Promoting sports will promote your paper
November 4, 2013
By Ken Blum
They aren’t called “fanatics” for nuthin’. They’re the small town folks drawn to Friday night-lights as moths to a flame.
They may be interested in what the city council is up to. They may be curious to know who died last week. But they’re also passionate about how their boys fare on the football field.
So how can a newspaper ride the coattails of this ardor for major high school spectator sport, be it football, basketball or, up north, hockey?
On top of routine game stories, there are relatively simple ways a hometown paper can promote itself and add readers by riding the coattails of high school sports mania.
Here are a few simple strategies to score extra points with the fans.
• Use e-mail or your website to run the scores of area games within a half hour after they’re completed.
Game night is a work night for the sports reporter, and the first thing he or she can do is post the scores of all area games on the website, Facebook, Twitter, etc.
If you can’t have a reporter at every game, set up a system with the athletic director at each school to e-mail or text the result of the game immediately after the final whistle blows.
Be sure to attach a message with the results that reads something like: “For complete coverage of Champion League Football, be sure to subscribe to the Courier, the sports source.”
Promote your paper at the games
Little things can leave a real impression at a game where there are 500 to 2,000 high-spirited current or potential readers.
• If your photographer roams the sidelines, invest in a jacket or sweatshirt with the name of your paper emblazoned on it. If I’m a fan, I’m thinking, “There’s where I can get pictures of the game.”
• Run a full-page ad in the football program, but it should do more than say “Go get ’em Redhawks.” Instead, sell a subscription with copy reading, “Complete coverage of the Redhawks in the Leader—DON’T MISS IT!—to subscribe call --------, or subscribe online at www.leaderfootball.com.” Run a few illustrations of your lead sports pages in the ad.
• Most booster clubs run contests at the games; for example, selling tickets for 50-50 or similar drawings. The winners are typically announced over the loudspeaker system. Contribute a bonus prize such as a football signed by every member of the team and coaching staff. Then, ask the announcer to say something like, “And the winner of the football autographed by the Titans and donated by the Courier, Wayne County’s Sports Source, is _______.
• Acknowledge the community passion for high school sports by running a display box on the front page with a picture. (See the illustration with this column.) For a daily or semiweekly that appears the day after the game, emphasize the scores. For a weekly dealing with a publication schedule that’s several days after the game, promote a story that previews the upcoming game.
Front Page Sports
Does a complete sports story belong on the Page One?
In my opinion, you bet it does if you know your paper is in a town that’s wacko for major high school sports.
Check out any of the large papers that cover professional sports teams.
The day after the game, the game story itself is featured on the front page or, if it isn’t, it’s promoted in a large display box.
The same strategy works for a local paper covering local sports. “Overkill!” some of your readers will say.
But a newspaper can’t overlook or refuse to build readership from any event that draws the passion of so many.
The interest of the majority makes for major news.
You can’t refuse to play up an event that brings your community together so intensely—rich with poor, educated with illiterate—black, brown, red and white united in spirit for a few hours.
Nothing wrong with a ride on those coattails. © Ken Blum 2013
Ken Blum is the publisher of Butterfly Publications, an advising/speaking/publishing business dedicated to improving the profitability and quality of community newspapers. He puts out a monthly free e-mail newsletter titled Black Inklings. It features nuts and bolts ideas to improve revenue and profits at hometown papers. To subscribe to the newsletter or contact Ken, e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org; or phone to 330-682-3416.