Marketing remains one of the enduring components of organizational development. No organization, profit or non-profit, is spared from competition for resources. This makes the application of marketing concepts and methods invaluable to each of them.
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This situation makes it imperative for Red Deer Rebels Hockey Club to develop a marketing plan that takes advantage of the technological opportunities that currently exist because marketing is evolutionary in nature (Ferrell & Hartline, 2008). Potential fans and sponsors live in a radically different world compared to a decade ago. Many things have changed to the extent that traditional marketing methods alone cannot guarantee favorable responses from target audiences.
E-marketing relates to the use of modern technologies and media available in the digital age to attract and retain potential fans and sponsors for the purpose of generating profit (Levinson, Levinson, & Levinson, 2007). This report examines the e-marketing strategies available to Red Deer Rebels Hockey Club and the best ways to apply them in order to grow its fan base and to attract potential sponsors.
Overview of Club and its Website
Red Deer, Alberta is the hometown of the Red Deer Rebels Hockey Club. The club plays in the Western Hockey League (WHL) in the junior ice hockey category. As part of its e-marketing strategy, it runs a website whose address is www.reddeerrebels.com.
The website has a number of interactive features. It has a very active theme reminiscent of the high adrenaline sport that ice hockey is. It provides background information of the team, its players, standings, Red Deer Club Rebels Hockey Club news, and other league news. It also has links for fans. It includes a number of social media widgets, with Twitter and Facebook being the most prominent ones.
The Red Deer Rebels Hockey Club is one of the many clubs that play in the various hockey leagues in Canada. These leagues form a special a part of the Canadian sports fraternity. The three major hockey leagues in Canada are the Western Hockey League, the Ontario Hockey League and the Quebec Major Junior Hockey league. These leagues form the Canadian Hockey Association, which is an umbrella organization for Hockey in Canada.
There are up to sixty hockey teams that form part of the Canadian Hockey Association. The Rebels are not having a very good season this year. In the most recent game they played on 13 April against Tigers, they managed to win the match by a slim margin to secure their position in the playoffs and in the process literally “avoiding elimination” (TheHockeyNews, 2011). The Red Deer Rebels Hockey Club remains popular with many Hockey fans.
It is desirable to undertake a SWOT analysis to determine the strategic position of the Red Deer Rebels Hockey Club.
|SWOT Analysis Table|
The above SWOT analysis brings to the fore the key concerns that the club needs to address. It also brings forward the things the club has in its favor. Through the SWOT analysis, we have identified the key areas that the club needs to work on to take advantage of the opportunities it has.
E-Marketing Strategic Planning
Introduction to E-marketing Concept
There are new opportunities for marketing made possible by recent technological advances. Marketing itself remains unchanged and will remain as a business and organizational need for as long as there is competition for resources and profits. The Red Deer Rebels Hockey Club has a lot to benefit from using digital methods in its marketing efforts. These digital marketing methods, otherwise known as e-marketing employ digital media, available only since the early nineties, to reach potential clientele. The methods employed include the use of electronic mail, social media, mobile telephony and other internet based platforms. E-marketing does not alter the basic approaches to marketing, but uses new methods to apply them. It retains the four P’s of marketing and relies on many of the basic disciplines that traditional marketing relied on such as psychology, sociology, and economics (Ferrell & Hartline, 2008).
E-Marketing Verses Traditional Marketing
Traditional marketing employed media such as catalogues, television, radio, newspapers, posters, and pamphlets, among others. In the digital age, new digital media replace or complement the traditional media to reach markets better.
The key advantages that digital media offers include a wide audience, immediacy, low cost and ease of feedback collection. Digital media reaches a wide audience compared to traditional media because of the elevated degree of interconnectivity people have in the current world. The Red Deer Rebels Hockey Club will benefit from this any effort to reach new fans.
The next advantage is that of immediacy. The material arrives instantly. This is the case with email and text messages on mobile phones. It makes the coordination of messages sent easy to manage. The third advantage is the relative low cost in using digital media compared to traditional media. The cost does not increase with copies of the message sent. In fact, the cost determination hinges on factors such as design costs and time. Sending material vial digital media reduces the cost per message sent.
The fourth advantage of digital media is that there are multiple ways of collecting feedback from the target market and that they allow for interaction. This quality is invaluable when developing a fan base because the potential fans can begin to feel like they are part of the community long before they attend any match. It is also useful for driving up sales of merchandise.
