School branding for athletic programs: Make your school brand a winner!

by | Dec 1, 2022

How branding attracts sponsors for school athletic programs

It’s easy to cheer for winners. This idea applies to individual athletes, professional teams, or your school’s athletic program. So, the stronger your program looks, the more talented players, enthusiastic parents, and generous sponsors it will attract. More followers lead to more funding, more funding leads to better marketing, and better marketing brings in more followers. It’s a truly symbiotic relationship. So, let’s explore how school branding supports this dynamic and how building a strong brand makes you look like a winner!

What is branding and why do school athletic programs need it?

Branding is the foundation for all marketing. It is the process of creating a distinct identity for your school’s athletic program and using it to attract sponsors, parents, and student athletes.

Branding is made up of many parts. Some parts are clearly visible like your logos, photos, and visual design, while others are more subtle such as your beliefs, mission, and vision. Together, these parts create an experience. Great branding creates positive experiences, and positive experiences build a reputable brand. And if it isn’t obvious already, successful school athletic programs make powerful use of branding.

Four reasons why a private school needs branding

  1. Branding leads to program recognition, strong school spirit, an inspiring vision, and a clarity of message.
    With a strong brand,sponsors will know they can trust your program. Branding is also a promise that your school’s athletic program is invested in being a winner.
  2. Branding attracts sponsors and helps them feel good about their choice of sponsorship.
    Sponsors have limited budgets, so they naturally want to support winners. A reputable looking brand is a natural incentive for sponsors to champion your school’s athletic program.
  3. Branding attracts great staff, active parents, and student talent.
    Everyone wants to belong to a winning school, and great branding influences perception. 
  4. Branding is the tide that lifts all boats.
    A strong brand not only helps the athletic program but the entire school. It also lifts a sponsor’s brand by association. It’s a win-win!

Why do companies sponsor school athletic programs? 

There are a number of reasons why local and national businesses sponsor schools. Some of them are connected directly to profits while others serve an image or reputation.

Four reasons companies sponsor school athletic programs

  1. A school brand builds their own brand.
    Sponsors want to bet on winners, and when they have, they look like a winner, too.
  2. It shows support for their local community.
    Sponsors often need grassroots outreach and sponsoring a private school’s athletic programs serves this need.
  3. It gives sponsors a new audience for marketing.
    Your school has a defined demographic. Sponsors know this, and your program can offer an additional marketing channel for them.
  4. It humanizes their brand and demonstrates goodwill.
    Sponsorship of a school’s athletic program can help keep a sponsor’s name relevant and their reputation positive.

How do I build a strong school brand?

Start at the beginning. As a school, define who you are and what you stand for and your Ideal Buyer Persona. For a school, that is the ideal family that will value what you value. If you’re only in charge of the athletic program, look for the kind of sponsors you’d like to attract. Identify who they are, what they’re looking for, and how your program can offer what they want.

Ten steps to building a school brand:

  1. Find clarity
  2. Be authentic
  3. Define your core values
  4. Play to your strengths
  5. Differentiate yourself
  6. Align the interior with the exterior
  7. Create a distinct visual language
  8. Be consistent with your company voice
  9. Establish your brand standards guide
  10. Be seen and heard

If you would like to dig deeper into each of these steps, consider reading this blog: 10 steps to building a powerful small business brand.

How do I build a sponsor target list?

  • Start with businesses who have a direct connection to your school.
    Consider friends and family of your staff or students, who they work for, and what businesses they may own.
  • Move onto locally owned businesses.
    They will know you and may want to support you as a fellow member of the community.
  • Take a look at businesses you, your school staff, or your student body frequent.
    These businesses already receive a huge benefit from your school community in the form of customers. You are giving them an opportunity to show their appreciation and a way to create more sales opportunity.
  • Next, consider businesses who offer services or products you need or could use.
    This might be print shops, sports equipment retailers, athletic clothing companies, etc.
  • Approach businesses who are known to sponsor programs.
    These could be local car dealerships, banks, hospitals and restaurants. Businesses with a supporting spirit are more likely to be receptive. 
  • Remember to expand your reach as your program or school grows.
    You may not be ready for a national sponsor today, but that may not be the case one day down the road! And remember many big brands want to be seen as giving back. For them, the value of a sponsorship is the PR story they can tell about it.

By the way, when you create this list, don’t try to qualify any individual business. Meaning, don’t worry if you know a business already donates to another school or if the owner is known to be stingy with their money. Remember, you have your own valuable, attractive offer. And a business you almost crossed off the list may surprise you with how much they want to support you.

Types of sponsorships available to school athletic programs

Sponsorships come in many forms. Some businesses may want to write you a check, while others may want to offer you products or services such as t-shirts, food, or access to their venues. Some may want to sponsor athletic equipment, others money for a school trip. Keep an open mind. Just because a business doesn’t necessarily fit neatly into a sponsorship package you have planned doesn’t mean they can’t sponsor your athletic program in other ways.

Common forms of sponsorships for athletic programs:

  • In-kind services
  • Financial support
  • Products and equipment
  • Partnerships for mutual name recognition
  • Travel expense coverage
  • Cash for marketing space in your school’s print materials or on your campus

These are just a few forms. Get creative and expect businesses to be creative as well. They need exposure, and your school and athletic program can offer lots of opportunities for everyone to win. Lastly, remember to grow your requests as your program and brand grows. Your program is a product which gains value as your brand grows in strength.

What do I need to build a strong school brand?

When it comes to building a strong school brand, there’s a set of branding and marketing materials you’ll need from day one. Here’s a list of school branding materials and marketing tools:

  • Brand positioning strategy
  • Logo(s)
  • Mascot
  • Photography
  • Video
  • Website
  • Email template(s)
  • Sponsorship Kit
  • Brand ambassadors
  • Social media channels
  • Marketing plan
  • Brand standards guide

This last bullet point merits a bit of explanation. A School Brand Standards Guide is a set of rules that guides how to make use of the brand assets you’ve created. For example, how small can your logo be in print materials? In what color or colors can your logo be used? What are the approved school fonts? What kind of photos are allowed on the school’s website? There are a number of rules you need to define and document to be consistent with your brand.

Final words on branding your school’s athletic program.

To bring it all together, private schools and sponsors need each other, and they both gain to benefit from the relationship. Focus on creating a solid brand for your private school and athletic program. School branding needs ambitious thinkers who understand that sponsors want to get behind champions. And a strong brand makes you look like a winner!

Ready to attract sponsors with a strong school brand?

Let’s talk! Schedule a free 30-minute call with us. We can answer your questions and share ideas. Let us help you create a win-win for your school and its sponsors!

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Daisho Creative Strategies is headquartered in Miami, Florida and focuses its work on branding, website design, and website management. Over the last few decades, we’ve worked with many schools, including Westminster Christian School, Gulliver Schools, St. Stephen’s Day School, Florida Christian, Rainbow Christian, and the University of Miami.