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.

Cheerobics Video Promo shoot. Photos by:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

The Role of CRM in Sponsorship

For years, the key goals of CRM in sport and leisure have been focused on the usual suspects… sales increases, loyalty, cost reduction and profit improvement.

The income target is usually expected developed from an anticipated increase in B2B and B2C spend from improved data driven targeted sales and marketing.  These objectives are crucial and the benefits in these areas will form the major part of the development of the initial CRM programme business case.

However, one often overlooked benefit is sponsorship and partnership income increases.  This factor has the potential to become an even greater source of return than those previously mentioned.

For many years, any sponsorship deal with a rights holder was regarded pretty much as a charitable donation. The name on the shirt became the end in itself and there was little of what is now known as ‘activation’ or measurement.

As sport, especially football, has evolved commercially in the past 15 years, so has the size of the sponsorship deals that have been achieved. With this has brought greater demands from partners in terms of the measurement of the return on investment from rights holder. The result has been a major increase in recruitment of sponsorship activation personnel and a greater increase in these activities.

This expected return on investment has now extended into the club’s CRM & Data strategy. Potential sponsors are keen to know that not only will they achieve the traditional objectives of media awareness but that the potential audience of customers is well managed, understood and has the ability to be engaged with. Simply put, the more quality data a rights holder has then greater the value which could be derived from the deal.  Rumours abound in the industry that 2 major Premiership clubs were both vying for the same sponsor and the ‘winning’ club were chosen simply because their CRM database was larger than the other.

Another story emerged this year that CRM & Data played a major part in the £150m deal that Arsenal secured with Emirates.

So, with possible large sums of money involved in increased deals and the ever growing expectations of partners and sponsors, how can a sports rights holder or club ensure that their CRM & Data strategy supports the delivery of greater value from their future deals?  Here are 6 ways to get you started:

1. Grow the data

Use measurement to help increase the focus within the business to drive the quantity of customers within the database. Include data measures as a KPI within the business along with targets for all key staff which include incentives. Our experience is that this will immediately drive a change in behaviour and an increase in data quantity. If you don’t measure it, staff will not believe you think it’s important!

2. Basic profiling ability

Focus on building contact and transactional data initially which can be used to profile based on behavioural and geo-demographic information. Sponsors want to know that you are able to contact your dataset easily and also understand the basic information about them.

3. Enhanced profiling

Once the basics are in place then a profiling tool can be applied to add extra information to aid greater insight.  MOSAIC is the most popular lifestyle classification tool and is an ideal method to build further insight into customer and fan groups. It is used regularly in advertising and politics as the MOSAIC groups have clear characteristics about their likely lifestyle choices meaning its much easier to target them with those products and services they are interested in and their communication preferences. This can be used to build profiles and flag those against the customer record within the CRM database for future reference and results reporting.

4Sight recently worked with Leicester City to provide an analysis of their fan base in terms of their MOSAIC profile.  Through segmentation analysis a selection of typical profiles were built showing the various segments and their likely car type preferences.  This was then used as a powerful insight to share with potential automotive partners to demonstrate the strength of their fan base as a marketing asset to the sponsor.

4. Communications preferences

The traditional method of allowing possible sponsors to contact a clubs database is to ensure that as many fans as possible have signed up to the ‘allow 3rd party’ section in their communication preferences.  However this method can also be a reason for fans not providing their details as they fear being bombarded by perceived spam emails from companies they are not interested in.

This model must change.

With a large database of engaged fans where the data is well managed and insightful, a new model is emerging from which CRM practitioners should be aware.  If fans believe that they will be provided with relevant information about products and services that they are interested in then they are more likely sign up.  To do this, use a preference manager tool to find out more about the key products and services they are keen to know more about, especially where there is a chance of extra value in a possible deal.  These categories would typically include car dealerships, mobile phone providers and financial services.  By opting in to specific sectors, extra value can be generated by linking these people to local partners who see a much bigger attraction in communicating with a smaller group of fans that have given their permission to be contacted.

5. Contact management strategies

To support the overall objectives and the achievement of a new value partnership between sponsors and fans it is essential that their interests and preferences are captured.  Sam Nixon has produced a piece (What’s your Preference) to give examples of how this can be achieved but essentially this boils down to making sure your systems can deliver a real closed loop marketing process.  I.e. when you send an email to the supporter base asking about their interests, favourite player etc… it is much easier to manage the results if this information flows straight back to the customer record.  The preference manager survey is an often over looked approach and is much simpler and more accurate than building propensity models trying to predict what fans may want rather than actually asking them directly.

6. Measurement of buyers…not just media evaluation

A further option for partners working with consumer brands where data is collected at the time of booking (e.g. travel companies, mobile phone providers and financial services) a new measurement process can be implemented to understand success.

Traditionally medial evaluation has been the way that sponsorship success is measured but this is flawed as it only reports on the comparable value of the equivalent advertising rates rather than real sales.

A data driven option which can prove much more accurate is to assess how many fans appear on the sponsors database at the start of the partnership and re-assess on a regular basis. The aim will be to increase the penetration of fans from the rights holder’s data within the sponsor’s customer base. This equates to real sales and is a much more appropriate measure which we expect to be used much more in the future.

For more information on using data to grow sponsorship sales contact Garry Adamson – garry@4sight-sport.com