How Argentina Time Applies to Roller Derby

Bob_Noxious_ArgentinaRollerDerbyLast month, I posted insights from my first week in Argentina’s derby community.

During my near 12 years in derby, I’ve documented, well … almost nothing of my whereabouts. Friend and New York Shock Exchange (NYSE) skater, Harm’s Way made me aware that I have “derbied” on four continents. Argentina felt different than other places I have traveled.

Roller derby may play by the same rules, but the experience is different. The subculture in Argentina is similar as that in the States, but more tightly knit and energy filled—reminiscent of the first five years in the U.S. That DIY spirit remains high. Argentina, as I expected, was electric.

I didn’t anticipate that Argentina’s social culture would parallel the derby subculture.

Family, Friends, Community

Argentinians are about family, friends, community and spending time to relax and enjoy each other. When sitting down to dinner, which is shared by all guests (you literally cut pieces of food and give them to the person next to you), who got stir crazy after two hours at the table? Yep, the U.S. crew. As friend Sin Diesel put it, “Fellas, you are now on Argentina time.” We talked, laughed and (Billy Joel reference) “forgot about life for a while.”

My greatest regret was not experiencing a neighborhood social club. Family, friends and neighbors gather to eat, enjoy the pool and relax at the clubs. They’re common in neighborhoods outside of the bustling city center. Many of the NYSE skaters had the experience and it sounded terrific. Of course, in 100-degree weather, a pool, cold drinks and good company always sounds terrific.

Argentinians aren’t joking when they invite you to stay at their homes. I was stunned to learn that the gentleman who put the SEVEN of us in his apartment wasn’t even a derby participant—his connection to the sport was a derby official in Buenos Aires. He opened his place in Cordoba to our motley crew of snoring, stinking-from-the-heat skaters and myself.

While in Cordoba, to express their appreciation for NYSE and support staff, they threw us a party. When invited to an Argentine dinner, eat a snack first. Chances are you will drink, share stories and laugh for three hours before the food comes out. Again, Argentina time. R-E-L-A-X. It’s hard for Americans, especially once we’re hangry. On a beautiful evening, our hosts worked magic over an open pit to make the best beef I have ever tasted.

Argentinians share everything. They don’t crack open a twelver and hand out bottles. They’re more likely to mix Fernet and Coke, the local favorite into a large container and pass it around. After a while, you drop the germ-phobic tendencies and realize the group shares all food and drink. It’s an amazing tradition. Oh how the conversation changes dynamics when the beer is passed around, in one large cup as you chat.

No Pressure. No Politics. A Fun Night of Good Derby.
A few days in Cordoba passed and it was back to Buenos Aires. Everything on the trip at this point was amazing. Yet, the best experience was still to come. I was invited to two “tournament games” at a schoolyard. Seriously, who would miss that? The entire local derby community turns out and in Buenos Aires, that’s a lot of people.

Every other Monday night in summer, the community comes together to play and watch games—a simple concept with overwhelming results. For five weeks, two weekly games are played: one women’s, one co-ed. The teams comprise a mix of players from all teams in the city. You have five weeks of play; it’s round robin and one team has a bi each week.

With a track painted on a school playground, it is simply understood by street soccer players they will relinquish the area to derby at 8PM. Between 200 and 300 of the derby family arrives, tables get set up where they are mixing and selling drinks and desserts. As skaters prepare, people socialize, a scoreboard with flip numbers is set up on a soccer goal and managed by two women. By the time it starts, we’re playing under school ground lights.

Games end, people linger for hours to talk, go to grab some food, return to the playground and hang out into the early hours of the morning. Think about how easy this would be to do. How it would bond the local derby community and provide exposure to onlookers. Not to mention, give an outlet for skating during off-season.

No pressure, no politics. Just a fun night of good derby.

Everyone can take something from this story. Argentine roller derby complements the passionate culture. It accentuates all that is good about our sport – the camaraderie, our grassroots, and the fun we could have without the formality of a full game production. So many forget to enjoy the moment and each other. “Argentina time” takes some getting used to, but is greatly missed once back to the hustle and formality of everyday life in America.

