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

Labour’s Proposals For Fan Ownership – Are They Credible?

The Labour Party’s commitment to legislate for partial fan ownership published today by Clive Efford, Shadow Sport Minister, is admirable for its intent but worryingly short on detail says Mike Dyer, Director of Portsmouth law firm Verisona Law .

Dyer said that “there is a tendency to think of Football Clubs as being somehow different from any other business organisation.” In many respects, perhaps they are, but the underlying fact is that they are companies and as such bound by Company Law in the UK.

The proposals do not seem to address the fact that fundamental changes would be required to the Companies Act 2006 surrounding (in particular) Shareholder rights.

For example, the proposed right for a Supporters Trust to appoint and remove Directors whilst only being a 10% Shareholder represents a significant departure from the present legal position.  As the law currently stands, a Shareholder with only 10% of issued shares would not have such a right unless there is a Shareholders Agreement in place (a document setting out various terms between Shareholders and regulating the voting rights on certain issues).

Without such an Agreement, a 10% Shareholder will be unable to pass the necessary resolutions to give effect to this “right” without new Company Law legislation.

I sincerely hope this proposal is not just a poorly considered populist vote catcher – but if it is to be treated as credible then significant further detail of the proposal is needed.

Mike Dyer

Director, Verisona Law

Loyalty & Rewards – A Bright Idea For Sports

Loyalty and rewards are among a handful of buzz words on top of the sports marketers agenda right now. In our experience, loyalty has become the attractive front end of a CRM project.

One that’s showing some decent results. (Read our blog on loyalty becoming the sexy side of CRM here).

In other sectors, loyalty has become a proven concept. Fact. And it’s got the backing of marketing teams, with 65% of marketers saying that loyalty programme investments are essential. It’s easy to see why they say this, with customer spending shown to be 46% higher with companies that have a loyalty programme in place and the average person belonging to 7.4 different schemes.

People love collecting points and they want some reciprocation for their interactions with a brand. Get the incentives wrong however and people will switch off to the idea as quickly as they switched on.

In sport, we have a greater opportunity to truly engage with our audience and a hunger for consumption of experiences, both that money can and can’t already buy. We’ve already seen some successful implementations of rewards base programmes in sport, particularly in North America, and we think that it’s something that should be further utilised.

It’s a hot topic, and one that we’ve talked about a fair amount in recent months, but for good reason. Any tool that helps you to get greater buy in from both staff and fans is surely worth giving some serious consideration.

Take a look at the infographic below for the full run down of loyalty in sport.

loyalty-bright-idea-for-sports

Is psychology the answer to England’s penalty shoot out problems?

Roy Hodgson has suggested it may be the job of a Sport Psychologist to improve England’s penalty taking form.

The nation has won only one shootout since 1990, against Spain in the quarter finals of Euro 96, and has been knocked out of six major tournaments on penalties in that time. Hodgson believes that players need to be better prepared for the pressure, and be confident enough to block out criticism from the social media.

England's Steven Gerrard reacts to their loss against Italy after the penalty shoot-out of their Euro 2012 quarter-final soccer match at the Olympic Stadium in Kiev, June 24, 2012. Action Images - REUTERS/Nigel Roddis

England’s Steven Gerrard reacts to their loss against Italy after the penalty shoot-out of their Euro 2012 quarter-final soccer match at the Olympic Stadium in Kiev, June 24, 2012. Action Images – REUTERS/Nigel Roddis

The first sports psychology laboratory was created in Berlin by fellow German Dr Carl Diem in the early 1920′s, almost a century later and we’re still measuring physical ability and aptitude in sport. Studies produced on behalf of the British Association of Sports and Exercise Sciences have discovered several behavioural cues likely to occur in high anxiety situations, giving insight into the minds of football players when faced with the pressure of taking a spot kick.

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger left Mesut Ozil out of the squad for the Premier League game against Sunderland this weekend, having openly criticised his record signing for having poor form and a casual approach to penalty taking. However, psychologists have suggested this is the best way to deal with the pressure of penalty taking, as long as they can control their eyes.

For the second time in the Champions League this season Mesut Ozil failed to score from the penalty spot, making it a hat-trick of misses for the German international. During the group stages of the competition Ozil had the chance to double his teams lead against Marseille, but having taken an age with his one-step run up (sound familiar?), keeper Steve Mandanda palmed away a weak spot kick from Arsenal’s no.11.

In his three years at Real Madrid the playmaker was never required to take a penalty, but rewinding to 2009 the twenty year old’s failure to convert for Werder Bremen in the Bundesliga against Borussia Monchengladbach was deemed irrelevant as the team finished tenth and he completed his season with a respectable three goals and fifteen assists.

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger left Ozil out of the squad for the Premier League game against Sunderland this weekend, having openly criticised his record signing for having poor form and a casual approach to penalty taking. Little does he know, this is the best way to deal with the pressure of penalty taking, if only he could control his eyes.

