What’s in a Name? (Hint: Everything)

Your derby league’s look and feel affects the success of your marketing and your community relationship. A smart, calculated and yes, creative selection of your logo, league name, team name(s) and tagline is vital.

Derby Branding 101 

97931 Fort Wayne

If you are not familiar with branding, think of it as a consistent look and voice that represents your league. When it comes to derby, branding gives merchandise, boutfits and marketing a unified style.

I’m a flat-out sports fan. I can identify professional teams at a glance. And it’s no accident–a group of experts choose logos, colors, team font (yes, even the typeface stands out) and taglines that fans can spot in an instant. Good branding is a must for any business and sports teams are businesses.

Lovin’ it or hatin’ it, McDonald’s is a branding machine. The signature red and yellow, arches, jingle and tagline make their ads and restaurants recognizable in a few seconds. You want to capture a consistent visual and written style that strives for a McDonald’s-level of familiarity to your community.

Let’s start with the first steps—a logo and a name. I’ll touch on all elements of branding in future posts.

Choose Logo Colors Carefully

Roller Derby Apparel Your logo is a major part of your branding effort. It is the fastest way people will identify your league and an image that’s unmistakably you. It also should make the connection with roller derby very easy.

I mentioned in a previous blog post that I owned Flyin’ Squirrel, a derby novelty t-shirt company. I approached a Mad Rollin’ Doll’s fan to create the logo for the company. He was known nationwide for his style. He delivered my vision and my logo kicked butt. This was my calling card, my stamp. It affected how we designed the website and every piece of marketing collateral.

My logo was a tremendous success visually, but it created a few problems price wise.

The success: I was able to sell merchandise that simply had the logo on it, a goal of mine when searching for a logo design.

The problems: the logo was a bit complex, which created some small hurdles. But the biggest issue was that it comprised six colors.

If it looks cool, who cares?

Your bank account cares. Every color in your t-shirt, banners and program printing can cost additional money, depending on technology used. This is a definite when you print clothing. League merchandise, clothing in particular can be a major profit center for your league. Printing costs account for the majority of money invested in merchandise.

My merchandise company’s brand centered around one image (as it should), but my brand identifier was a profit assassin. I sponsored leagues, an actual b-team, and was printing t-shirts with my squirrel. The b-team sponsorship included both home and away boutfits. Making the team’s uniforms was expensive enough without the logo and really expensive with it. The team’s logo was so cool that fans bought loads of the shirts. But my profit was a fraction what I made on other shirts.

So what, you were still making money.

Wrong attitude. You’re a business. Weather, unexpected costs/economic downturns, time and pocket money needed from league members affect the league’s ability to survive. Spend wisely, as if it was your own cash. And remember, the non-profit model does not mean you shouldn’t make a profit.

My branding developed from that logo. The expense of traditional printing of images on clothing grows with every color. Six colors meant I could only print logo clothing occasionally. Even when I received price breaks for ordering a higher quantity, the profit was half or less than other shirts I made.

It may not just be clothing that’s affected by your colorful logo. Color copies, stickers, posters (if screen-printed) will potentially be more expensive.

The Deal with Die Cutting

Though certainly the lesser evil than the color, the logo’s shape also came with a price. If your logo has sharp features, it may not look right inside a circle or rectangle. Die cutting is a process where the vendor cuts the sticker or patch to the outline of the image.

Though I compromised to use a less expensive tagline, I chose to die cut the patches. They were great to sell and I had them pressed onto winter hats and shirts, but I had to order 500 to 1,000 of them to keep the cost down to a reasonable per-piece price. The cost was high, an amount most leagues couldn’t afford to spend, especially ones just starting out.

What’s in a Name?

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What’s not in a name? The logo may be the visual trigger, but early on, the name means more.

I’ll admit it. Coming from a business background, I don’t understand creating a league or team name that has a double meaning, is inappropriate, or represents something negative in the community’s history. There are plenty of these out there. Taglines can be as helpful or damaging as the name itself. Madison’s “Hurt in a skirt” is an example of a fun, appropriate use of words.

