A few years ago we had the opportunity to spend some quality time with a group of our peers while speaking at a conference in Las Vegas. We had a few hours to spare before we had to catch our respective flights, so we all had dinner together.
As you can imagine the majority of the conversation centered on who was doing what and where they were doing it. It was a fun night. We all swapped leads and shared stories about our recent adventures on the platform. Then one of the speakers changed topic mid-conversation: he wanted us all to share our goals.
One speaker said hers was to do more marketing. Another said his was to write one book each year. There was some pretty lofty stuff flying around, and we think just a little bit of one-upmanship, as each goal became more important than the one before.
Then it was Georganne’s turn. She told everyone her goal was not to miss any of her son John’s football games this year.
Insert cricket sounds here.
It was Rich’s turn next. Someone said, “So Rich, what’s your goal?” Like somehow whatever he said would make up for the bomb George had just dropped. Rich replied, “To make sure that Georganne doesn’t miss any of John’s football games.” This put a damper on the conversation, which quickly turned to some other business topic.
Hey, life’s just too short and your time with your kids is fleeting. You have to make the most if it while they still want to hang out with you. Lots of parents feel the way George does, and if you have children, we’re sure that you do, too. (And by the way she didn’t miss a single game. SCORE!) Now, taking a tip from our dinner companions, let’s turn this time with our kids at sporting events into an opportunity at retail.
FOOTBALL AND BELLS
John began his illustrious sports career at the ripe old age of 7 when he joined the Falcons of the local youth football league. The entire extended family was there to watch John’s first game. Just the week before we had been in Vail, Colorado, and had attended a downhill skiing competition where everyone was given a cowbell to help motivate their favorite skier. George brought hers along to the game and inadvertently started a community tradition.
Pretty soon every Mom wanted a cowbell, so George bought 50 more in the official Falcon colors, and passed them out at each game. When people began asking if they could buy a cowbell, George bought a bunch more and sold them at the games.
Those cowbells were at every one of John’s football and baseball games. They’ve even changed colors a few times as his schools and leagues changed. The athletes, who have been together from the start, seem to play better when they hear the bells. And if the moms begin to slack off, they let them know about it. When John and his friends graduated from high school George gave them each one of those historic cowbells. Sometimes you just have to start your own legacy.
Georganne and the Jacobs High School “Bell Babes” aren’t alone. According to CHA’s Connecting with Educators study, parents, teachers, and other consumers spend more than $29 billion annually on craft and hobby supplies. These potential customers are just waiting to give you their money, if you give them a reason to.
You’ll find the opportunity to connect with parents, coaches, and teachers at all kinds of children’s sporting events. Organized sports begin at pre-school age, then move on to elementary and middle school levels. At the high school level sports go big time. Here cheerleadering becomes an official sport; so does Pom-Pon competition.
It goes without saying that colleges and universities are heavy into sporting events. Some schools have embraced cowbells. Take Mississippi State University, for example, where cowbells are a long-standing tradition. The best recollection is that cowbells were gradually introduced to the MSU sports scene in the late 1930s and early 1940s. Today cowbells can be heard at every game, and hold special places of honor in the homes and offices of Mississippi State alumni. Some are even passed down through generations of Bulldog fans.
Another big tradition is the Homecoming Mum. According to the artfulcrafter.com, “a homecoming mum is an oversize mum corsage decorated with three-foot long streamers in the school colors, bells, charms, banners, little plush animals done up in bows, sparkly letters, even Christmas tree lights.”
Homecoming mums are a sure sign that somebody loves you. ArtfulCrafter.com says that anybody who’s anybody wears one – or two. And these displays of love can cost up to $100 and weigh as much as 12 pounds!
You sell bells and you sell flowers, floral supplies, and ribbon. Why not start a tradition in your own town with an annual contest? Work that PR!
WHAT ELSE COULD YOU DO?
