At the 2017 #SwimBiz marketing conference, the Buffalo City Swim Racers in Buffalo, N.Y. , were recognized as the top team in multicultural marketing. The team has taken a different approach to funding and recruiting members, one that’s helped to shape both the team and the local community.
“A few years back, Chuck (Wielgus) set the goal that USA Swimming’s demographics should reflect the demographics of the country, so that’s what we did with our program,” said head coach Michael Switalski.
“Everything that we do has a multicultural face to it – our staff, our board, our website and all of our literature is very diverse. We want everything we do to reflect the community that we’re serving.”
As a group, Switalski and the team leaders researched the community demographics and set out to build a program that would provide an opportunity for as many kids as possible to become a part of their team.
“We’ve done a lot of research in our community, and it wasn’t so much about the ethnicity demographics as it was household income, and the makeup of the households,” Switalski said. “The average income here is $27,000; a large percentage live in poverty. We try to provide access to those kids and make competitive swimming free for them.”
In just five years of existence, the team has grown from 15 swimmers to 245, with 12 coaches on staff. Of the 245 kids on the team, about 190 pay nothing. The remaining kids pay only the USA Swimming registration fee.
So, with a large group of kids who pay nothing to swim, how is the team actually funded?
“We write grants; we have about $130,000 annually worth of grants and donations coming in,” said Switalski. “We’re very active working with local foundations and the community and doing fundraisers to get the word out about our sport and what it can provide to populations who otherwise couldn’t afford the opportunity, or aren’t even considered active participants in the sport.”
Making an effort to really understand the community your team serves and developing relationships within that community can have a much more lasting affect on the team than simply collecting swim meet and membership dues, Switalski believes.
“I think many teams have a flawed model, in some respects – by relying on swim meet dues and memberships to subsidize costs,” he said. “There has to be commitment from donors and a more stable membership structure; you need to understand the demographic of the area you’re serving and understand the benefits of having low income families as part of your program – give them an opportunity.”
Make sure to register for this year’s #SwimBiz conference, April 8-10, to kickstart your team’s marketing strategy!
Also, we want to hear about the best and the brightest promotional efforts in 2017 from the swimming community. Be sure to nominate your club for the #SwimBiz Club Marketing Awards by March 15th!