One of the administrative objectives of a USMS adult aquatic fitness program is to generate and support its own operating budget, which includes pool rentals, coaches’ salaries, and all other associated expenses. The program can defray some expenses by fundraising efforts and hosting local, regional, and national swimming events.
There are common traits of successful USMS clubs. They include a stable pool situation, good coaching leadership, a supportive volunteer base, a well-thought-out financial base, a program that attracts swimmers with a variety of aspirations, and a program that maintains a standard of excellence. What aspects of your program need more emphasis? Who can help turn around the lacking traits? Identifying the areas in a program needing improvement will help transition weaknesses into strengths.
A well-crafted financial base must take into consideration the pool rental, wages for lifeguards, coaches’ wages, and other expenses the program might have. Try to identify all aspects of the program that require revenue and then build the program fees from that foundation. When possible, barter for pool rentals and/or lifeguard coverage. This may give the program more visibility in the community and result in long-term expense savings for the team. Furthermore, based on the pool configuration, coaches should consider partnering with other aquatic groups—adult swim lessons, water polo, synchronized swimming, or diving—to lower pool rental costs.
Because there are different types of clubs, the exact manner of doing business will vary. Most of the USMS swim programs fall under one of the following categories:
- YMCA, JCC, or other membership-based centers
- Private health clubs
- Park and recreation facilities
- University campuses including college club teams
- School district facilities
- Age group club partnerships
- Retirement communities
- Wellness centers
The coach should make the program fun. As people “buy in” to what you have to offer, they may begin to integrate the swim program into their lifestyle. Offer them ownership. The coach should delegate aspects of the program to others who would like to contribute according to their talents and resources. Social events such as annual team banquets, barbecues, breakfasts, pizza nights, and birthday brunches create bonding opportunities for your swimmers and their families
Consider promoting team-building activities by participating in events such as swim meets, open water swims, the Fitness Series, and the ePostal National Championships. Depending on the size, shape, and length of your pool, you may be able to host these events locally. The Fitness Series and ePostals may be held during normal practice time.
Marketing your program is more than putting together a brochure or establishing a logo. Marketing your program is about communicating the benefits of the positive program atmosphere to current and new members, plus developing community supporters.
The primary goal of marketing is to let potential swimmers know why they would benefit from being in the program and to clearly describe the positive attributes of the program.
Remember, you may have competition from other sports or activities in the community. Therefore, the program should be promoted as unique and valuable. One way of determining this element is through contemplating how the current members feel about the program.
It is also important to identify the typical Masters participant. Arguably, the majority consists of non-competitive fitness swimmers, followed by competitive Masters swimmers and triathletes.
Once the program administrators have defined the team’s identity, what makes it unique, and who is most interested in the product, it’s time to begin creating marketing materials. No matter what communication media are used to market the program, the message should be based on the answers to the questions above.
Forms of Communication
Marketing does not happen once or twice a year; it happens throughout the year. What do the other coaches and members say about the program? This is important to marketing the attributes of your program.
Club Website and Newsletter
A club website is a useful tool to provide information about your program. Key components include the following:
- A brief description of what your program offers. An example might be, “We offer an aquatic fitness program for adults who choose to swim as a form of exercise to live a healthier lifestyle. We welcome adult swimmers with all ability levels to participate in our positive and uplifting environment helping you meet the needs of your swimming goals. We make swimming FUN!” Consider including the USMS promotional videos on your website to attract more swimmers and triathletes.
- Practice times and location.
- Program fees and registration instructions.
- Coach(es) biography.
- Calendar of events: fitness events, swim meets, clinics, and social and volunteer activities.
- News articles, pictures, and videos.
- Links to usms.org and your LMSC's website.
The newsletter disseminates club information. Newsletters may be produced and distributed electronically through email or a social media platform. It can be a tool for public relations and reaching potential new members. Content can include all aspects of your club, from pure news to personal interest articles, written by the coach, club officers, or swimmers. The varieties of ideas are endless: meet information and results, clinics, social announcements, club reports (meeting minutes and financial information), sample workouts, stroke drills and tips, favorite workouts, training techniques, and tips for beginning Masters swimmers. In addition, the newsletter should serve as a communication tool to celebrate the accomplishments of your program and the individuals in the program no matter how big or small the accomplishment may be. Individuals like being recognized verbally as well as in writing.
