(NOTE: This is a new personal series I’m trying out to see if you like it, find it interesting, funny, helpful, whatever. It is no-punches-pulled, 100% ridiculously transparent. Based on the first installment this past week, you want more. So, here it comes…muhahaha.)
Picking up right where we left off in 2006. It was the end of summer and I’d just accepted a “job” for $0. I know, genius, right?
Here was the challenge: A new pro inline hockey league was coming to St. Louis. My job as the “Director Of Marketing” (how important does that sound?!?) was to…make up my own job description.
So this is what it sort of looked like:
- Manage the $0 marketing budget.
- Entice fans to come out to the games.
- Clean the bathrooms. Not really…but…pretty much.
- Send out random emails updating everyone on how the $0 budget was doing.
- Find players for the league and let them know about tryouts.
- Help with in-game entertainment such as half-time shows (there is half-time in inline hockey as opposed to three periods in ice hockey).
- Come up with “other ways to make money” and what I mean by that of course is…ANY way to make money.
- “Get press”.
What would you have done with this blank slate?
I started with #7. How can I make money? Do I sell myself on the east side as a male prostitute? Rob nursing homes?
Being 22 years old and pleasantly naive/psychotic, I came up with an idea: Sell sponsorships.
Picture this: You are 22 years old. Very few business connections. A league that doesn’t exist yet. No money. And the “brilliant” idea is to sell sponsorships before the league even begins.
I approached the four team owners in St. Louis (the league was a regional league so essentially each area of town had their own team as well as a team in Cincinnati, Ohio called the Flying Monkeys. I wish I was making that up). I told them I was going to go out and sell some stuff and how can this make sense for everyone?
We came up with a 50/50 split. I go out and sell sponsorship packages. I keep 50% of the revenue and they keep 50% of the revenue. Fair enough to get started.
The next step was to write down: “What could be sponsored?”
Ideas that I came up with included:
- Display ads on the boards of the hockey rink (no brainer).
- Super big, obnoxious banners at the rinks (no brainer).
- Potentially product samples being given out at games for those that were the right fit.
- Individual team sponsorships (Nascar style!) with non-obtrusive logos on the back of jerseys.
- Geographically specific banners (meaning if someone wanted to sponsor a certain area of town only because they were a local business…this would make sense).
- In-game sponsor mentions by the PA announcer.
- Coupons on tickets that could easily be redeemed.
- Sponsoring of the halftime show.
- Logos on printed materials such as pocket schedules/programs.
- Logos on the really bad website that I created using iWeb (later upgraded when I overpaid for a new site…sigh).
- In-game entertainment sponsorships such as Chuck-A-Puck (which is where a bunch of kids and creepy adults get onto the floor and throw pucks at a center target. Closest one wins.)
- Tickets to games for the company so they can come out and have some fun.
A quick sponsorship/advertising lesson here. It has to be uber-clear what you are offering. If you have a blog, a sports league, a web show, a website, whatever, that has ANY element of a sponsorship/advertising model take this advice: Make it simple to understand. Every time I’ve screwed myself is when I made it complicated. Trust me, trust me, trust me.
After coming up with all the potential offerings, I put packages together. How did I put them together? I made them up (obviously!). The first thing I did was create a platinum package. That package included literally everything that could be offered. Then, I took away things to create a silver and bronze package. Then, created one final category of random add-ons.
The question I get about this the most often is: “But, David…you didn’t have a fan base or anything at all yet…how could you sell anything? How did you come up with the pricing?”
Great question. Sometimes selling the unknown is an advantage. I know that sounds crazy, but it was. I didn’t promise anything ridiculous. I just stated the facts, and also things I had no clue about (people appreciate blunt honesty as opposed to fluffy BS I suppose).
- Each rink holds a capacity crowd of 400-600 and hosts 16 games.
- Each rink gets foot traffic during the week as well, estimated at: (insert number). So your display advertising will be seen during the week as well (the pro games were on weekends).
- The league is going to have around 120 players on Pro and Minor League teams. They will each get tickets to give to their family and friends so there will be a built-in fan base of local people.
- We are printing (insert number) of programs and pocket schedules.
- Each game will feature a halftime show. Even if it is me dancing in spandex, there will be something.
- Zero clue how much traffic we will get to the website.
- No idea if every game will sell out and they probably all will not (but that would be nice!)
- The demographic of course is still to be determined, but I’d estimate it will be hockey fans that live within 10 miles of each rink. Here are where the rinks are located and the demographics of those areas.
The cool thing is the people are buying the concrete and the “no clue” stuff is an added bonus that doesn’t cause an extra charge. From a psychological standpoint, it essentially means there is a big upside.
Next step was pricing. How much to charge? What was going to be the price point? This is where many people get stuck. And I get it. It can be hard to come up with pricing.
So I made it up and did my best to make it a no-brainer. I wish I had a more scientific answer that I researched tons and tons of things, but it just isn’t true (now there is much more data available especially if you are selling online advertising).
Here is where I set the pricing:
- Platinum Package: $15,000
- Gold Package: $10,000
- Silver Package: $5,000
- Add Ons/”Pick And Choose” Packages: $1,000-$2,500.
I threw all of it into a document and tried to make it pretty. I suck though at making things pretty since I’m not a designer of any kind.
So, to catch up. I had packages. I had pricing. I had a document explaining things. Something was missing. Oh yeah – the actual sponsors.
Hmmmm. Where are they? Are they under a rock? In a forest?
In the next installment: Hunting down sponsors like Rambo…but not killing them.