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In many organizational endeavors, strategic planning has been a very useful exercise. These plans provide long-term direction based on a current market forces. Consideration of longer-term prospects” spells out, “the need to strengthen existing markets” (Aston & Williams, 1996). Strategic plans provide organizational stability and help to direct the efforts of the organization. The elements required for strategic planning include the SWOT analysis conducted above.
In addition, it requires the identification of stakeholders and their influence to the organization. Some strategic plans include risks analysis. The risk analysis seeks to find out which things could go wrong with the operations of the organization and how severe the impact of this deviation could be. These influences shape the buying choices of consumers (Sutherland & Sylvester, 2009).
Application of Strategic Planning to E-Marketing
As an organization, the club’s best posture in as far as e-marketing is concerned, is the use of a strategic approach. This will entail examining trends and determining which forces drive the operations of the club.
After this analysis, the club will be able to define the key priority areas it has in order to determine the actions to take to achieve its marketing objectives. In the competitive environment that Red Deer Rebels Hockey Club operates in, it is important to approach marketing issues in a strategic way to ensure the club has a fat chance of survival in a long term.
Through the SWOT analysis above, it is now clear which forces drive the existence of the club. It shows areas of potential growth and those, which may result in catastrophe if not addressed.
There remain other components for strategic planning like risk management, which will add to the information pool available in the process of developing an e-marketing strategic plan. In the context of e-marketing, unique challenges exist because of the lack of clarity as to which forms of media will be available in a few years time. Social media was only nascent three years ago, but today it is a major marketing force.
Current Marketing Strategy
In order to identify the specific objectives that an e-marketing effort by the Red Deer Rebels Hockey Club should espouse, there is need to first take a look at the current effort. The club has an online presence through its website. The design of the website takes on a very active theme featuring the colors of the club. The website is loaded with multiple media. These include a number of commercial and informational elements.
The commercial elements include links and phone numbers for buying tickets. It also has a tab on “business operations”, which lists the Clubs management team. Under the “fan zone’ tab, there’s a link to donations. These elements show that the club does not shy from taking full advantage of its web presence to get ahead financially. In fact, it has one senior official in charge of marketing services. Its informational elements include game schedules, team standings, statistics, and a photo gallery.
Multimedia contents include video clips and a link to radio broadcast. From the design of the website, we can deduce a complex strategy at play. The Red Deer Rebels Hockey Club has developed a website that meets most of the needs of any hockey fan. It ensures that it meets as many of their needs as possible to connect with the game and not just the team.
It provides for advance booking via game tickets and season tickets. It carefully includes a solid looking management team that provides the kind of assurance to any sponsor that needs to see signs of robust management.
Statement of Objectives
Based on the above, the two marketing objectives that the Club can use to improve its position are as follows.
Increasing the fan base by 100 percent over the next five years of the Red Deer Rebels Hockey Club by attracting new hockey fans to the team
Diehard hockey fans that support rival teams are difficult to win over. Targeting them in a marketing campaign is a long-term effort. However, in the next five years we can rely on increasing our fan base by 100%, through an increment of twenty percent per season based on current fan numbers. The club can reach non-Canadian potential fans trough online radio and TV. It also can reach Canadians abroad who need to reconnect with the country. This distinction takes into account that it is impossible to target everyone (Trotman Publishing, 2001).
Increasing the number of companies that seek marketing opportunities by association with the Red Deer Rebels Hockey Club to increase advertising income by 30% annually
The publicity that games involving the Red Deer Rebels Hockey Club generate is the kind that all advertisers crave. The club has already developed multiple ways to attract different kinds of sponsors to utilize this publicity to market themselves. These methods are on the Marketing page of the website.
The methods include both video and print media. The club sells slots based on different products based on the video scoreboard, which includes exposure during replays, pregame warm-up, and post game slots, among others. The print media include pocket schedules, season ticket backs, and magazine slots. The challenge under this objective includes expanding the number of sponsors who will buy slots to feature in one or more of these media outlets.
Major Strategic Elements
Based on the objectives identified above, the strategy that Red Deer Rebels Hockey Club will employ will include initiatives to increase the fan base and to attract more sponsors.