New derby used to be more edgy, racy and rebellious, but those comedic names created marketing barriers. Most leagues today describe themselves as family friendly. It’s increasingly important that names avoid innuendos and aren’t disrespectful. I love that roller derby welcomes open-minded, free thinkers. However, our sense of humor and irony get the best of us on occasion.

If your community finds your brand offensive or off-putting, your marketing and publicity opportunities will be limited. I won’t name names (see what I did there), but there are some teams that will never appear in local publications and newspapers. Their brand is too controversial or vile to publish. Think about it: how does the local newspaper report on the league if the league’s name cannot be used? They’ll likely skip the story.

Pick-up teams, regional teams that come together to play exhibition games or closed-door leagues can go outside the bounds with their branding. But if you’re playing in front of a crowd, being covered by media or receiving acknowledgement for charity or community work, craft your brand for the mainstream.

Prepare Your League for the Long Haul

If there is one piece of advice to take away from this entire blog series, it’s that you should take the time you need to prepare your image and build a foundation that will support your league for generations to come. The sacrifice? Playing the game publicly may happen later than members would prefer.

Remember, you can play whenever you are ready; just don’t open the doors publicly until your business is prepared. Marketing and public relations will hit the ground running the moment the league is announced.

If playing to the mainstream is what you desire, make sure your brand won’t hurt profitability in pure cost or the cost of negative public opinion. Back tracking to fix your brand image is a long process. It can take years to win back community love after a branding snafu, so craft your image carefully from the beginning.

What are your biggest derby branding challenges? Don’t be shy–comment below.

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8 Derby Business Pitfalls to Avoid

Roller Derby Merchandise TableOpening a roller derby business is an exciting, adventurous and potentially dangerous idea. How would I know? I acted on it in 2007 with Flyin’ Squirrel, a novelty t-shirt company. Flyin’ Squirrel closed in 2010 after one of the worst economic crashes in U.S. history.

Exciting and adventurous? Yes. Confidence boosting? Absolutely. I still have the equipment, the know-how and am smarter because of Flyin’ Squirrel. However, unlike playing derby, running a business isn’t something you can jump into with only excitement as your fuel.

The economy improved and so has the success rate of small businesses in the U.S. Fifteen to twenty years ago, only 5-to-10% of small businesses lasted five years. In 2012, approximately 50% of small businesses made it that long. It could be attributed to the popularity of online shopping and various distribution options available for online businesses. A store can sell online with much lower overhead. A creative marketing campaign can have a tremendous impact through social media.

I’ve selected five pitfalls most applicable to derby business from Patricia Schaefer’s article: “The Seven Pitfalls of Business Failure and How to Avoid Them,” which nicely summarizes known start-up issues. I added a few tips from my experience.

1. Starting a Business for the Wrong Reasons
Wrong reasons include: making big money, having more time for yourself and your family or being your own boss.

Unless your product is truly unique, highly technological, has a high profit margin and dollar amount or can be marketed beyond roller derby, don’t expect riches to rain upon you.

A reasonable living or part-time income is more realistic. Furthermore, running your own business is more work than most realize. Design, development, production, order management, fulfillment, accounting, marketing and even employee management is what you’ll face. Don’t go it alone.

Derby-Fashion2. Poor Management
Poor management is often listed in reports as a leading cause of small business failure. It’s also one of the top reasons people leave their jobs. If you’re not a “people person,” hire someone who is. Sales, customer retention and employee relations depend on it. Good managers know how to reinvent stagnant business, create a positive image of the company and keep competent employees.

3. Insufficient Capital
Remember, it’s not just the cost of getting started; it’s the ability to fund everything for at least a few years. Most businesses aren’t profitable immediately and you need to plan for that. You cannot mix funds for the business with money you need to maintain for living expenses. It’s one thing to close your company and another to jeopardize your everyday life.

4. Location, Location, Location
Depending on the type of business and its structure, location can have a heavy hand in your success. Oftentimes, skate sales are required to connect to a brick and mortar store before they can be distributed online. That said, you shouldn’t open traditional retail shop just so you can start selling online.

