Earlier this month I attended the second annual marketing conference #SwimBiz in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The three-day event put on by USA Swimming focused on social media, branding, sponsorships and promotional strategy for teams and brands to ride the Olympic wave heading into Rio and beyond.
As a swimming and digital marketing enthusiast, I was thrilled to attend! I got to stay at the Olympic Training Center, and met a number of sports leaders who are defining the future of swimming!
There were tons of engaging segments that included a unique Paralympic experience with USA Volleyball at the Olympic Training Center.

Related: What It’s Like To Stay At The U.S. Olympic Training Center
During the conference we got to view USA Swimming’s documentary: The Last Gold. One of the most unique segments of #SwimBiz was the Fitter and Faster Sharks and Minnows Tank where 6 individuals (myself included) pitched their creative ideas to grow the sport to sports marketing greats that included USA Swimming Executive Director Chuck Wielgus!

After speaking with the attendees at #SwimBiz, it was clear that you don’t have to be a big well-established brand to have an impact in our sport. The Club Marketing Award winners are an excellent example of innovators who are making significant contributions in their local communities. Below are 10 key insights I’d like to share from #SwimBiz 2016!

1) Know Your Customer

Whether you’re a swim coach, parent, athlete, or apparel partner, understanding who your customer is can be crucial in your communication strategy. USA Swimming’s Executive Director Chuck Wielgus made it clear in his opening remarks that as an individual in aquatics, it’s imperative you know who your REAL customer is. Your message and strategy is entirely dependent on who you’re trying to communicate to.

2) Shoot for a Five Diamond Rating

Customer service can make or break your efforts as a coach or sponsor. John Cashion of the Ritz Carlton Leadership Center spoke on the importance of turning every customer interaction into a defining moment of their life. In aquatics we have set expectations for the way thins are done. As an aquatic professional, it’s your job to exceed those expectations.

3) Tell A Story

Chuck Menke, CMO of USA Triathlon shared his experience in how to generate news coverage in sports. He said that the best stories are the ones outside the pool! You have to speak to the human experience of our sport, and think beyond times, points, and winning medals.

4) Be The Mayor of Your Community

A connected community is a stronger one. If you’re a coach, you have to be the Mayor of your team and in your community. As USA Swimming’s CMO Matt Farrell stated:

The coach is the face of the community and one of the most respected faces in youth sports.

5) It’s An Olympic Year, Are You Ready?

Participation in swimming has drastically increased in the years immediately following the summer Olympics. USA Swimming registration grew 7% following 2004, 11% following 2008, and 13% following the 2012 London Olympics. The Olympic Games in RIO is sure to repeat this viral growth, and the question you should be asking yourself is: what are you doing to take advantage of this massive bump in participation, engagement and interest in swimming this summer!

6) Sponsors Are Partners

A common theme at #SwimBiz was the focus on creating authentic partnerships that are a win-win for a brand and a team. Jay Eckert, head of Business Development at U.S. Masters Swimming advised to think of these relationships as partnerships more than one-sided sponsorships. Both sides are delivering value, so it’s a win-win partnership.

A few ideas for swim coaches to consider are partners for their website, social media, and team signage. You can also look at creative ways to engage athletes, and spectators at meets through heat sheets, hospitality, and event activations.

7) Value Loyalty

Swimmers are some of the most loyal fans in all of sports. Their commitment to swimming can be attributed to their deep passion and experience participating in the sport, whether it be through competition, volunteering, or promotion. It’s important to remember that growth doesn’t happen without retention, and a continued commitment to serving a loyal community plays a vital role in growing our sport.

8) High Definition is Ready For YOU!

USA Swimming’s Creative Director, Matt Lupton delivered an awesome presentation on what it takes to share compelling media content in a digital age. HD content does make an impact, and every media asset you share on the web is there to stay. The big takeaway from Matt’s presentation was the importance of showcasing your brand in the most engaging way while paying attention to the quality of your content.

9) Social Media Is Changing The Sport

Our rate of communication has taken a quantum leap forward in the last decade, and in just the last few years, the way we communicate our stories is faster, more sharable, and more engaging than ever before. We’re in a mobile age, so it’s time to join the party if you haven’t already.

Nearly 40% of millennial would rather lose their car than their cell phone!

Not only have social channels empowered sharing and collaboration at every level of the sport, but it’s now easier and more financially feasible than ever to market your club or brand to highly targeted segments of athletes and fans. Whether you’re looking to grow your team’s membership, or create awareness for your brand, new social advertising tools are changing the game!

10) Swimming Is On An Upward Trajectory!

We are in an incredible era of digital communication that is defining our sports growth. As we gear up for the RIO 2016 Olympics, #SwimBiz couldn’t be at a more appropriate time! The sport of swimming will receive unparalleled global television and digital news coverage compared to prior Olympic years!
After attending #SwimBiz, it’s clear that the rock star team at USA Swimming is ready for #RIO2016 and beyond, are you?
Related: Three Takeaways For Coaches From This Year’s ASCA World Clinic


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