before it all gets out of hand? If the proposed name change was to have got the go ahead from Hull City to ‘Hull Tigers’, it would have resembled a name that wouldn’t have looked out of place in some American sports. This is due to the vast majority of sporting teams across the pond including various nicknames of which are very marketable and catchy.

This is the case with the majority of teams in the NFL and NBA, as just as a couple of examples, but although not as global as football (soccer in the USA) the reach and popularity alone in America is large enough to make it all worthwhile. Some examples from the NFL can include; the Miami Dolphins, Dallas Cowboys, New England Patriots and the Jacksonville Jaguars, just to name a select few.

So what if Dr Allam’s move goes ahead in the future and Hull City will be known as ‘Hull Tigers’, will this mean a possible change in name for some of the other Premier League clubs to gain more commercial income? Will we be seeing the Manchester Red Devils up against the Arsenal Gunners, or a local derby between the Sunderland Black Cats and the Newcastle Magpies in the not to distance future?

I’m not too sure about that, but it is interesting how far football clubs will go in order to compete both on the pitch and financially.

Russell Collins

Follow on Twitter: @russcollins08