Location factors:
• Customer location
• Accessibility
• Location of competitors
• Building’s condition
• Area incentive programs for start-up businesses
• The history and community receptiveness to a new business

5. Lack of Planning
Roller derby requires a lot of planning. Though leagues vary on their planning abilities, it’s far from a new concept. Planning is the core of a successful business or league.

Business plan components: 
• Goals, mission, vision
• Number of people (employees) to make it work
• Identification of potential problems and their solutions
• Financial analysis
• Competitive analysis
• Marketing and promotional campaigns
• Budget and growth management
• Design of marketing and promotional campaigns

I personally experienced these last 3 pitfalls with my derby business. They are not referenced in Schaefer’s article.

6. Trying to be More Than You Can
I suffered from too-many-good-ideas-at-once syndrome. Not only did I want to sell merchandise online, I wanted to help others sell unique items, post stories about my many trips across the U.S., and try to push forward charities related to derby leagues.

I spent too much time developing material that grew outdated quickly. I should have focused on my business plan to design and sell reasonably priced t-shirts. Instead, I buried myself in projects.

Roller Derby Appearel 7. Not Hiring a Website Manager
(This applies if your website is your main channel of sales and promotion.)

I knew just enough about web sites and coding to be dangerous. The more I learned, the flashier I tried to make the site. Too much time (again) with little payoff. A nice, clean site with easy navigation and payment tools is all you need. Having someone to update prices and prices, or give it a fresh look every year or so takes a big part of the work off your hands.

8. Selling Merch at Far-Away Events
Of course, this totally depends on what type of products you sell. It might work for you if your product is not high-margin or you’re able to take orders and don’t have to provide the product on site.

Most are not moneymakers. If you decide to sell merchandise at an event you have to fly to, consider costs involved:
• Table(s) for your booth
• Shipping merchandise to and from the event
• Flight, hotel and food

In the U.S., with the exception of the top three or four most-attended events, you will likely lose money or break even at best. That might be perfectly fine, if the contacts you make and product exposure pay dividends later on. Let’s do the math: $500 for one table, plus a $650 flight, $90 a night (4 nights) and $200 in shipping would be $1710. That doesn’t even include food. And this is a low estimate, as table fees have probably climbed.

It might be better to attend events close to home with your merchandise. If you can drive and return home at night, the cost equation changes dramatically.

New Derby Project

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I wanted to take a moment and recognize an important derby project. Neil Gunner, a derby photographer in the Toronto area released a book of derby photos and stories. Preview the book, Into Battle: The Roller Derby Experience in Photos and Interviews.

I’m honored to be in the book, but that’s not why I mention it. I love Toronto Roller Derby and so I offered Neil help with marketing advice. In particular, my ticket blitzing strategy, where coordinated blasts on social media multiply ticket sales.

In Neil’s words: “Bob’s plan for ensuring that multiple people share the same post on the same day across social media was directly responsible for increasing awareness far beyond what I would have been able to accomplish otherwise. Needless to say, it was a pleasure to be able to include Bob in the book. The book itself owes its success in large part to Bob as well. The marketing ideas Bob has shared with me, developed as part of his role as a Doer, have proved invaluable in spreading the word and generating both interest and sales.”

Eh, sometimes I know what I’m talking about.

 

Roller Derby >

Derby Ticket Blitzing Via Social Media

derby_big_image-1Online ticket sales low, slow, non-existent? It’s the second post in our derby business tips series and this time, I’m getting social.

“Bob, we use social media all.the.time. And nothing happens.”

I don’t doubt it. But when it comes to social media, it’s not how much you use it. It’s how well you use it.

Common Issues with Leagues and Social Media

-Posting upcoming games is inconsistent.
-There isn’t a link to the ticket sales page.
-You spread the word using only the league’s social media.

Online Sales aren’t Gravy; They’re Meat and Potatoes

“Bob, who cares where ticket sales come from? Online sales are just the gravy on top compared to sales by skaters.”

You can market your event or you can market tickets to your event. Marketing a derby game is like farting into the wind and hoping someone takes notice. Fliers vanish or become unnoticeable. Money spent on late night radio and TV spots has marginal effect. Plus, these efforts don’t provide data for future marketing.

