Marketing Major League Baseball the Right Way: A 5-Step Guide

Marketing Major League Baseball the Right Way: A 5-Step Guide

By the year, youth baseball leagues are becoming more and more popular. For those of us who run tournaments as a way of life, this is somewhat bittersweet. On the other hand, more tournaments mean more teams participate in tournaments. And if more teams participate in tournaments…well, you get the picture. On the other hand, the fact that youth baseball leagues have become so popular in recent years means that all league managers, even those who run established leagues, need to fight harder to sign up teams. Part of this battle for teams consists of hosting a well-run tournament year after year. But, it’s hard to host a good tournament if all the teams in the area are playing in a joe shmo tournament on the road. I’ve put together this marketing guide to help both newcomers and veterans in their own battle for teams and help novice tournament managers build a successful and well-established tournament.

Step 1: Get started for free and easy

The Internet is one of the largest resources available to course administrators when marketing a course. Yes, I know that comes as no surprise to you – it’s 2012, not 1999. But just because we all know what Google is up to doesn’t mean every tournament manager out there is successfully capitalizing on free (or super cheap) online tournament marketing services. In fact, this aspect of course marketing often seems to be overlooked.

The first online resource you should look into are the offers available from the sanctioning body you are running your tournament through. Almost all youth baseball sanctioning organizations will help with marketing in some way. After all, they benefit from your tournament success. USSSA, which is fast becoming the leading youth baseball organization in the nation, will post your tournament on their website and link the post to either your website or to your entry form at absolutely no cost. From my experience running tournaments, I know that most participants find their tournaments on the sanctioning organization’s website. It’s a quick and easy way for coaches to find leagues. It is a very effective and free way to market your tournament to almost every coach in the state.

Another valuable marketing service for course managers is Active.com. For one reason or another, Active.com is often underused by many tournament managers. In this case, their loss is your gain. Active.com is a website that allows users to post sporting events that they host. Creating an account is simple and free and only takes a couple of minutes to post a tournament. Moreover, Active.com has teamed up with ETeamz.com, an online platform that most youth baseball teams use to create their own websites. This partnership has led to a large number of coaches using Active.com to search for baseball leagues. And since Active.com is a nationwide site, its services allow you to promote your tournament to teams in other states. In my experience Active.com has been an essential tool in attracting teams from neighboring countries and serves as a valuable resource that can turn a potential local tournament into a regional tournament.

Another free and easy online resource that course administrators often overlook is email marketing companies. Every tournament director in the country sends emails to the coaches to “promote” their tournament. Every coach in the country receives hundreds of tournament emails annually. How do your emails stand out from others? A catchy subject line and well-written sales text can get you far. Email marketing services such as MailChimp allow you to use HTML graphics, add images, link to your website, and track the response from your email. Most of these services are free with a small number of email contacts (usually less than 1000) and they definitely help your email out of the pack.

Step 2: Hit early, hit often

This marketing move may seem a bit obvious, but nonetheless it is essential to building a strong tournament. The earlier you bring your tournament online, the more likely teams will be to sign up. The earlier you email your coach contacts, the more likely you are to withdraw recordings. It’s all very simple but I rarely see this marketing strategy paid off so completely.

Your tournament competition may have a larger upgrade budget. They may have a more famous name. And they may have more relationships with more coaches. But, no matter the case, you can always get the upper hand when it comes to the right timing for your marketing. Your tournament may be one of 20 state championships in the same weekend. But, if you post and promote early, the coaches will only see your tournament and not the other 19 leagues that will eventually be published.

I suggest developing an upgrade strategy early on and following it to a T until your cycle is complete. my strategy? Post your tournament online a year before the start date and send an initial email to the coaches as soon as it’s live. Six months before your tournament, send another email to the coaches and follow it up with a personal phone call a week later. Then repeat this strategy every month until the tournament. You will be amazed at your marketing success if you diligently follow the promotion strategy.

Step 3: Build relationships

Too many course directors are afraid of reaching out to instructors to help market their courses. They see the manager-coach relationship as nothing more than a business relationship and keep their interactions short and sweet. This is a huge mistake. You must understand that as a tournament manager, you provide a service that is needed and valued for coaches. And coaches communicate with more teams weekly than you can communicate with.

By building relationships with youth coaches, you gain a marketing partner. Feel free to become friendly with the trainers. Contact the coaches who got involved early in your tournament and thank them. Exchange friendly emails with them on a regular basis. Once a good rapport is established, simply ask if they would mention your tournament to other teams in the area. It’s amazing how willing coaches can be to help promote your championship to other teams if you build a relationship with them. I know a tournament director who used to send Christmas cards from his organization to the coaches in his tournaments. This simple friendly gesture paid off tenfold when he filled in the leagues year after year.

The fourth step: Go old school

Internet marketing is fast, easy and cheap. Internet marketing is often very effective. But, don’t underestimate the good old mail. Every tournament manager in the country promotes their tournaments by email. And don’t get me wrong, there are many good reasons to do this. But, do you get in the habit of opening and reading every group email you get? Or do you simply hit the delete button? Even the most successful tournament marketing emails I’ve sent don’t receive an open rate much higher than 15%. The average email in the industry is opened by approximately 6% of each contact it is sent to. If you are emailing 100 coaches, you will be lucky if your email is read by 15 of them.

On the other hand, postal mail tends to be more efficient. After all, I personally open every letter that comes to me. It may sound archaic, but I would suggest sending a personal message to every coach in your contact database and inviting them to participate in your next tournament. Your message is sure to be read and appreciated. Heck, if I were a coach, I would definitely sign up for the tournament I was personally invited to.

Fifth step: Pavement bombing

When it comes to marketing your youth baseball league, other leagues can become one of your biggest assets. Every spring and summer weekend in every city in the county, at least one tournament is sure to be held. Youth baseball leagues have high attendance and significant downtime for teams. Take advantage of these other tournaments when marketing your own. Get in the habit of spending an hour or two in other local tournaments every weekend. Hand out flyers, mingle with coaches, and promote your own tournament. First of all, by doing so, you are putting a face and a name on your heroism. Second, you are building relationships (see Step 3). You will quickly find that you are above almost all other tournament managers; Work that will definitely pay off. When marketing any product, what could be better than sharing a large number of your target audience in one place? Take this opportunity to your advantage.

Failure is not our only punishment for laziness. There is also success for others. – Jules Renard

The tools to succeed in building a solid youth baseball league are in your hands. You can use this guide in any way you like. But, if you take these 5 simple steps and put it to work, your efforts are sure to be rewarded.

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