• Host a “Decorate Your Own Cowbell” clinic in your store or at the school. Find out local school colors and stock cowbells, jersey numbers, and decorating components in school colors. Introduce new themes each year so the cowbells become collector’s items - and so each year sports fans feel compelled to create a new one. We found a variety of cowbells here: http://www.cowbell.com/
• Do the same thing with Homecoming Mums with classes before and during Homecoming season. You could even set up a Make Your Own Homecoming Mum Station in the store.
To start your tradition, make an elaborate Homecoming Mum for each female member of the Homecoming Court, with an extra special one for the Queen. If you really want to build a buzz about town, make a mum for their moms as well. Make one for the guys’ moms, too!
• Hold Classes/Crop Parties specifically aimed at each consumer group: parents, coaches and athletes, flag runners, band members, cheerleaders, and pommies. Hold crops for pre and post Homecoming and Prom. You have a multi-level opportunity with each of these groups because each grade level has their own members.
And don’t forget to stock scrapbooks with the school name and logo on the cover.
• Carry Mardi-Gras beads in your store that can be tossed from the Homecoming float, and during games throughout the year. Mardi-Gras beads are inexpensive; a case of 60 dozen “throw beads” costs about $30. Sell them at five for a buck. http://www.mardigrasoutlet.com
Hang beads on an end feature near the checkout counter and watch them fly. Attach your store contact information on them. Throw beads make a great calling card for you to leave behind when you make presentations to school and parent groups.
• Attend Booster Club meetings so you can become acquainted with what each school needs. It’s also a perfect opportunity to pass out information about your store. Invite the Booster Club parents to attend a special class and crop just for them at your store. And offer a special discount if they purchase the promotional goods they sell at the concession stand through you.
• Help your schools create a “Spirit Week.” Spirit Line offers Spirit Banners; Spirit Marks (temporary tattoos); Write a Good Morning PA Announcement; Hold a Winning Legs Contest for Varsity football players; Institute Daily Player Support – a way to honor and appreciate the athletes; Host a Who’s Who Contest – set up a table in the cafeteria, gym, or hallway, and display baby pictures of the Varsity football players and cheerleaders; Play “Follow the Big Foot” - cut paws or foot prints from background paper to “pave” the way to the big pep rally. The ideas go on and on. Checkout http://www.SpiritLine.com for all kinds of ideas to help you cash in on school sports.
So what does all of this mean to you? Just loads of ideas to help you create your own project sheets, plan your in-store events, and other offensive moves. All it takes is initiative and imagination to build sports enthusiast foot traffic in your store. Encourage the students to come to you for help, ideas, and materials. Let them use your classroom and equipment.
• If you have a frame department, think of all the custom framing opportunities! Georganne has a custom made shadowbox that holds John’s first football jersey, and another with a baseball MVP award and game ball. Make a few made-up models to hang in your store; and present one to the coach that commemorates the year. Request that it be displayed in the school’s Hall of Fame hallway with all the other school awards.
• Use Stealth Marketing techniques, such as bag stuffers and email marketing to get the word out about your store. Be visible at sporting events wearing a sports jersey advertising your store. Supply the cheerleaders with throw beads for home games. Attend home games and strike up conversations in the crowd. Invite parents to free classes and crops; give away samples, fliers, and coupons to bounce potential customers from the game to your store.
• Promote an associate to the exalted position of "Muse of Motivation". It’s the Muse’s job to grow your new sports enthusiast business. And be sure to give your Muse plenty of official business cards.
Sports are a year-round opportunity for you, but lots of things happen in August. Summer baseball and softball leagues are in full swing. Football practice begins at all levels. Soccer games are going on all around you. Kids are playing tennis and running track. Hopeful cheerleaders and Pommies are already preparing for next year’s tryouts – you should be preparing for the next school year, too.
Your store is a natural place for coaches to stir up enthusiasm, and for parents to create memories. Offer the tools and techniques to help them savor these important moments in their child’s lives, and they’ll stay close to your store.
http://www.kizerandbender.com . http://www.kizerandbender.blogspot.com
COPYRIGHT KIZER & BENDER . ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Follow us on Twitter! http://twitter.com/kizerandbender