Marketing tickets is totally different. There is a focus on funneling customers right to the “cash register” (purchase page). The goal is measurable and you have data to pinpoint the strongest and weakest geographical areas for ticket sales. Using that knowledge, you can adjust marketing and social media efforts leading up to the event.

Social Media isn’t Over

Don’t put a fork in social media just yet; it’s far from over. Sure Facebook usage purportedly dropped 25%, but that is because of teens moving to Snapchat. Twitter continues to thrive.

Most leagues post to Facebook and Twitter once or twice to promote upcoming games. Fans don’t see this. And what is more compelling? League social media accounts or those of skaters and staff? Skaters and staff are more personable and viable “friends” to sell tickets.

Keep in mind that both Facebook and Twitter promote trending topics. If 50 members of your league post the same Facebook message and ticketing link on the same day, your overlapping friend circle will see the post prominently positioned in their feeds. Maybe those friends share the post to their friends. Use hashtags to target interested parties. It’s as easy as #onetwothree.

Ticket Blitzing for a Standard Game Night

roller derby blog business tips

Ticket blitzing is an organized social media campaign where the entire league and all the event participants coordinate social media efforts, with a designated point person.

One person emails the copy and ticket sales link to the entire league. The language should be creative, under 140 characters and include the tickets sales link (to accommodate Twitter), so that fans are more likely to make a purchase decision.

The coordinator should spot check to see who is participating. The fewer participants, the less effective the campaign.

Establish dates for the social media campaign ahead of time. Three pushes are about right for upcoming games.

Prepare the first big push for immediately after the last game. Get a jump on sales with early bird pricing.

Second push a week prior to your game.

Final push two days prior to the game.

“Sure, Bob. But how do I get league members to get in on this brilliant ticket blitzing campaign?”

Sell the idea to the league. A few points to help make your case:

-Ticket blitzing with social media can save time spent on less fruitful guerrilla marketing tactics.
-If it’s successful, leagues and event producers may no longer need to ask members to sell tickets.
-Blitzing fills their venues and they can buy a small lot of stock tickets for walk-up customers.

Validation

You didn’t just hear it from me. A few words from a grateful ticket blitzer:

“Event is today. Wanted to extend all the gratitude in my heart to you. Your ticket blitzing idea was brilliant. I was unable to coordinate the timing of our team within your advised method, yet tripled the amount of pre-sale online tickets within 3 days. That, by the way, is a record for us. My little 100-person event has turned into an invaluable lesson for 500-person future events.” ~ Saved in SoCal

 

Roller Derby >

Burlesque PR: Attract Media in 5 Easy Steps

Burlesque-Media-TipsFirst-time burlesque event coordinator? Or maybe you already sell out shows and want to nab the attention of a few media outlets. Media builds fans and boosts revenue. Here are five steps to attracting it:

1. Identify 5 Target Media Outlets

Ask your fans what media outlet they read or watch regularly. The answer is more and more likely to be a blog, a newsletter, a social media outlet, or other non-traditional media. This is good news, as it may be easier to get your story included in non-traditional media.

Tally responses. Then take out media outlets that do not influence your local market because it’s unlikely anyone but locals will buy tickets to your event. The top 5 on this list are your targets.

2. Identify Your Objective Value Propositions

To find your unique value proposition, ask yourself two questions:

What is it about your show that makes new ticket buyers want to spend their hard-earned dollars?

What makes your event worth the price? Ticket at any price, but the higher the price, the more you will need to justify value.

The answers to these questions are what will attract press to cover your event and ticket buyers to your show. Add your unique value propositions to the event title, description and headline of your press release.

Now it’s time to brainstorm, research and highlight your event’s objective (not subjective) superlatives. Journalists rely on facts, not opinions, so your event superlatives must be provable.

Find Your Superlatives

Award-winning performers (specify award and date received)

Largest or only event by any measure? Any metric can be used to make the superlative accurate, but you have to be able to back up your claim in one sentence. (Biggest burlesque festival in _____.)

