Kicking it up
With some creative marketing and promotions, you can drive participation in your programs.
“I want MaconTennisConnect to be on everyone’s lips when they think of tennis in Macon,” says my boss, Carl Hodge, the tennis manager/head pro for the city of Macon, Ga.
“Okaaaay,” I say, settling into my chair. We’ve just sat down for a power lunch. I love these meetings. They’re always so productive.
“So, I know your gonna really think I’m crazy.” He takes a deep swig on his iced tea before he continues. “Every morning before I fully wake up, before I even get out of bed, I make myself answer one question: What can I do to make my programs better?” He sighs. And I smile. What a powerful tool. What commitment.
But I want examples. “Like what?”
“Anything,” he says. “Anything, from instruction, to marketing, to admin efficiency.” He scoops up a forkful of beef tips and rice and I wait. “But the key is, I can’t get out of bed until I come up with something.”
He slides into his zone and rattles off a few of his morning inspirations. Lately, he’s been on the marketing/promotion bandwagon. He has loads of ideas, some of which he’s already executed.
Like “Bring Your Racquet to Work Day,” which he just implemented in his adult beginner’s class (Play Tennis Macon). Carl is famous for assigning “homework” to his students. Usually, homework is an instruction-based activity — for instance, hit 100 serves in, etc.
However, one night, he told his students they must carry their racquets with them for 24 hours. “I want you to sleep with your racquet,” he said to his beginner players. “Bring it to work with you. When you go on your lunch break, that racquet better be right with you.”
I stare at him while he tells me this, no longer concerned about my now cold vegetable plate. “And did they do it?”
“Wendy and Sandra are in the class. Call them when you get back to your office and see.” Wendy Mullis and Sandra Hill both work in our Parks and Rec Department.
Some of Carl’s other ideas include:
- T-Shirt Tennis Pride Day. I sense a national holiday here. At present, he targets our Junior Tournament Club for this approach. Tennis Pride Day, and all you do is wear your MaconTennisConnect T-shirt every third Tuesday of the month. Talk about getting your customers to work for you!
- Free Classes. OK, this isn’t a new concept, but here’s the key: Offer them to people who can help support or promote your programs. Anyone in the media — newspapers, radio, TV. And offer them to those who may make decisions about your annual budget. Get these people to realize what you already know — tennis is fun, and brings your business solid returns.
- The Birthday Club. Parents are always looking for ways to celebrate their child’s birthday. Why not on the tennis court? You provide the tennis instructor, racquets, balls and lots of fun games and the parents will provide lots of novice players for you to show what a great game tennis can be. What a fantastic opportunity to entice these new players into the game. Giving coupons for one free lesson or a discount to your junior programs is a must.
- Church Groups. Modify your leagues format to fit the busy schedule of these players. Churches are quick to endorse activities that attract people of the same faith. A church league addresses such needs. An added benefit: Your program will probably be printed in the church bulletin.
- Newsletters and Websites. While these methods aren’t new, don’t overlook the amount of traffic on your website. Sponsors love numbers and if you can tell them, “We have 800 players we send our monthly newsletter to,” or “We generate 300 hits on our website daily,” they may be more willing to be there when you need support. One way to increase your website membership is to offer discounts to all players who are registered website members. After all, everyone loves saving a few dollars.
Back at my office, I punch in Wendy’s number, even before I sit down. “Hey, Wendy, I just spoke with Carl and he says you had to take your racquet to work yesterday as your homework.”
“Yes, I did. Both Sandra and I did. I took my racquet with me everywhere. In fact, I had to go to finance and Adah Roberts asked about it. She wants you to call with class information.”
Bingo. Now that’s taking the “ask me about tennis” buttons to the next level.
Getting the Bucks
Looking for funding for your marketing efforts? Check out your local district. In our area of Macon, Ga., the USTA Southern Section and USTA Georgia are actively involved in supporting the growth of tennis at the grassroots level. Generous funding from USTA Georgia is made available to CTAs to make programs like ours take off.
At least once a year, Georgia’s Community Tennis Association leaders gather to share best practices, get inspiration from others, and ask and answer questions about tennis in their communities. USTA supports local tennis initiatives all over the country; contact your state or section office to find out more.
And don’t forget about the Tennis Industry Association’s Growing Tennis 50/50 co-op funding program. The 50/50 program offers matching advertising/promotional dollars to teaching pros who want to attract new or former junior and adult players into the game.
“The co-op program is geared toward the entrepreneurial tennis pro who is serious about building their business and wants to further their marketing dollar,” says the TIA’s Matt Allen. “This program is a no-brainer for any pro who spends time and money to market their entry-level programs.” For more information, visit tennisindustry.org.
See all articles by Robin Bateman
About the Author
Robin Bateman is the site coordinator for the Tattnall Tennis Center in Macon, Ga., where she coordinates tennis program and leagues, is a tournament director, serves as a team captain, and assists junior teams competing at district, regional, and section events.