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Building winning Web sites for sport organizations

This is an excerpt from Sport Marketing, Third Edition, by Bernard J. Mullin, Stephen Hardy, and William A. Sutton.

Every sport organization should have a presence on the Web. Here are some ideas to keep in mind as you develop your organization’s Web site:

  • Content is king. Don’t let the technology divert your attention from the basic fact: Visitors will return to your Web site only if you provide information, activities, and services that meet their needs. Glitzy animation, dynamic effects, and the latest streaming audio and video are wonderful-and incorporate as much as you can in your site-but remember that your Web site should be a marketing and public relations tool that cultivates your fan base and introduces your sport product to new consumers.
  • Promote, promote, promote! Even the best Web site won’t help you if no one knows it’s there, and with billions of Web sites out there, the odds of surfers stumbling across yours by chance are slim. When you launch your site, publicize the uniform resource locator (URL) widely. Make sure your Web address appears prominently in your media releases, advertisements, publications, letterhead, tickets, and posters. See if you can include your site as a recommended link on related sites.
  • Make it interactive. The Internet is a two-way medium, so take advantage of the technology! Get the visitors to your Web site involved and collect contact and demographic information you can use to market your projects. Standard software allows you to keep track of visitors to your site, but you’ll have to be creative to gather the personalized information you need. Many surfers are reluctant to register for a site or sign up for newsletters, but you can harvest much of the same data by creating a trivia contest or sweepstake giveaways for event tickets, game-used memorabilia, or similar keepsakes. Be sure to include e-mail contact forms on the site so visitors can write to the organization, comment on last night’s game, or send fan mail to their favorite players.
  • Use quick-hitting eye and ear appeal. Web surfers are impatient. If your home page doesn’t grab their attention, they’ll move on. If they can’t find the information they’re looking for right away, they’ll look to someone else’s site. Strive for a clean, colorful home page featuring eye-catching images. Put that award-winning action shot or the portrait of the star player up front. As broadband penetration grows, streaming video will become a standard Web site feature. Even a homegrown Web site can include downloadable digital video files offering a glimpse of the athletic facilities or a greeting from the coach. Make sure your visitors can move around the site easily. Include clear and easily understood icons and a navigation bar on each screen to allow browsers to access information. Arrange the navigation tools to guide visitors to where you want them to go.
  • Keep it current. The Internet means instant information, so don’t let your site get old! By all means, include game-by-game results, updated standings, and news of upcoming events on your site, but make sure the information is refreshed quickly and accurately, so when fans log on to find out what happened in yesterday’s contest, they’ll get the results. If your organization doesn’t have the personnel to keep its site up-to-date on a daily basis, it’s better to include background information that won’t turn into yesterday’s news.
  • Don’t get lost in the links. Be careful not to lose surfers in a maze of pages. Every screen on your site should have a clearly marked Home Page button to get visitors back to the beginning. Avoid links to your conference Web site, other teams in the league, and the like, that take your visitor to another site with no way to return to yours. Make sure those links open in a new window. Try to avoid internal links that take visitors several levels past your home page. When in doubt, keep it simple.
  • Remember, not everyone is state of the art. Avoid pages that take too long to load or require special software downloads to function properly. High-speed broadband Internet access reached about one third of U.S. homes in 2006 and is becoming the standard for computers at workplaces and schools, but it isn’t universal. Test your site on an older computer linked to the Internet by the local telephone company and see how it looks. Make sure visitors who don’t yet have broadband can access the information they’re looking for. Surfers want information now and won’t wait patiently if it takes several minutes for your home page to appear.
  • Don’t be afraid to borrow ideas. Keep your Web site current by visiting the busiest Internet sites and see what they’re up to. How does your site stack up? Is it looking a little dated when compared to the industry leaders? Are there design elements, layouts, or other features that might improve your site? Even if your local soccer team isn’t ready to take on the pros, there’s no reason the team’s Web site can’t look professional. There’s an old saying in the broadcasting business: An exciting new idea is something that’s worked successfully in 25 other markets.

Computer technology and the Internet offer sport managers an unparalleled opportunity to identify, build, and communicate with their audience. Print, radio, and television are one-way media that talk to the audience. The Internet is a two-way communication medium that allows you to talk to the audience and the audience to talk back. A well-designed Web site can be used to market future events and target products to fans with a demonstrated interest in the team or event.



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