Today, more individuals are using social media to send and receive news and information than in the past. These user-generated interactive internet-based applications help facilitate the connection between individuals and/or groups. Social media platforms include Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, SnapChat, YouTube, and a multitude of others.
If you are well versed in the functionality of one or more of these platforms, add it as a communication and marketing vehicle for your program. If you don’t have the skill set to manage your program’s social media campaign, look to others in your program for help. It is likely someone would be interested in developing and maintaining, with your guidance and oversight, your program’s social media efforts.
Integrate your program’s social media with the USMS social media campaign on Facebook and Twitter.
Use your program’s social media activity to uplift and celebrate, never to grieve differences, complaints, or negative sentiments.
Partnering With Local Swim Clubs, Triathlon Clubs, Cycling Shops, and Running Stores
Many local swim and triathlon clubs and fitness retailers are trying to attract the same demographic as the members in your Masters program. Partnering with these multi-sport shops will not only be beneficial for you, but for the retailer. Start simple. Ask that your brochures, fliers, or stickers be placed near the shop’s register to be given as a gift to customers. In return, you will provide your members with the shop’s brochure, flier, or other promotional material. To build a stronger relationship, brainstorm with the shop’s management about various promotions that would be mutually beneficial for his or her shop and your program, such as a discount on purchases and event participation.
Of course, the best advertisers are those who are happily swimming in your workouts. Word of mouth and one-to-one marketing are still the best ways to promote your program. As your swimmers leave your pool deck each day with a heightened sense of accomplishment and a smile on their face, they are walking billboards for your program, advertising and promoting the benefits of your program throughout the community.
Other Marketing Tools and Forms of Advertising
Adult learn-to-swim programs and initiatives: By becoming a resource by saving lives and reducing the risk of adult drownings, you elevate your status and worth within your community. Community members will be more likely to become involved with your program as a swimmer, volunteer, or activist if they know your program provides more than an opportunity to win gold medals and championships. Saving a life and giving someone the opportunity to have a meaningful volunteer experience contributing to this worthy cause is a very powerful marketing campaign to recruit and retain members. Organizing volunteer opportunities for your members is an often overlooked benefit you can create for everyone.
Fundraising: Consider raising donations by sponsoring a fundraising activity with the members in your program. Support a local charity or the USMS Swimming Saves Lives Foundation, the charitable arm of USMS. SSLF awards grants to programs offering adult swim lessons.
Stroke Clinics: These can be used to show potential swimmers the value and benefit of having a coach on deck. USMS has developed a “How To” Clinic Course on delivering a USMS stroke development clinic. This course is available for USMS-certified Masters coaches and Adult Learn-to-Swim instructors. This course instructs the coach or instructor how to conceptualize, organize, and deliver a USMS stroke development clinic.
Additional Marketing and Advertising Methods
- Flyers and brochures at your pool, surrounding pools, and local retail merchants.
- Have a presence at local age group swim meets, triathlons, and community health fairs.
- Contact the health editor of your local newspaper or magazine. They may have an interest in publishing a human interest story related to your program.
- Consider speaking about the health benefits of swimming and the value your Masters program brings to the community at local service organizations’ meetings or events. These local service organizations may include the Kiwanis Club, Rotary Club, Lions Club, The American Legion, Masonic Temple, and Veterans of Foreign Wars. Another speaking opportunity may be at the faith-based organizations in your community.
USMS Marketing Resources
As a USMS-registered club, there are various promotional resources to aid in the advertising effort. Access and ordering information for these items can be found here and are very useful stepping stones for new and experienced clubs looking to promote their brand.
List your club or workout group in the Club Finder database on the USMS website. If you have a listing, make sure the information posted is current and accurate. Both new listings and existing listings are the responsibility of the clubs and workout groups to manage.
Order USMS-branded logo merchandise such as swim caps, bag tags, stickers, and brochures. Every registered club and workout group may receive a free USMS banner for display at your facility or at events. A free co-branded banner with your program’s logo may also be ordered.