Marketing Your Club in the Digital Age

by Bronwyn Slatter

In this digital age, bowls clubs need to ensure they remain contemporary and competitive both on and off the greens. An effective marketing strategy is essential to shaping the image of your club as well as the overall perception of our wonderful sport.

Benefits of marketing

Marketing plays an important role in establishing the relationships between potential members and your bowls club, together with building consumer confidence in wanting to ‘try’ a new product (in this case a sport).

Your marketing also needs to resonate with the audience you are trying to attract. For example, a photo of midweek Pennant is unlikely to connect with and inspire the 25-30s market. As the old saying goes, ‘a picture speaks a thousand words’, so choosing images that will appeal to your target market is crucial.

There are numerous benefits of marketing done right. Marketing can help your club to:

  • Build its profile in the community
  • Build the profile of the sport as a whole
  • Build relationships with new and current members
  • Build confidence and trust
  • Influence public perception
  • Attract new social and/or playing members – all foot traffic to a club is good foot traffic.

Modern marketing tactics

While word-of-mouth marketing and flyers still have a place in the modern era, these practices should also be supported and complemented by other promotional platforms such as digital advertising.

At Auburn Bowls Club, social media campaigns, including Facebook advertising, have played a major role in successfully promoting club events to the local community and reaching out to prospective new members.

“Facebook’s demographics information allows us to target the types of social events worth promoting on social media. With membership drives we generally only run one or two ads per year but we always get people looking to join within days. We are turning those new members into new bowlers as well,” says Scott Bartel, Secretary at Auburn Bowls Club. “We also link to Bowls Victoria’s ads through social media so we don’t always have to do all the work creating the content ourselves, and we see positive responses to activities like Barefoot Bowls.”

Whatever the club’s goals, social media marketing can prove highly effective.

“Our wine and cheese night drew people from the local area that had never previously been to the club and have since come back, while our membership drive has led to new bowlers joining the club,” Scott says. “In the past we’ve run ads for corporate Christmas functions and been overwhelmed with the response. This led to building working relationships with a number of local small and large businesses and we’ve become their destination for external meetings and social events.”

Scott believes digital marketing definitely has a place alongside more traditional forms of advertising for modern bowls clubs.

“We only do a little bit of work with our social media, but the rewards are there straight away,” he says. “Face-to-face contact is still the best way to reach people, but we can complement that with social media. The real bonus is that our advertising can target different people in different age groups for different events. In the future as we will focus our advertising more and more in this area as we continue to see the advantages.”

6 tips for your club’s marketing strategy

 1. Ensure your message ‘speaks’ to the right market

Design, words and images all create a ‘message’ and this message needs to resonate with the demographics your marketing campaign is trying to target. If it doesn’t, what’s the point of marketing? 

 2. Use the right software or web tools

Microsoft Word and Publisher were once common for making posters and flyers. Today, services like Canva exist to make things better. This simplified graphic-design website uses a drag-and-drop format and provides access to images (including your own photos), graphics and fonts. Canva offers a free service, which is adequate for club use. In addition to this, if you have access to a digital artist or designer then Adobe Photoshop and/or Illustrator are the most common applications used.

“One app we use is Later, which is very handy for scheduling posts on all social media. If you pay for a subscription you can post at the optimal time for maximum exposure across your social media feeds,” Scott says.

 3. Use quality images

Clear photos and images are crucial in marketing. Photos or images that are out of proportion, squashed, blurry or grainy are not suitable for advertising. Find someone in your local community who is happy to spend a few hours free of charge to capture your club or event. In return you might offer this volunteer some free promotion / credit. Ask around your club or even approach a TAFE or Uni student. Services like Unsplash can also help; providing free images and photos that you can download and use.

 4. Update your club logo

Most clubs have a logo, but many were designed a long time ago and when used on flyers and posters today they often appear small and blurry. It’s recommended to engage a graphic designer who can update your logo so it meets current print and digital standards. Remember, your logo should always appear crisp, clear and legible.

5. Invest in a professional printer for handouts

Inkjet printers and the like are fine for small internal admin jobs, but not for printing marketing material. Pop your poster on a USB and take it to your local Officeworks Print Centreor have a look at ordering online using a service like Vistaprintso your advertising looks clean and fresh in the public domain.

6. Use social media as an advertising platform

Did you know that the average Victorian checks their Facebook page more than five times a day? Developing a social media plan that sees your club actively use a service like Facebook can pay dividends in both the short and long term. The key is posting content regularly, not only now and then, to keep your followers engaged. Facebook is a great tool for distributing marketing and keeping people informed with news and information. If you’re considering paid advertising, run with a campaign over a boosted post. Boosting posts can affect organic reach which lowers followers and likes when you are posting content with no spend behind them.