Each club sits within a community which is typically made up of several thousand people.
Within these communities are the potential customers for all of the club's 'products' including participants, businesses who might hire the facilities or sponsor the club, individuals for events, families, members and spectators.
The club needs to ensure that it is 'visible' within the community and, in order to optimise the potential of that community, it needs to focus on the following:
Every Sports Club Business needs to develop its own brand which sets it apart from the other clubs and which is recognisable within its community.
To achieve this, there must be a name and design/logo which is distinct from the competition so that customers and potential customers (participants, members, families, businesses, schools etc) recognise it.
As the brand becomes established, the club will need to develop its own values such as fun and professionalism, safe and welcoming. If it is decided that these are the values the club is to be known for, then they must be consistent and members will need to strive to deliver them on a consistent basis.
• Branding is the club identity which goes beyond the name and logo. The brand is what the club is to the world. What is it known for, what makes it special, what does it have a reputation for? The brand needs to be protected since, for instance, if the club is well known for 'looking after and nurturing young talent' then it will be trusted by parents who will bring their young players to it.
• A good brand is memorable – so ensure the logo is strong.
• It is important that the brand logo is consistently and properly used on all occasions and in all settings. It should also be ensured that coaches understand the value of the club's reputation in areas of delivery and support, since this is one aspect of the brand which needs to be protected.
Free Visibility - Local Websites
There are often a range of local web sites that offer the opportunity for a free listing. These include those run by local authorities, the Tourist Board, local what’s on, and Town and County web sites. The Governing Body and Sport Scotland may also have club listings.
Visibility - Signage
If the club is on a road then it is an ideal opportunity to have a sign (planning permitting) which can create awareness for the club and build its brand. The local authority highways department will be able to detail the number of cars that use the road each day, which will be important information to use in a sponsorship deal. Also, many towns have designated banner sites that could be used to promote fixtures, open days or other events.
Partnerships within the local community
The club should investigate its local community and find out if there are any potential partners. For example;
• Schools – are there local schools that need rugby or football coaching but can’t find the relevant coaches?
• Councils – does the Council have similar health, sport and activity aims and could a partnership be formed to deliver these?
• Community networks – are there any community networks that could be worked with in partnership to promote the club, that could base themselves at the club, or that have contacts which could be used?
Showing support for the local community could lead to the community supporting the club. Consider being stewards at the Christmas procession, taking a table at the local Charities dinner, or providing the club’s facilities for a charitable event. This visible support will build the club’s reputation and contact with potential new customers.
Integrating with the Community
The Club has recognised that it needs to develop a brand which is attractive to its potential participants, parents and supporters and it provides a club which offers them "what they want" from a sports club.
Wigan St Patricks ARLFC has worked hard to develop an ethos and they have written a 'mission statement' for the club:
"Providing our Community with fantastic Rugby League experiences, on and off the field, at all levels of the game."
To support this mission statement they have produced a "values statement" which is understood and adhered to by all members of the club.
The Club's values represent the distinctive core beliefs to which we are passionately committed as a Club and which underlie everything we do. They are the guiding principles and deeply held convictions and priorities which represent what we stand for and, as such, are the foundations upon which our Club is built.
The values to which we are committed at Wigan St Patricks ARLFC can be defined as:
This all comes together to form a club in which all families and members of the family are welcomed, in which the focus is on playing the game, not winning at all costs and which the members are encouraged to think of the club as being "theirs to enjoy and to look after."
Finally the club sends out regular surveys to its members to find out from them what they want from the club and what isn’t working for them at the club. Great “customer service”…
Supporting the local Community
The club is determined to be involved with and to support its local community. The Club house is the venue for Irish Dancing. Aerobics, healthy eating initiatives, the local darts and snooker teams.
The club works within the local schools providing coaching and the local schools often use the club facilities for sports days and events. The club also gets involved with Charity work raising money for Joining Jack, Cancer research and supporting the Marines Charity with an annual rugby fixture which raised £2000 last year.
All of these factors combine to provide the club with enormous support from the Community in which it sits.
This can be seen through the participants they attract from their community, the sponsorship they attract from their community and the brand awareness they generate within their community.
Developing a club ethos and selling the club in its Community
Northumberland-based Rugby League club Cramlington Rockets have emerged as runners up in the National Club of the Year category at this year's Rugby Football League Community Awards.
Just missing out on top spot to well-established Siddal ARLFC, it is an amazing achievement for England's most northerly club.
The rise of the Rockets has been one that has caught the eye of many of the Rugby League community. Formed in Killingworth only sixteen years ago, a move to expand the club's reach saw it relocate to Cramlington in 2009 and they have not looked back since.
The first year in Northumberland saw 40 junior players play that season.
Fast forward to 2016 and the club now has 230 players from Rocket Tots to Open Age.
This year, its teams featured in no less than seven Grand Finals and Rockets side topped every North East junior league.
Success on the field however is only part of the story. Two years ago the club took the brave step to launch Rockets Community, the only community club in the UK to do so at the time.
Completely self-funded, Rockets Community has proven an unmitigated success and now reaches over 25,000 people a year and growing.
With several awards to their name, including the North East's Rugby League Spirit of the Community award, it is now being held up as an example of community engagement to the rest of the UK’s club by the RFL, the sport’s governing body.
Developing a Club Ethos and selling it to the Community
Cramlington Rockets has over 200 individuals playing Rugby League in the club and has also attracted over 40 volunteers to support the running of the club.
There is a strong ethos across the club of enjoyment, respect, positive lifestyles and family values.
To reinforce this, the club interviews any adults who want to become involved with the club to ensure that they:
a) understand what is expected of them
b) that they are prepared to embrace the culture.
There are codes of conduct and expectations laid down for staff, players and parents:
Player code of conduct and expectations:
Parents and supporters code of conduct:
Selling the Club - The Community Programme
The club now has two full time and 3 part time coaches working in 28 local schools (junior schools and High Schools). As well as rugby coaching they deliver Healthy Lifestyle lessons and assemblies within the schools.
They also run 14 camps in two venues during the year and these focus on Multi sport, Mini Rugby and Junior Rugby. The income generated by these camps (£10 per person per day) and the money generated from the schools is invested back into paying for the coaching team.
As a new initiative the Community team is going to use the “Street Games” model and take their coaching into deprived areas of Northumberland for one day camps/events.
This activity provides huge penetration into their target community and they distribute 5000 promotional flyers every two months (designed by a supporter who is at University studying graphics).
These flyers, along with the reputation the club is building as a family orientated club and the quality coaching which is delivered within the schools is ensuring that the club has a constant stream of new players and volunteers.
The Club has also been very successful in generating funds from Trust and Foundations.
It regularly is able to access funds from the Northumberland Children's Trust and the Northumberland Community Trust.
However, the main success has been the achievement of winning the Aviva Judges Choice Award, a national competition in which they won £25,000 to spend on their community activity during the next 5 years.
To achieve this they needed to receive votes from members of their community and they ended up receiving over 10,000 votes, the highest number of votes for a community programme in the Country.