Icon - ExpandThe 411 on Selling Business Ads for Your Sports Program Books

Sports program books make great fundraisers for schools, creating a memorable keepsake for friends and family while drawing the community together and creating revenue to keep our sports programs alive. The real value in sports program books, however, lies not only in your ability to sell the books but also in your ability to stretch the fundraiser two-fold by convincing local businesses to pay to advertise!

Now, there are going to be some businesses out there that will buy minimal ads in your sports program books to be able to say they’re doing their part to support their community. Don’t get me wrong, that’s all well and good, but those tiny little ads aren’t going to give you the revenue you deserve. Nor is the commiseration of local businesses with the plight of school sports programs trying to raise money to stay afloat going to bring in the volume of revenue you’re looking for.

Don’t get me wrong. Businesses want to support their schools, they really do, but they’re a business. At the heart of it all, they need to focus on their bottom line. That means if you’re going to effectively convince businesses to advertise in your sports program books, upsize their ads and actively seek you out for advertising rather than forcing you to come to them, you have to engage in a little quid-pro-quo.

In other words, you need to convince them that by buying advertising space in your sports program books they’re making a smart marketing decision for their company.
There are plenty of benefits to advertising in sports program books besides supporting local schools. When you get a chance, look at average ticket sales for your sporting events. Each and every person who buys a ticket to a sporting event is a potential buyer for your sports program books. In turn, each person who buys a sports booster book is a potential customer for advertising businesses.

Trot those numbers out when you’re talking to local, regional or national businesses about advertising in your sports program books, along with the relatively low cost of buying an ad (when compared to, say, advertising in a newspaper or in a webpage, which can cost upwards of $400 per week) and you’ll have their marketing department and, eventually, their sponsorship sitting in the palm of your hand.

Icon - ExpandDesign Your Program Books to Give Businesses More Value

Why do businesses dip into the rapidly depleting wells of their marketing budget to advertise in your sports program books? For you, sports program books are a way to support the dozens of players counting on the funds you raise to bring their dreams to life. For them, it’s a way to help their community while increasing their bottom line. If you’re going to win over the most cold-hearted (*cough* tight-fisted *cough*) businessman in town, you’re going to have to give him enough bang for his buck to justify his investment in your team.

I’m going to show you the single biggest secret to increasing the ROI businesses are going to see from investing in your books: Proper ad placement, better known as sticking the right ads into the right places! Too many schools fall into the trap of (literally) putting their book quality ahead of their advertising exposure and sticking the ads in the back where they won’t detract from the content of each page. Now, you and I both know that only the very young (usually armed with a red magic marker) or the very bored are actually going to see them all the way back there.

Would you throw your money away on an advertisement that no one was going to see? Of course not, and neither are the businesses you’re selling to.

Our suggestion? Incorporate the ads into each and every one of your pages, so that spectators can see and comment on them when they’re flipping through your books. Instead of banishing them to the back of the book so they don’t take your eyes away from the page, make them a part of the page. That way, every person who looks at this page is going to see your ads, giving your businesses more exposure and, in turn, giving you a better chance of having them request a repeat visit (and an ad size upgrade) next year!

Which ads are which?

If you want to take the concept of judicious advertising one step farther and really look like you know what you’re talking about, let’s talk about taking the time to carefully choose which ads you’re going to put on each page. There are things you can do to “tweak” the advertising on each page to appeal to your readers; for example, a store that specializes in athletic shoes could be located on a page that shows a close-up of a member of your soccer team kicking the ball, with a great shot of his cleats. Or, if you’re creating these program books to stretch across multiple sports (an excellent strategy for not burning out your local businesses and maximizing the amount of advertising space you’ll be able to sell) put the advertising for these shoe stores on pages featuring your soccer or football teams while you put the ad from the local swim shop on the page featuring your swim team.

Can you see where we’re going with this? By designing your sports program books to offer the businesses advertising with you the most delivery for their dollar, you’re making your program books a win-win proposition for everyone.

Icon - ExpandFundraising Do’s and Don’ts
• Do take the time to visit local businesses personally.
• Don’t have so many separate program books that businesses are assaulted by dozens of groups every year.
• Do keep a record of past participants to reach out to next year.
• Don’t assume that students automatically know how to sell ads.
• Do take the time to teach your ad sales team how to sell an ad before sending them out to pound the pavement.
• Don’t procrastinate!
• Do approach your fundraiser with plenty of enthusiasm, verve and drive to get the best results possible for your school, your kids and the future of your sports teams.

Icon - ExpandGet Friends and Family Involved with Personal/Parent Ads

The real power player behind the success of your sports programs isn’t your ability to sell ads or not sell ads. Any fundraiser is driven by your ability to drum up enthusiasm and support from the community around you, and a big part of that enthusiasm is tucked inside the personal and parent ads scattered through your program books.

What is a parent ad?