The New York Shock Exchange, along with many other derby leagues will be participating in coast-to-coast derby blood drives, along with the American Red Cross and Brown Paper Tickets. Check out the schedule of the Blood for Life derby blood drives.

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Derby Passion Runs High in Argentina

MensRollerDerby-Sqr-Argentina“Find passion and develop a lust for life with others who celebrate every day.”

No, this is not a personal ad; this sentence sums up my feelings on the Argentine roller derby scene. Argentina, a new hotbed for derby, is forging the movement in South America—the number of leagues is growing almost too quickly to track.

Traveling to South America excited me, but I also felt nervous. I am never nervous. I have spent weeks roving in countries where I don’t speak the official language. I have stood in front of 5,000 people with a microphone in my hand. But Argentina, land of tango and passion? This brash announcer dude would surely be out of his element.

Brown Paper Tickets sponsored the New York Shock Exchange, an American team playing in Buenos Aries and Córdoba tournaments. I traveled there to support, possibly announce and take photos. I took a derby leap of faith and found a room in Buenos Aires (population 14 million) believing my contacts, Optimuz Quad and NYSE would just find me.

Warm Welcome 

My Spanish was a bit rusty. Did I say rusty? I mean non-existent. I could count to eight and ask for a beer. Granted, “I’d like eight beers” has its uses, but requires seven buddies.

As I settled into the hotel, my phone buzzed with a Facebook alert: Optimuz was already checking in. I was unaware his team was hosting the tournament and did not know he was to be the tournament director. Our conversation went something like this:

“Still want to attend practice tonight?”
“I’m pretty beat, but I’m here so let’s do it.”

Three hours later, this staple in the Argentine derby movement was at my hotel. Optimuz is one of eight 2013 Team Argentina skaters who played in the Birmingham Men’s Roller Derby World Cup. A team that will resonate with men’s derby fans forever.

He greeted me with a hug (cool, I am a hugger), kissed me on the cheek (as is custom), and sincerely thanked me for making the trip. He had taken two hours of mass transit straight from work to familiarize me with the walk and subway ride. It didn’t matter how much was on his plate or how far he had to ride, as long as he took care of his guest. That epitomizes the Argentina experience.

It was the height of summer when I visited and hot. Not nice-vacation-let’s-tan hot, but my-clothes-are-stuck-to-me-and-I-stink hot. Thus, the city comes to life at night.

The ThunderQuads practice beneath an overpass, beginning at dusk. 2X4, one the numerous women’s leagues in Buenos Aries, practices from 10PM to midnight. The moon, stars and area walkways offered the only light sources. In the corners, teens with boomboxes practiced new breakdancing moves. A block north, boxers sparred. Runners filled a track about thirty feet west. Sidewalks clicked with the occasional skateboarder, while the overpass above hummed with cars and trucks. This was one of the most amazing, vibrant scenes I have ever witnessed in all of my derby travels.

Before ThunderQuads’ practice, everyone from both men’s and women’s teams introduced themselves and thanked me. As much as it meant to have NYSE attend their tournament and spread MRDA sanctioning into South America, they made it a point to also express gratitude to myself, refs and NSOs who traveled from other continents to assist.

HARD2016 Tournament

The HARD2016 tournament was crazy fun, even though economic limitations sadly prevented three Colombian teams from competing. Participating teams:

• New York Shock Exchange (USA)
• Hosting team Thunderquads (Argentina)
• Buenos Aires Conspiracy (Argentina)
• Congragolpe Roller Derby (Argentina)
• Terror S-quad (Chile)

Though a formal sport’s facility, the venue was another open-air location under an overpass. Teams began playing on two tracks, until a torrent of rain overcame the overpass drainage and flooded the facility (is anything easy in derby?). Teams played the second and final day on the other track, which was still dry.

The first day proven that the derby was quite good, but NYSE and the ThunderQuads were the cream of the crop. They would meet in the championship game and everyone was hyped for the match-up.

Seasoned announcers are used to varied environments. I called the 3v4 game and championship of the HARD Tournament with my new friend Yisus, an interpreter seated between us. That was awesome. It made for great (albeit delayed) banter. I worked the crowd’s excitement with the flow of the game and then looked to make Yisus and the crowd laugh. I was so out of my element, it was a blast and everyone seemed to be having fun.

