What does the TV show Mad Men and scoreboards have in common? Advertising!


Scoreboards are pretty cool, aren’t they? They’re so big and flashy, plus they’re a vital part of any sort of sporting event. How else would everyone watching know what’s going on? There just seems to be one thing that always seems to stop people, the price. Scoreboards are time-consuming and technologically advanced pieces of equipment that do justify the price tag. That price tag, however, may not be so scary after all. Rather than thinking of a scoreboard as just a payment, think of it as an investment. Investments are calculated transactions that will generate a profit. Thanks to a few little concepts known as advertising and marketing, that brand new scoreboard just went from a payment to an investment, and that investment could be a money-making machine for years to come.


Are you a little lost? That’s alright, let me explain it a bit differently. Imagine a plane old race car. If you simply bought a race car and just used it to go from point A to point B, it’d be pretty expensive with the poor gas mileage, high insurance rates, specialty parts, and everything else. Now the second you take that race car and put it in front of interested people, all of a sudden there are companies paying you to put their name anywhere it’ll fit on your car. Sooner or later not only will you have broken even on the investment put into this race car, but now you have enough to pay for a team, car upgrades, and still have quite a bit leftover to stuff your own pockets. That’s how you should look at a scoreboard. 


If you go to any sporting event, pay attention to how many times you find yourself looking at the scoreboard. I’ll save you the effort, it’s quite a bit. Between checking the score, watching a replay, or even some flashy graphic catching your eye, people tend to look at the scoreboard quite often. That attention from viewers is exactly what every business is looking for, and they’re willing to pay for it too. Awareness is absolutely key for every business whether it be a small-town mom-and-pop shop or a multi-billion dollar corporation because they can’t sell anything if no one knows who they are. So all you have to do is create the opportunity for companies to put their name in front of a group. Sounds pretty easy, doesn’t it? Truth be told, if done right, it can be.


Before you get too ahead of yourself and start to call every business in a 100-mile radius, you need to make sure you have something to offer and a solid and well-thought-out advertisement plan. Start by making sure your team/program is something that a company will want to associate with. Odds are a business will try to avoid as many scandalous connections as possible to avoid any bad PR. This is especially true at the local level. There is a saying I like that goes like this, “bad gas travels fast”  especially in a small town. Take the time to create a program that businesses will want to be a part of. Not only does it make the partnership easier to sell initially, but it also helps a company want to stay partners long term. Now I’m not trying to say make a team that only cares about winning every game (although a winning record doesn’t hurt), I’m saying make sure the reputation of your program is positive both on and off the court. Any sporting organization should make sure their athletes are performing in ways other than athletic, education, and community impact. It instills the values of your program in the athletes and demonstrates to the community what standards you hold. It looks great for a business to support a well-oiled program, and they will feel good doing it too. 


After you have the shining example of what a program should look and act like, take the time to make sure your business process is one that makes things easy for both parties involved. Make sure all documents are correct for the transaction, have a plan for how you would like to present advertisements and make sure you are able to execute everything before it’s too late. It is much easier to talk to business and negotiate a deal if you are prepared unless you have flawless improv skills. Make sure you understand what you are offering to avoid any confusion, and make sure you stay organized.  


Once you have your internals all figured out, it’s time to start to talk to businesses. These types of partnerships and transactions can vary from case to case depending on the negotiations between a business and the advertiser. If done properly, a program can partner with an investor before a scoreboard is even purchased. Programs can offer certain incentives for investors to help either afford a scoreboard or even upgrade to an option that may have not been financially feasible without outside investors. Some examples of possible incentives for this situation could include having a logo permanently placed on the display, having advertising spots offered before other companies, or reduced rates for advertising. 


As for those who already have a display system, how you advertise depends on the type of board you have as well as your creativity. Videoboards tend to have the least limitations. They can display stand-still or animated graphics, full-blown commercials, text-based posts, and basically anything that can play on a computer. You can even have an option to have businesses sponsor events that would normally take place during an event anyway, things like replays or halftime events. Some programs will offer crowd interacting events like “dance-offs” or “kiss cams” to be available to investors. There are boards, however, that have limitations as to what can be displayed. Boards that can only display numbers and letters usually need a bit of creativity for their advertising plans. Some boards are limited to only displaying text-based messages. In several cases, even the most basic of boards will have an option for scrolling messages to be displayed that can be used for marketing opportunities. 


What about those who really don’t have the budget for even the most basic of scoreboards? Are they just out of luck? No, of course not, not by any means. There are some companies (cough cough hint hint like IST) that have taken the time to develop software for those with limited budgets. There is software, like BOARDWARE, that allows a projector to be used as a scoreboard that can display anything that a video board can. There have even been modifications to already existing software that utilize live streaming which turns a viewer’s media device into a display capable of providing sponsored content to those who can’t make it in person. 


Before I wrap this up, there are a few bits of miscellaneous advice I’d like to offer. Adding a P.A. system can enhance marketing efforts and only creates more opportunities for advertisements. Don’t be afraid to accept non-monetary forms of compensation during negotiations. Some companies may be able to help by providing equipment, food, clothing, and even services or access to facilities that can really save you some money. Also don’t rely on companies approaching you to advertise, sometimes you need to sell yourself. By reaching out to companies you create opportunities to work with all sorts of new companies that you might not have otherwise. Even the larger corporations like to work with local efforts, so don’t be afraid to reach out yourself. As for my last point, do the research on companies you work with. The companies you present to your community reflect your program just as much as it does for the advertiser. 


Hopefully after reading this, purchasing that new scoreboard isn’t as much of a daunting task. As long as you take the time to responsibly plan and invest, it really is quite an approachable purchase. In no way am I advising irrational spending, investments still come with risks no matter what they are. However, if you take the time and put in the right work, you could potentially get a new display system, or even get a nicer one than initially anticipated. If done well, you could create a steady income that can be put towards improving other aspects of your program and can even be put back into the community. Now you should have a bit more confidence in your budget presentation when asking for a new scoreboard knowing that you can develop a strong additional source of revenue that will benefit all parties involved. 

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International Sports Timing, Scoreboards, Grand Rapids, MI
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