The real power player behind the success of your sports programs isn’t your ability to sell ads or not sell ads. Any fundraiser is driven by your ability to drum up enthusiasm and support from the community around you, and a big part of that enthusiasm is tucked inside the personal and parent ads scattered through your program books.

Surprisingly enough, not all schools encourage parents and families to purchase parent ads in their sports program books. In fact, when I mentioned parent ads to one school that needed to fill a little extra space in their programs they didn’t have a clue what I was talking about! So before we go too deep into the how-to of selling parent and personal ads, let’s take a second to talk about what they are.

Simply put, a personal/parent ad is an advertising space in your program books that’s purchased by the parents, families and friends of your players and used to show their support, express their best wishes and yes, sometimes even embarrass the player in question! Baby pictures, candid shots and funny cartoons fill these empty ad slots, making these a fun, funny and creative way to drum up support for your teams.

How to talk them into doing it

The next question is, of course, how you encourage family and friends to chip in and splurge on what may seem like expensive advertising space on a tight budget. The key word here is enthusiasm. If you can get them excited about having a hands-on role in supporting their sports teams, the value will be there. Send notes home with your kids, giving parents first dibs on advertising space a week or two before regular ad sales begin, and include a few sample ads with these notices so they can see what you’re talking about.

Closing the gap between child and adult

When you’re promoting your parent ads, whether you’re talking with a player or giving a speech in front of the school board, stress the connection between purchasing these parent/personal ads and connecting with their often absent and all-too-often distant teens. Adolescence is a difficult time for children (and yes, all you parents out there with pre-teens, we’re talking about the tween-age years too). They struggle between wanting their parents to take an active role in their activities and enjoying the separation and independence when they don’t. By purchasing ad space in their programs parents can let children know they love them and take an active role in supporting their team without stepping on the toes of their independent teen.

And don’t forget…

Most parents are willing to step up to bat and support their child in their activities, but that isn’t always the only deciding factor. There’s the simple economics of the situation: Parents want to buy ad space, they simply can’t afford it. That’s why many schools are going out of their way to offer parents special deals on their parent/personal ads-discounts for ordering extremely early or filling empty spots after ad sales have closed, or providing opportunities for those parents to team up and “buy in” to a team ad-for example, a half page ad for the parents of all the team members, each parent contributes (X) amount of money, and the ad runs in full, brilliant Technicolor for all the players to see.

Icon - ExpandHandout #1: Questions Businesses are Likely to Ask About Buying Ad Space in Your School’s Program Books

Your students are the most powerful selling tool your school has. They’re the reason it’s all happening, tangible proof that the money they raise from ad sales is going to a good cause. Give your students a head start on closing that sale by copying the following FAQ handout, taking the time to fill in the information they need, then printing out copies and giving one to each student willing to step out and make a difference for their team.

What team is this is support of?

Average ticket sales/Number of seats filled

ROI (if you happen to have those numbers)

Number of home games (i.e. How much exposure will their business get in the local area?)

How long will ad sales run?

What size ads can I choose from?

How much will each ad cost?

Are these ads in color or black and white?

Can I see a proof of my ad before it’s printed? (Will you make a proof of the book for your advertisers to see?)

When will book sales/distribution begin?

When will book sales/distribution end?

What will the money be used for?

Where will the ad be placed in the book?

Who designs the ad? (Do they, or do you? How will the ads be created?)

What file types can you accept for their advertisement? (JPEG, Adobe Photoshop PSD, Adobe PDF, CD, printed business card to scan, etc.)

Contact information

Payment options

Icon - ExpandHandout #2: Sales Script (Or, How to Sell Ads in 3 Minutes or Less

“Hi, this is (your name) with (Booster Club Name). Are you the individual who makes advertising decisions for (Company X)?”If the answer is no:“May I speak with a member of your advertising team?”

When an advertising executive comes to the phone, repeat introduction-“This is (your name) with (Booster Club Name).”

“(Insert their name here), we’re looking for businesses willing to help us keep our sports programs alive for the next generation. In exchange, you’ll receive a unique opportunity to market to regional consumers and to build a reputation as a staunch supporter of our local schools.

“Each of our events is a hub for our community, with ticket sales exceeding (X) per year and spectators coming from across the region. This year, we’re going to be offering those spectators the chance to commemorate this year’s team with the purchase of sports booster books. Each book features photos of the team and advertisements from local businesses like yours.”

“We’d like to give your business the opportunity to participate by purchasing ad space and sending us your ad for inclusion in this year’s (team name) booster book. We’ll put your ad in front of our spectators and their families with highly visible ad placement and recognize you as a proud sponsor of the 2010-2011 (team name). Can we count on you?”

At this point, take their ad information and arrange their payment.

Icon - ExpandShould You Sell Your Program Books or Give Them Away?

Where does the revenue come from when you’re talking about sports program books? Does it come exclusively from the sales of the ads themselves, or is there potential to turn around and make a second income for your teams off of these books by turning around and selling them to your spectators? That’s a question you’re going to have to ask when the time comes to design your sports program books, and while it’s entirely up to you (obviously) here’s a starting point to help you figure out the answer.