Most Memorable Game

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The championship game was the most emotional and memorable in my 11 years as an announcer. The extraordinarily good home team competed against NYSE, who also had an outstanding record. The ThunderQuads played NYSE within a 30-point differential until the final ten minutes of the game.

Around 250 people sat virtually on top of the track and the outside ref lane needed to be cleared at times. The space was tight, making the audience part of the game. And it was loud. The crowd stood and shouted with each passing run. The adrenaline ran so high I had goosebumps and the call was pure excitement. When the game ended, I walked and paced for an hour afterward to come down. The scene was unbelievable. Players hugging in tears, exchanging uniforms (they even gave me one), photos went on for an hour, the crowd stayed until we moved to the after-party two hours later.

In general, derby is a passionate sport, but this was a whole new level. The players and crowd were so grateful for the Shock Exchange and support staff; they thanked us again and treated us like family the whole rest of the trip.

The after party gave us more time to talk, bond, and appreciate the people and experience that was the HARD2016 tournament.

Look out for another post on the growing Argentine derby community.

Photo credits: fb/johnnyderby21 and Len Rizzo

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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 

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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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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

 

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14 Best-Kept Roller Derby Recruiting Secrets

roller-derby-recruiting-steel hurtin' copyBrown Paper Tickets is proud to present our new roller derby blog series. Take a rink-side seat as we explore the business side of derby with Bob Noxious, a veteran of modern derby. Bob will share lessons learned, advice and tips to make your team or league even more fierce. Our resident “Derby Answer Man” has a BBA in business management and over a decade of experience announcing bouts. Read more about Bob Noxious.

Take it away, Bob.

Derby’s biggest recruiting issues

Today, I’ll dispel roller derby recruiting myths and provide improvement tips. And at the bottom of the page, you’ll find a four-minute video created by Brown Paper Tickets. Watch it and feel free to use it during your functions or share on social media.

Finding fresh meat is one of the most difficult tasks a roller derby league will face, especially in the beginning. Successful recruiting is a continuous, machine-like process. You probably already know the biggest contributor to recruiting breakdowns: letting it stop.

Don’t push the league so quickly

Roller Derby RecruitingBob, though we have a mix of both new and tenured skaters, we’re proud we took time to build our membership, train patiently, and design a method of continual recruitment to keep skater numbers where they need to be.”

Yeah, right. And I’m a 24-year-old Brad Pitt.

The problem:

1. Leagues push too quickly to play. Once they begin play, they lose focus on recruiting. It takes 30 skaters to sustain an inter-league team. You will start with 20 trained skaters. You roster 15, play a few bouts, skaters get hurt, quit, can’t travel and suddenly that 20 skaters becomes 10. You’ll skate 10 and that number quickly becomes seven or eight. Now you can’t skate without borrowing skaters from another league – and don’t do that or you’ll never fix the problem.

2. You push new skaters to play too soon. Under conditioned and under trained equals injury.

3. And as you face these issues, what recruiting is happening? After years of seeing this same problem, I’m guessing none.

Recruiting never stops

Remember, training new skaters doesn’t have a season.

4. Generally, the core group of original skaters will produce ones who can teach skating and conditioning all year.

5. Some leagues have a separate “new skater” practice night for training, which works well. There’s no competition for practice space and new team members tend to feel more comfortable around those with the same learning curve.

6. If these practice nights have skaters coming in and advancing to the tenured group with regularity, the class can go on all season. You shouldn’t waste time, energy, and potential space rental on training two people, but small leagues can maintain a group of 5 to 10 newbies.

My experience with skater trends

7. Derby doesn’t have a strong history with universities, as undergrad students rarely surface. I spent nearly six years in Madison, WI, one of the largest university towns in the Midwest (student population over 40,000) and can only recall one undergrad skater from the school.

8. The college students who join leagues are typically non-traditional students working on post-grad degrees or returning to school at a later age.

9. Reach beyond your immediate community. Skaters are willing to go the distance to play with a league. A 60- to 90-minute commute to practice is not unheard of.

