By Mike Watkins//Contributor | Thursday, March 9, 2017
#SwimBiz Spotlight shares leading practices from clubs to promote themselves – through social media, sponsorship, communications and marketing. Please join us for the 3rd Annual #SwimBiz Conference on April 9-11 to learn from industry experts and other leading swim clubs.
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Texas Ford Aquatics' home pool enjoys a prime location.
Built in 2004 on the main artery north from Dallas, thousands upon thousands of vehicles to and from the city as well as in and around the suburb of Frisco come into contact with the facility – and see the Ford name displayed prominently.
As the club's major sponsor in a very supportive community, Ford is in the middle of a 5-year sponsorship of the club – and Head Coach and CEO Dan McDonough is confident they will renew for another 11 years when the time comes.
"We were on a very tight budget with the new facility (while it was being built), and we didn't have enough to finish it. So we reached out to Ford, which has a very large presence in the area," McDonough said.
"Ford was very interested, but they wanted to do more than simply sponsor us; they wanted naming rights to the club and new aquatics center. It's been a win-win situation for both of us ever since."
Needless to say, McDonough understands and embraces the tremendous impact sponsors make on his swim club's bottom line.
Membership fees don't cover the costs of everything associated with running a club, so to make up the difference, sponsors help financially support the club and members.
But as is the case with most organizations that depend upon outside support, one sponsor is rarely enough.
Because of this, Texas Ford Aquatics enjoys the financial support of several other community sponsors, including the local children's hospital, a financial investment firm and chemical supply company.
"We know the value of working with businesses in our community – especially since our swimmers and parents are part of that community," said McDonough, who came to then-Frisco Aquatics eight years ago from the City of Charleston Recreational Department in Charleston, S.C. "We want to partner with sponsors who share the same values we have – health, nutrition, family, youth sports, community pride, etc."
Because they are a high-profile club in a prime advertising position in the community McDonough said he has said no to certain businesses that want to sponsor the club – particularly nutrition drinks and supplements because 90 percent of them are banned and he doesn't want them associated with his club or members.
McDonough also recognizes maintaining those relationships with strong, existing sponsors each year so he and his coaches – who all wear a variety of hats in addition to coaching – don’t have to find new ones each year.
He said they also focus on gaining and keeping three or four bigger sponsors rather than many smaller ones as it allows coaches to focus on what they're best at: working with the members to make them better swimmers.
"Once you have established good partnerships, it's vital to maintain them," he said. "We enjoy working with our sponsors because we know we benefit each other. Keeping relationships strong is very important. I don't see it stopping because our community members are happy with the partnerships."
With a membership in excess of 1000 with a large demographic between 8 and 20 years old, along with a Master’s program of more than 100 members, Texas Ford Aquatics offers a strong nucleus that is very appealing to businesses.
The community itself consists of mostly wealthy families with a high median income, and Frisco is regarded as one of the best places to race a youth athlete in the United States.
All of these factors contribute to making the club very appealing for businesses in the community to support it.
"Since we're private, we are exclusively self-funded and get no support from the city, so we have to find ways to finance the club," McDonough said. "Ford is excited to be our naming sponsor, and we're very grateful for their support. They definitely see a payback from their sponsorship.
"We encourage them to promote their products by parking trucks out in front of the aquatics center, and they always end up selling them. They also offer discounts and incentives to our members and parents, and we both benefit from this relationship. The same goes for our other sponsorships. Everybody wins."