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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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