Want to attract new team members? Hire a babysitter

10. It’s shocking how few leagues cater to athletes with kids. This deters many from starting or causes them to start and quit. Offer free babysitting during practice hours as a perk. Moms skate too. Well ok, not my mom.

For crying out loud, reach out and sell your sport.

11. Host a “Skate with the Skaters Night.” Roller derby leagues charge about a $5 entrance fee to skate with derby women or men over a 3-hour period. Anyone can attend, but it’s also a way to get league members talking to curious skaters about signing up.

12. Make appearances at town/city functions. A table at a local festival is cheap, if not free. You can recruit at these town functions and they give you more exposure to the community, which grows your audience. Wear your uniforms, including your skates. Do short, demo scrimmages in the parking lot or street and become part of the entertainment.

13. Prepare a kit and take the following to your recruiting events:

-League banner
Photo album from bouts, with your best shots. Try to include photos with fans and kids.
League schedule
Recruiting info for skaters, refs and volunteer positions
Advertising opportunities
Newsletter sign-up sheet
If there will be power, take some of your better bout footage to play on a small TV.

14. Be creative in your recruiting. Have themed recruiting events: bar party, rummage sales, restaurant tasting event or “Ask a Derby Skater” nights.

(Photo credit: Feed My Kids Productions)

 

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What Is Roller Derby Love? Watch and Learn

Blood, sweat, tears, joy, family. Roller derby hurts, but it also heals.

Brown Paper Tickets went behind the bouts to talk to 4 derby girls about the sport’s lasting impact. For young women like Uno Socko, the athletes are role models. “I didn’t really see many sports where it was just all women. I thought they were tough. I thought they were really cool. And I wanted to be like them.”

For Donna ‘The Hot Flash’ Kay, roller derby is a metaphor for life. “Roller derby is just like life. We go around in circles. We try to gain momentum. We fall. We assess the damage. We get back up. We look for the holes to jump through. And we look behind to help each other through the pack.”

Broken bones and bruises are real. But so is the love. Derby love. Watch below.

Roller Derby Video


Love our video? Comment below or share it with your league pals, friends and family. Want more derby? Check out our how to get more involved in roller derby.

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Men’s Roller Derby World Cup

mens-derbySkate over, ladies. Birmingham, England hosts the first Men’s Roller Derby World Cup. Starting Friday, March 14 (GMT time zone), 15 nations compete in the UK over 3 days for 1 cup. Brown Paper Tickets own roller derby community leader Bob Noxious will be announcing many of the bouts. Watch the teams compete via streaming web.

US men’s team is favored, but expect strong competition from the UK, Canada, Australia and European teams. Unknowns are Argentina and Japan. All players are amateurs who pay to skate and had to find resources to travel. Roller derby men play hard and rough. You will be amazed at the skill, blocking strategy and sheer speed involved. Cheer for your country just like during the Olympics.

Of the 1500 amateur roller derby leagues in the world, more than 100 are men’s, most in the US. Among the most famous are the New York Shock Exchange and Your Mom. This year, Iowa’s Your Mom was the Men’s Roller Derby Association champion, and 4 members are on the US World Cup squad, along with Shock Exchange and other US men’s leagues’ best players. Team World Cup 2014 schedule.

I know derby. My father invented it in 1935 and I operated the professional game in the US and Canada in the 1960s and early 1970s. At that time, teams consisted of 5 men and 5 women who competed against the same complement of other teams (men vs. men and women vs. women). Roller derby shut down in 1973, and re-emerged in its modern flat track form in 2003 as a women’s game. Men only recently reappeared in the sport.

Take friends or family to watch a bout in person. Find roller derby on Brown Paper Tickets – ticketing more leagues than any other company.

Brown Paper Tickets’ team of community doers aim to improve and support various industries (sports, music, arts, non-profits) around the world. Noxious was selected as head announcer for the 2014 Dallas-based Women’s World Cup, sponsored by Blood and Thunder Magazine. In addition to announcing the inaugural Men’s Roller Derby World Cup, he’s also involved in junior leagues and pro women’s leagues across the US.

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