Advertising is absolutely essential for new businesses, and sports facilities are no exception. How else will your community find about your services?
Unfortunately, many new owners don’t have an advertising background, and assume that they can’t afford it or don’t have time for it. The good news: There’s no reason to be intimidated by the idea of an ad campaign. You don’t need expensive TV commercials or glossy magazine ads; there are simpler, more affordable ways to get the word out about your facility. And the first one you should look into is T-shirts – and lots of them.
As most sports facility owners already know, kids love T-shirts. It gives them a chance to show off what has become part of their identity: training at your sports facility. In fact, adults often jump at the chance for a free T-shirt, too.
Not only do the clients love the shirts, but it’s extremely effective marketing for you, because your ad travels directly to your target audience as your clients wear the shirt around their like-minded peers. Your clients become walking billboards, even if they’re just wearing the T-shirt to the gym to work out.
When designing T-shirts and apparel for your facility, make sure to stay consistent with the branding you’ve already established. There’s no need to complicate your efforts by offering T-shirts in a rainbow of colors; just stick with variations of your facility colors. Also, your clients won’t wear the shirts out unless they look good, so make sure that the material is high-quality – skimping on the cost here will just ensure that the shirt ends up on the floor of your clients’ closets. Another good idea is to offer both women’s and men’s cuts, if you can. Include your facility’s slogan (at DNA Sports Center, ours is “Developing a New Athlete”), as well as your phone number and web site. You may also want to consider offering some higher quality shirts that only feature your logo, slogan and location, since these types of shirts don’t scream “free T-shirt” and are likely to be worn more often. If you think clients will pay for higher-cost items like these, and possibly items like hoodies or sweatpants, try making them available for purchase. If no one buys them for the price you set, you can put them on sale or give them out to future contest winners or featured athletes.
Regardless of whether you decide to charge for some of your apparel, it’s important to give free T-shirts to all new members, and to all the participants of your camps and classes. Collect T-shirt sizes for each client as they register for activities, and make sure the size info is easily accessible so you can get a better feel for what to order.
Finally, while T-shirts are a great starting point for cheap and targeted advertising, there’s no reason to stop there. At DNA, we try to purchase whatever we notice the kids like. For example, window decals for cars are quite popular now, as are drawstring backpacks. When the facility opened, we also ordered rubber wristbands with our facility name on them and gave them away – the kids loved them and still wear them.