The starting point is to recognizing that the e-presence made possible by the dynamic website is a big step in this direction. What the club requires now is to drive traffic to its website. From it, based on any interest at all in hockey, these two objectives will be on course. In specific terms, to reach fans, the website needs to feature prominently in various media that potential fans interact.
One of the ways of getting their attention is by using social media. The age bracket that forms the core fan base for the sport happens to be the same one that heavily utilizes social media. The club needs to encourage its current fans to invite their friends to the Red Deer Rebels fan page on Facebook, and to follow the Red Deer Rebels on Twitter.
Other methods would be to encourage existing fans to come with their friends to watch the matches. This way the retention of the fans after their initial contact with the club and its activities will provide a solid growth of at least twenty percent every year, based on the current number of fans.
To get access to Canadians in the Diaspora, the club will set up an online Diaspora fan base through addition of Diaspora targeted pages to the website. To ensure that they remain loyal, there will be need to recognize them in various communications and to involve them in some of the activities of the club. Essentially, they will view matches or listen to matches online. It is necessary to use the current fan base to reach the potential fans outside of Canada.
Again, the social media will play a very useful role here. The important thing will be retention of these fans once roped in. This will call for periodic review to ensure that specific strategies are relevant and effective. The larger the fan base, the more attractive the club becomes to sponsors.
To reach sponsors, the club will employ a two-pronged strategy. It will have a passive approach and an active approach. The active approach will use some of the older methods that generally apply when sourcing for corporate sponsors. Many competitors seek out corporate sponsors actively.
Sitting back and hoping that corporate sponsors will come by themselves is risky. This will require the club to use sales executives to identify desirable corporate sponsors and carry out business presentation to compete for business. The target companies are those that have products or services used by the age group that attends hockey matches.
The passive strategy will seek to attract the sponsors to the club. One way is to ensure that the club’s performance remains attractive so that by association with the club, a sponsor may appear attractive too. All companies like to associate with winners, so it means that an aggressive business strategy with active marketing does not negate the need for the club to perform well.
Through these methods, the club should be able to attain its marketing targets by increasing both its fan base and getting sponsors. It is a fact of sports that the better the financial stability of the club, the better the quality of the game. Players can concentrate on their skill because they do not have to moonlight in order to meet their needs. When a club is financially stable, everyone wins. The fans get the entertainment they desire, the sponsors get the exposure they desire, and players get to do what they like most.
The success of any project depends on the quality of the implementation process. The proposed strategy will require careful implementation to guarantee results. There are three key plans that will ensure the effective implementation of the strategy. The organizational plan deals with how to organize the implementation team. The project plans will identify the specific issues that the club should implement, while the contingency plan will deal with the management of risks.
Based on the organizational chart that currently exists for the club, the responsibility of implementation strategy for this plan will lie with the Vice President of Business Development, Greg McConkey. The active strategy group will include four sales executives to map out and meet business executives who may be interested in sponsoring the club. They will seek to create interest in the club’s website to ensure that that the critical contact required takes place. This will make the e-marketing strategy useful.
There will be need to get at least one web-designer to be part of the team to take care of all the IT related components of the strategy. The passive elements of the strategy lie with the team manager who must ensure the team produces the best results possible. In fact, every member of the Red Deer Rebels Hockey Club management team will be involved because of the overlapping responsibilities that it has in this regard.
Marketing requires multidisciplinary teams (Nash, 2000). For instance, the Director, Marketing Services, and Events will continue with his work concurrently with the implementation of the e-marketing plan. These activities will contribute towards the brand identity, which is not a preserve of the marketing department (Randall, 2000).
The e-marketing strategy will have the following project areas based on the two main objectives identified.
Increasing the fan base by 100 percent over the next five years of the Red Deer Rebels Hockey Club by attracting new hockey fans to the team
The specific project areas under this objective will include
- Using social media to attract new fans within Canada Achievement will be by encouraging the current fans to invite their friends to the Red Deer Rebels Hockey Club Facebook fan-page.
One of the options for implementing this strategy is to develop an app that tracks how many people someone has successfully invited to the Red Deer Rebels, and giving a reward to the person with the highest invites per season. This may be in the form of subsidized or a complementary tickets.
