How do you sell a soccer tournament during a pandemic? The short answer is; you don’t.
Instead, you pivot to marketing your event for next year. Everyone is now on the same level playing field, all of your competitors have the same market conditions under which to attract teams. Nobody has any particular advantage, points don’t matter, especially if everyone was required to cancel last year.
Teams have short memories. They will remember their experience from last year, but their experience from two years ago will be a foggy memory, if they remember you at all. When they don’t even have a memory of last year, you have a marketing problem.
Or an opportunity. The choice is yours.
Think first year
First year events are a double-edged sword. On the one hand, they don’t have a history to point to. Research shows the number one reason a team or club applies to your soccer tournament event is they had a good experience the last time. But you don’t have this. You had to skip a year.
The good thing, though, is you don’t have to live with your history. You can change things about your event that maybe you’ve been wanting to do for a while, but your history has been holding you back. Do it now!
You also have the experience first year soccer tournament events lack. Leverage your experience by becoming your own mentor you would have liked for your first-year running a tournament.
Soccer tournaments for next year will be smaller. Teams will not be attending as many events, so they will be pickier about who they choose. This doesn’t mean giving discounts or running giveaways or contests, but it does mean you will need to think about things you have done or marketing messages based on size and scale. You may also not have volume discounts with vendors and providers you enjoyed in the past.
If you are a large, sprawling event, think about if that is a good strategy for your event going forward. Ask yourself, “is the size of my soccer tournament event the reason teams apply?” It well may be, in that case, you will need to market to the reality of a smaller event next year, with the promise of a larger one as we move past this pandemic.
Many teams will be restricting travel for next year, maybe even the year after. Because the United States does not have a consistent pandemic response for every state, each state has developed their own rules, some backed by laws and executive orders, others by the US Soccer associations sanctioning policies and most with the combination of all of the above. Because it is confusing for teams, many clubs are simply mandating their teams play in local events through next year.
If you were always a soccer tournament event for local teams, you have an advantage. You know how to do this and you should be leveraging hard. You also have a problem with other tournaments who may have relied on out-of-state teams now marketing to local teams. Get in there first; don’t assume local teams are loyal. Again, teams have short memories and some don’t remember you.
This coronavirus pandemic has turned the soccer world on its head, most affecting the viability of your soccer tournament event. Training has begun, league play will follow if it hasn’t already but tournament events will be the last soccer format to get up and running, taking several years to become robust again. If you relied on your tournament to raise much-needed funds for your club, you need to get tournaments healthy again.
Hire a marketing firm to assess your event, position you within the tournament and soccer space and execute your marketing strategy well, including developing out your social media, other traditional media and email marketing. Now is not the time to bargain-hunt; you need someone who understands the soccer tournament landscape and has a proven marketing record.
Make sure your website is current and spot on updated with everything. No marketing program is going to work if you are not operationally ready and buttoned up. Make sure you are ready to take applications for your soccer tournament and have a clear cancellation policy in place. This year came up fast and took everyone by surprise; next year can be planned. A lack of a clear direction for next year will be read by teams as a disorganized event they will avoid. Don’t give them a reason to pass you up.
That’s pretty much it. Think first-year, think smaller, think local.
And wash your hands, wear a mask, keep your distance and stay safe so we can all get through this together. We’d hate to lose even one soccer player, their fans and supporters to this pandemic.