The event had either more performers, more performances, or more square footage than any other burlesque event in ____.

First burlesque festival in ___ .  Because no one had ever done ____ before.

The press won’t be able to use the following superlatives because they aren’t provable by objective measures:

Wildest
Most fun
Greatest
_____ -est of its kind

3. Localize to the Largest Community Possible

Localize your event to create an attractive angle for the press to cover. Readers and viewers have more interest in what happens to people and places they know.

Add a location name to the title of your event and choose the largest community possible (i.e., the Florida Burlesque Festival would attract more news value than the Ft. Lauderdale Burlesque Festival).

However, if the smaller place of localization generates greater interest, use that. For instance, a Hollywood burlesque festival could sell more than a Los Angeles burlesque festival because of Hollywood’s caché.

How to do it

Get the hometown, neighborhood and professional high-resolution headshot for every performer in the event, and write an email to the appropriate reporter at his/her neighborhood blog (if it’s in your possible attendee coverage area) to alert them about the “hometown girl/boy done good story” with your event as the hook.

BPT_Icons_Bull_Horn4. Make Your Pitch Picture Perfect

Media outlets need good visuals to get clicks, likes and shares. Burlesque has an advantage: sequins, feathers and starlets make stunning visuals. Keep in mind that media outlets won’t normally publish a photo or video unless it’s G-rated.

How to do it

Amp the glamour, tone down the flesh. Invest in professional headshots and at least one full body and one performance photo, with high resolution.

If you are producing a show with other performers, ask them for headshots as soon as you book them for your show. You don’t want to lose a story because you don’t have photography ready.

Make sure your videos are G-rated. Also, television stations aren’t likely to use promotional videos with music, graphics, credits or logos embedded over the video. Hire a videographer to get natural sound, close-up footage and then edit out the more risqué parts to maximize your media coverage.

5. Submit Free Calendar Listings

You have a great localized value proposition. You have an enticing event description and pitch subject line. You included at least one dazzling visual. Time to get the word out.

Calendar listings are the low-hanging fruit of the publicity world. They are easy to get and almost always generate ticket sales (as long as you have successfully done steps 1-4).

Submitting a free calendar listing for your event is simple. Newsletter, blog or The New York Times, every one has an event listing. And you can be part of it if you complete the first four steps and closely follow event submission instructions.

How to do it

Take your new top 5 list. Go to the online events section for every special interest group, blog or media outlet. Search for “how to submit an event” and follow the directions. If you can’t find it, send the press contact a short email that describes your event. Ask the publication if they would write about it or include it in the topics they share with their community.

Poof. You just got press attention in every single one of your top 5 media targets.

Yes, it is that simple. And guess what? Editorial teams look at calendar listings when assigning stories. Therefore, this effort increases the likelihood of an additional story. There are many ways to amp the press for your event. But these basics ensure that the press you get goes further to help you achieve your goals and reach new levels of success.

Photo credit: “The Secret Taboo” Elena Gatti

Arts >

The Pronto Podcast — Brown Paper Tickets’ Event Guide for Seattle

BPT_buttonWelcome to The Pronto! Brown Paper Ticket’s event guide for Seattle.

Tune in every Tuesday to check out a few of our favorite events in the Emerald City! You can check back to the blog every Tuesday at 10am or hit “subscribe” on the player and get each week’s Pronto delivered right to your computer.

Have a friend that’s visiting Seattle this week? Why not share this podcast with them and give them ideas of something to do? 

This week’s podcast features burlesque calendar girls, Thai food recipes and marketing tips for indie authors. 

Tonight, Tuesday, January 7, it’s time for Self Defense 101 for Women at University Heights Community Center or Phinney Neighborhood Center. In this six week class you’ll learn everything you need to know to stay safe and defend yourself.

If this is the year you’re going to publish your book, you definitely want to make an appearance at Sell Your eBooks and Drive Reviews at the UW Center for Urban Horticulture also tonight, Tuesday, January 7. Listen to best selling author Ingrid Ricks share everything she knows about being a successful indie author.
Read More…

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