When to Sell

There are times when, much like the yearbooks, it makes perfect sense to turn around and sell sports programs to game attendees, parents, fellow students and the school board that’s footing the bill. In order to justify charging for these books, however, you’re going to have to make sure what you’re giving them is truly something extraordinary. Do you have full color pictures and bios of each member of the team? One-of-a-kind candids? Exclusive deals from local businesses? (This can be a great fundraiser along with the coupon cards your team sells.)

When to Give It Away

If your program books are simply designed to be programs and not commemorative pieces, you’re better off enjoying the revenue from the ads and handing them out to your fans so you can, in turn, attract more ads next year. And there’s nothing wrong with that. The real purpose behind your sports program books is to drum up enthusiasm for your team, not necessarily make an income on both sides of the equation.

Icon - ExpandWho’s Going to Buy Advertising Space in Your Program Books?

You’ve hit every business up and down Main Street. You’ve scalped advertising space until your fingers bled. Your ears have suspicious red rings around them from your telephone. And you still have too many blank pages. What do you do now? Better yet, how do you correctly identify which businesses might be interested in buying advertising space in your program books? How far out of town should you go? Should you stick with small local businesses, or stretch your wings and hit your local chain stores?

What Businesses Are More Likely to Say Yes

I’m going to toss a word at you that marketers and salespeople around the globe have been tossing around for years: Target audience. Your target audience is the group of people most likely to benefit from what you have to offer and, in turn, most likely to buy into what you have to sell. These include (but are not limited to):

• Businesses that sell to the members of your local community, or who would benefit from additional exposure to that community.

• Businesses that sell products and services your spectators might want. For example, someone selling sports promotional products online might not necessarily be located in your local community, but because they sell to the same people who are going to see your programs at each and every game they’re still prime candidates to dip into your pool of advertising space.

These are just a few to get you started. Think outside the box! Who else could benefit from added exposure to the people who are going to see your program books?

How Far Out of Town Should You Go?

Local businesses are going to drive the majority of your business; however, don’t let your town borders clip the wings of your sales team. See above for ideas on how to choose outside companies and businesses that might be interested in supporting your team.

Local Businesses vs. Giant Retail Chains and Franchises

When you think about who’s going to buy advertising space in your sports program books, the local KFC or Kohl’s probably isn’t at the top of your list. You’re used to thinking about your sports teams in terms of small local businesses willing to stick their neck out and buy advertising space in your publication. But don’t count KFC out just yet. They have to do business in your local community too, which means they’ll benefit from added exposure to your home team supporters (and the out-of-towners looking for a place to grab a bite to each on their way home). Offer them the chance to buy in to your program books. You might be surprised by what they have to say!

Icon - ExpandSchool Program Books: How Many=Too Many?

The minute you have more than one child in the family, you’re caught what I like to call the “fundraiser funnel.” At any given point in time, someone in your family is having a fundraiser, and your kids are expecting you to chip in for all of them! It’s a never-ending whirlwind that starts with Boy Scout popcorn and Girl Scout cookies in the fall, moves on to Christmas bows and paper and chocolates in the winter and wraps up with bake sales and car washes in the spring and summer. By the time your kids move up a grade your office mates are tired of seeing order forms, Grandma and Grandpa don’t care if they ever order anything again, and the kids themselves are about to explode from too much fundraising fun.

Now, pretend you’re an area business and multiply that delightfully aggravating feeling by about 100. That’s the number of requests local companies get each year (lowball) to help out with fundraisers and charity events. They get as tired of requests for donations and purchases for fundraising purposes as you do…and sooner or later, they’re going to start saying no!

How many sports teams does your school have? You’ve probably got basketball, soccer, football, softball and baseball, possibly complemented by swim team, cheerleading, hockey, field hockey, lacrosse and who knows what else. The list keeps growing every year! That’s a minimum of 5, maximum of (x) number of program books being released every year-and that’s before they hear from your drama department! Now, a little well placed advertising can go a long way, but I’ll guarantee you that the bookstore on Main Street gets at least a dozen requests to purchase program ad space each season, and sooner or later even they’re going to start getting burned out.

Don’t get me wrong. If you live in an urban area that’s large enough to support all the program books coming out of your school (and the other five high schools in town) you might be all right. But if ad sales are dwindling each year as businesses cap out their ROI (and their advertising budget) you might want to think about doubling up and making a book for each season.

Imagine, if you will, just how popular double-thick program books with your football team and your soccer team inside could be. Or a winter program with the basketball team and the cheerleading squad together. Have you considered making a program book with both your baseball and your softball team and distributing it at each game? With the one book per season philosophy businesses are inundated with fewer ad requests but see a comparable return, and because you’re not burning out your target audience your ad space will still be filled year after year.