- Use current fans to invite non- hockey fans to matches
This strategy will make it possible to attract new fans to hockey. The assumption is that it is easier to get a fresh hockey fan from a non-fan than to win a fan over from another team. This approach not only makes it easier to meet the strategy targets, it also increases the overall popularity of the game in the country. To implement this, one of the strategies would be to issue complimentary tickets. This will force recipients to find people to bring hence the chance that they will be new people. The other option will be to give bargains for bulk purchases. This ways also ensures that someone must come for each ticket issued. The result will be new fans added to the Red Deer Rebels fan base
- Use current fans to reach out to new fans based outside Canada
- Encourage the current fans to invite their friends to the Red Deer Rebels Hockey Club Facebook fan page.
Since these people are interested in finding a way to remain connected to Canada, the Hockey fan page will provide them with a means of maintaining this connection
- Create more contact point for the Diaspora with the club facilitated by the clubs website. This method will work by establishing a special page in the website that can lead them into other issues of interest within Canada. If they find the website to be a useful resource for them, then they will remain connected with the club, earning it goodwill.
Increasing the number of companies that seeks marketing opportunities by association with the Red Deer Rebels Hockey Club to increase advertising income by 30% annually
Recruit four sales executives to find business for the club
The basic requirement for success of the e-marketing campaign relies on the contact between the executives and the e-marketing efforts. Through the experience, they will decide favorably to sponsor the club (Holt, 2004). It will be necessary to use sales executives to contact the advertising departments of corporate to bring to their attention the opportunities available for advertising in the Hockey leagues via the Red Deer Rebels Club.
Ensure the clubs performance is top form
The passion expressed by hockey fans is potent. Corporate organizations and other advertisers will notice the masses taking interest in hockey. By performing well, the Red Deer rebels will attract attention and in the process, it will attract sponsors.
A number of things may go wrong with the proposed strategy. The table below looks at some of the serious ones, and possible remedial action.
|Fans do not incite friends to Facebook fan page||Develop new strategies to reach the new desired fans directly by a more targeted means. this may involve using email services or sms services, or specially designed adverts in the social media platforms|
|Fans do not invite Diaspora to fan page||Seek to reach Diaspora by alternative means. This can be through international advertisements on international services websites.|
|Sponsors do not respond to efforts by sales executive||Try other means to reach sponsors. This may include sending complementary VIP tickets to executives to give them a feeling of the opportunities they will have at their disposal if they sponsor the Red Deer Rebels Hockey Clubs|
|Sponsors do not find sponsoring hockey attractive||It means that there was a hitch in the process of identifying potential sponsors. It will necessitate the re-identification of sponsors. Not all sponsors will find Hockey as an ideal advertising place.|
|Teams performance plummets||This would be devastating. It will mean that the technical bench will require replacement.|
The application of finances on a strategy is a delicate process. It requires careful analysis of the key costs. The success of a project does not rely on money spent on it as it does its careful use to meet the objectives.
|Item||Cost in Dollars P.A.|
|Web design and maintenance||2000|
|Social media management (web hosting, administration functions)||5000|
|Salaries for new employees (4 sales executives and 1 IT specialist)||500,000|
The proposed marketing strategy will cost a total of 557,000 dollars in the first year. Since it relies heavily on social media and the existing fan-base, the Red Deer Rebels will not carry much of the cost. The fans will use their personals resources to invite new fans with the aim of getting the rewards set at the end of the season. The most significant cost will be money spent on salaries. It will take five new persons working under the Vice President to service fully this strategy.
Project Evaluation Tools
It will be necessary to evaluate the success of the project. This will entail the use of various measures to determine the degree of success the e-marketing project achieves.
For the first objective, the tools that will be available for this particular strategy will include the Facebook fan-page growth statistics, ticket sales, website visit statistics, and new Twitter following patterns. The measurement of the success of the second objective will involve documentation of how many new sponsors come to the club after the launching of the e-marketing strategy.
Application of Tools to Specific project Areas
The number of fans that join the Facebook fan page over and above the normal rate of growth will provide the means of measuring the rate of success of the strategy. The other statistics will also show whether the project is resulting in growth of fan numbers or otherwise.
There are some unique challenges to using e-marketing strategies to market services. Electronic media provides the user with a lot of control over what they view and what they do not view. This means that there is no absolute way of ensuring that a user will view and respond to a digital message.
Deleting the messages is also very easy that it is possible to spend a lot of time and money without realizing any meaningful results. However, ignoring e-marketing, is ignoring huge emerging markets. The development of this strategy took these issues in mind.
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