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Stickers are hot, hot, hot

Sticker for Disney Tournaments

Sticker for Disney Tournaments

Stickers are hot. Stickers with your soccer tournament logo and your web address will get placed almost everywhere and are probably the cheapest way you can advertise.

Kids like stickers. Kids will put stickers on book covers, bags, on their notebook cover, even on their forehead and take a picture of themselves being goofy. Your tournament sticker will end up as part of a family legacy in photo albums.

We are at the NSCAA, giving out stickers to every kid in St. Louis who is walking around with their coach or parent. They are rushing up to our booth, streaming off our smiley-face stickers and wearing them everywhere in the St. Louis Convention Center. We’re loving it.

The best deal around for stickers is our friends at Sticker Giant. Great product, great service.

Bowling for soccer teams

What do bowling, soccer tournaments and the economy have in common? A lot, according to the Wall Street Journal. When the economy is down, people pick up a bowling ball and you have a lot of people coming into town for your soccer tournament.

This is a great opportunity for soccer tournaments to partner up with a local bowling center. You have kids and parents coming into town and looking for entertainment in the evenings and between games. Bowling centers are everywhere and a great way for the teams to keep “warmed up” between games.

When partnered with your TourneyCentral advertising DEALS, a listing of bowling centers in your local area as well as a deal to host a soccer team night or dedicated lanes is a win for the center, the community, your tournament and your guest teams. And, you may even be able to talk the bowling center manager into running our Real-Time Scores on one of their televisions to keep the teams in the loop.

Our advice: Call your local bowling centers and get some deals going. Fill their lanes, become a great community partner. Introduce a new sport to lots of kids and reintroduce it to their parents. Whether they bowl a perfect game or gutter balls, the social aspect of bowling makes it fun for just about everyone.

You can find bowling centers in your local area at the AMF Web site and at this great search engine Bowling2U.com.

Using postcards as effective soccer tournament marketing

Click the postcard to view front and back in full size

Click the postcard to view front and back in full size

A postcard for the Hershey Tournament and the Penn State 8v8 arrived earlier this week. It got my attention, not only because the two events are TourneyCentral.com tournaments, but because it was well designed and executed. Here’s why.

I knew what it was about quickly
I didn’t have to open a letter or fight with that low-grade postage wafer that tears most of the information off the top of the flyer folded in thirds. “2 great tournaments.” The logos were right there on top, leading the description.

Who, What, When, Where, Why and How were listed in bullets points and were easy to read. No disclaimers were mixed in to “CYA” the tournament. Just the facts and where to go to get more.

Contact information front and center
The web address was right there as was the email AND PHONE NUMBER. Chances are most folks will go to the web site first, but there are a few coaches left who still feel more comfortable picking up the phone and getting a feel for how real the event is.

It is print
I’m an advocate for the Internet, but nothing replaces 4-color print — even if only a postcard — to let your guest teams know that you believe in your event enough to design a postcard, print it out and pay for postage to mail it to them. Print says “I am real.”

Good use of white space
The designer did not stuff every square inch of postcard space with crap. Get the basics out, push your audience to the web site where they can read more if they need to. Just the facts and lots of breathing room.

What I would have liked to see
– A human face, a soccer player or coach. A family that has been helped by the charity.
– The web address bigger for each event
– Rule of thirds and some offset. The tournament panels being side-by-side instead of flanking the middle content.
– A little more contrast between the actual soccer tournament events and the Kicks4Kids organization.
– More WIIFM (What’s in it for me) to the coach and less about the hosting organization.
– A TourneyCentral logo, showing that they are hosted by the best (but that is really selfish on my part.)

Please feel free to leave a comment if you disagree with my list.

Print and direct mail is not dead. Neither is the US Postal Service. A great soccer tournament will use a mix of email marketing, print and word-of-mouth to get the message out about their tournament.

Do you welcome new volunteers into your soccer tournament?

The lifeblood of a successful soccer tournament is the army of volunteers who run the concession stand, sell the sponsorship ads, stand duty as field marshals, sell t-shirts, direct the parking and generally make sure your guest teams feel welcome and cared-for. But, how many of these volunteers are the same people, doing the same jobs year after year?