Those watching the mid-week game would have seen Ozil pace backwards from placing the ball on the penalty spot, patiently waiting for referee Nicola Rizzoli to signal before taking his shot. This so called ‘casual approach’ is the best way to prepare for a penalty kick as it suggests the player is less stressed than your typical ‘hidden and hasty’ penalty takers who will turn away from the goal (and from their responsibility) before rushing to have the ordeal over and done with.

By facing the goal throughout, Ozil was attempting to cover his anxieties, being such a high profile signing at the club with status and expectation on his shoulders, appearing threatened by international teammate Manuel Neuer was not an option.

Having been blasted for not applauding travelling fans towards the end of 2013, as well as his recent poor form, Ozil could not be blamed for any distress he felt having the responsibility of putting Arsenal in the lead at the Emirates. While appearing patient, Ozil’s gaze did not leave Rizzoli as he awaited permission to take the penalty. The short length of time from the ref’s signal to his run up suggests he was eager to finish the job (ignoring the one-step run up, his apparent ‘style’) at the expense of accuracy and sufficient pace which could have seen the shot resulting in a goal.

In trying not to leak intentions, players often face a trade-off between what they should be looking at, and what they’re trying not to look at.  Much like focussing on the horizon when driving a car will ensure you stay on the road, if the eyes of the player are focussed centrally, the shot will automatically become centralised. It would appear to be common sense to aim where you are looking, but football players demonstrate a suboptimal strategy whereby they relinquish control and focus on trying to fool the opponent into diving the wrong way.

A day prior to Ozil’s miss, Lionel Messi dispatched the spot kick straight down the middle and past Joe Hart. Having watched both penalties a number of times, I failed to see a significant difference in the amount of power driven through the ball, what I did notice however was a confident run up from the four time Ballon d’Or winner and an early dive from the keeper towards the Argentine’s most visited side of the net. Both of these factors are undeniably important, but what’s more is Joe Hart’s lack of presence.

The perceived size of the goalkeeper based on their presence between the posts disrupts a player’s optimal attentional outlook, for Ozil this would have been inflated as he was facing a keeper he’d played alongside at Shalke 04 for two years and for Germany from 2009. Watching the penalty from a goal facing angle, my attention is automatically drawn to Neuer bouncing on his toes and covering the space around him – studies show that anxious players are easier distracted by movements as their gaze is disrupted, leading to more shots being fired into centralised locations.

On tracking the eye movements of goalkeepers, they are more focussed on the behaviour of the opponents legs and hips, the eye gaze of the player will rarely influence them to remain central of the goal but instead warn them to cover as much of the central area as possible during their dive – as shown by the immediate reflex of Neuer’s as he threw out an arm to stop Ozil’s shot hitting the back of the net.

There is no denying that Mesut Ozil oozes class, in his last three seasons before joining Arsenal he amassed an impressive 94 assists for club and country, but should he ever be called upon to take another penalty, a target focussed strategy should prove more effective. His eyes should provide his brain with the necessary visual information for accurate shooting and he should remain in control of the situation, overcoming the anxieties which have previously led him to rush the penalty and fail as a consequence.

Hodgson has previously managed in the World Cup following his qualification with Switzerland in 1994. He will lead his team to Brazil later on this year knowing that six of the last ten major tournaments have qualified for ended in defeat via penalties.

Written by: Emma Willis, Football Development Officer at Essex County FA

@EmmaWillis91

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

Sporting Venues to Learn to Make the Most of Downtime in Ungerboeck Software’s Road Show

Following the success of Ungerboeck’s first road show event at the legendary Old Trafford Stadium of Manchester United, the world-leading event management software provider will host the next road show event in February at Epsom Downs Racecourse, one of England’s famous Jockey Club Racecourses.

Horse Racing - Steeple Chase

“Event Management for Sporting Venues – the Road Show to Success” will take place on February 21 and provide an insight into Epsom Downs Racecourse’s event infrastructure. Like many other Jockey Club Racecourses, the event team at Epsom Downs relies on Ungerboeck Software for their event management processes. The team knows about the importance of marketing the venue on those days when no horse race is scheduled. Offering rooms for corporate and private events has become an essential part of their business in order to optimize the utilization of the facilities.

“We are proud to bring the Road Show to Success to such a traditional and famous venue. As an Ungerboeck Software customer, Epsom Downs Racecourse certainly is an excellent example of how a sporting venue can successfully optimize their event management processes by using a suitable software solution” states Ungerboeck Software’s Managing Director for Europe, Middle East and Africa Thorsten Kolbinger.

The Road Show offers presentations and networking opportunities for event and sales managers from stadia, arenas, racecourses and other sporting venues. In addition to a best practice presentation there will be sessions on how venues can increase the utilization of their facilities, and how to select appropriate event management software.

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For further information on the event, please contact Lisa Placa lisa.placa@ungerboeck.com.

Alternatively visit our website www.ungerboeck.com/roadshow