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

Why Sport is Better With Cheerleaders

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.

Andy Burrows Music Vieo ZF

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.

Cheerleading CricketYou 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)

Cheer Pro Logo FilmAbout Jessica Zoo

Jessica Zoo OffiicialJessica 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.

Website: www.cheerpro.net

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/cheerprocheerleaders

Twitter: https://twitter.com/CHEERPRO_Teams