If your soccer tournament is like most, the same folks are doing the same jobs every year. On one hand, that is good because you have consistency. On the other, it is bad because there is no new talent to take over these critical jobs if the veterans were to leave.

I read Chris Brogan’s blog regularly about social media. For the most part, he is considered an expert in social media technologies such as Twitter, blogging, Facebook and the like. But I don’t think he is an expert on human behavior. Yesterday, he posted a rant about people using robots to reply to a new Twitter follow. There was (and still is) some discussion going on about his opinion on using robots, but I think Jeff Crites’s comment (#182) sums up the issue most closely aligned with soccer tournament would-be volunteers.

Most volunteers just want to help out and have some fun. Having been involved in soccer clubs for a number of year, both in the inner circles and on the outside, there are mainly two reasons people do not volunteer, regardless of the excuse they may use.

1. They are afraid that if they open their time to one or two things, the tournament will take advantage of their time and inundate them with responsibilities. So, it is easier to say no and keep the door shut.

2. They do not feel accepted by the “inner circle” of folks who already run the show. This is perhaps the most common reason.

A soccer tournament, like Twitter, is a scary place. There is a lot going on and a lot of folks who are experts at making it happen. They know all the rules — written and unwritten — and they make it all look easy. They are intimidating to new folks. And — like the Twitter community — the veterans have little patience with anyone who is new coming in and shaking things up. (If this does not describe your soccer tournament, consider yourself very, very lucky. Be honest with yourself; this is all part of that human condition we’re cursed with.)

New volunteers do threaten the status quo. They threaten the existing “power circles” the veterans have built. And that is a good thing because they also bring in new blood, new energy, and a different perspective. If there is no change, there is no growth.

Sure, the veterans will rant about these “new guys coming in and wanting to change everything,” but experienced, seasoned leaders will do it in private and as a release of their own fears of becoming irrelevant and obsolete, not as a rant against new blood who may not quite understand the rules but have good intentions. There may be a few new folks who step up to volunteer for the wrong reasons, but for the most part, they will be found out quickly and either corrected or asked to leave.

Our advice: Running a soccer tournament is more about leading people than it is about finding teams and scheduling games. Stop and think about how you felt the very first day you volunteered. Think about how scary it was being among all those people who were so sure of how to do things. Did you feel comfortable? How long did it take you to become the expert you are now? Did anyone take you aside and show you the ropes?

As a tournament director, identify those areas in your organization that have built walls to new volunteers. Actively seek to tear them down. And, if you have built a wall around yourself, start tearing that down. Pair new volunteers with those expert veterans who are open to change. Establish a new volunteer system that encourages change.

And try the new ideas suggested by new volunteers, but make them responsible for executing their own ideas. If they work, you’re ahead of a lot of soccer tournaments who are doing the same-ol’, same-ol’ every year. And, if they don’t, then they don’t. Don’t make a big fuss, don’t point fingers, but do encourage change, personal responsibility and innovation. If other volunteers see that you rant on unsuccessful ideas, they will be less apt to propose them and your tournament will not grow.

And never, ever use the phrase “We tried that once and it didn’t work.” If a new volunteer is willing to put in time and effort on an idea you tried a few years ago, perhaps times have changed and it will work this time.

Whatever you do, never publicly rant against new people who are enthusiastic and bright-eyed, even if they get stuff wrong and tick you off with their energy and excitement. It will make your soccer tournament look stodgy and you will scare off entire generations of potential volunteers. And your tournament will stagnate as your current experts get older and more resistant to change.

Make this year the year you resolve to try new things and break the status quo. In a down economy, the worst product to be selling is a commodity that anyone can get anywhere. Resolve to be different, to be special. Resolve that new people with new ideas will help you get there.

Meet us in St. Louis for the NSCAA. Jan 14-17, 2009
We’re in booth 1735 and we won’t even try to sell you anything, so you can stay and chat as long as you want. Really. And, if you want to make a podcast promoting your soccer tournament, Back of the Net will help you with that. You don’t even need to be a TourneyCentral tournament.