Whether it’s the rising threat of global warming, the stress of sorting through mounting documents, or simply a fear of papercuts; in the age of digitisation, paper and printing products are edging towards extinction. People are discovering that printing is an unnecessary expense, with the average small business spending £14K per year, according to research by software developers Reckon. Paper and ink are just the tip of a melting iceberg; hidden beneath the surface are the costs of keeping traditional filing systems, employee time, and machine maintenance.
Switch from paper bookings to online bookings
Paper is fiddly to manage and far from secure. Storing your data through a booking system like OpenPlay means everything is in one place and nothing gets lost. More importantly, no private information can be misappropriated (GDPR alert!). Our venue management software caters to block bookings, recurring payments, voucher codes and lots more. There is no longer a need to scribble or score out mistakes. Quickly alter, cancel, or refund a reservation and issue automatic confirmations to the customer. Unlike manual paper methods, our CRM (customer relationship management) system records your client interactions, so all information is up-to-date, relevant, and personalised. Ditch the Filofax and paper spreadsheets; a quick glance at your OpenPlay dashboard tells you your facility’s usage rates, financial information, and demographic breakdown.
Digital registers not only reduce your printing needs, but they are kept up-to-date. Any last minute changes to registers are instantly registered in the system, meaning that instructors have an accurate register right up to the moment they begin their class. Bookings are coordinated with registers, so you can sign attendees can sign and out via the OpenPlay app, or instructors can sign them in via the coach app. You can also add notes, such as illnesses or allergies, to a client’s name, so your coaches and staff will be automatically updated.
Sometimes paper needs to be used. The polar bears will forgive you for the odd printout, but only if you print back to back and only if you recycle. Create a recycling hub behind reception and print out posters to remind employees and guests to recycle… or don’t actually. Scratch that last point.
Other ways you can help the environment…
If you sell plastic bottles of water, why not swap to reusable bottles and provide water fountains.
Switch from paper towels to hand towels or energy efficient hand dryers.
Perhaps instead of music for classes, you can have your coaches sing or beatbox in between instructions.
Ban wrapping paper from the company’s Secret Santa; it is never a surprise anyway.
Switch off air-conditioning/ heating. Tell clients this aids muscle recovery and hope they don’t know any better.
A popular environmental fitness trend straight from LA is to drain your swimming pool of water and hold mock swim classes instead. Students have found that imagining the resistance of the water means that they are not only working their muscles but also exercising their creative minds.
Members pay premium prices for peak-times, yet overcrowding often hampers their experience. For many people, psyching themselves up for the gym is a hurdle in itself. Once they have made it through the doors, the last thing they need is further blockades between them and their workout. All too much is the queue for a treadmill, the claustrophobia of a rammed group exercise class and a bruised back from doing sit-ups on a hard floor because there are no free mats. Fortunately, there are a few ways to reduce overcrowding and keep your gym running smoothly and efficiently at these busy times.
Eliminate reception bookings
There is nothing worse than arriving at the gym only to find that the reception is blocked up with customers and all of the staff are either on the phone or clicking away at computers. Priority needs to be given to those seeking access, needing towels or who have a general query. Move your class bookings online with a bespoke system like OpenPlay and increase reception efficiency.
Anyone working 9-5 cannot avail of the luxury of off-peak workouts. However, for freelancers, stay-at-home parents, retirees, students, and children, a reduced price membership could be tempting. An off-peak membership restricts the user’s access to less popular hours, such as mid-morning and late afternoon. Make sure to introduce some off-peak classes, so these members can also benefit from the timetable. With any luck, some of your current members will opt for a quieter workout and new members will be able to join.
Digital sign-ups and registers
It is essential, first of all, that you have some form of a sign-up system for your group classes. People will lose faith in your venue if it is a constant lottery where they must turn up 30 minutes before the class to have any hope of making the cut. Encourage people to sign up online, so at least this booking race is digital. Now that you’ve asked people to sign up, you need to follow through on your system and implement registers. Most clubs print off class lists, which takes up the time of receptionists, adds to printing costs, and creates a general faff for everyone involved. The OpenPlay Pocket mobile app gives each instructor access to their classes so that they can check off students in the studio. No middleman is needed; registers automatically sync with bookings and cancellations, so they are up-to-date and digitally stored.
Enforce Time Limits
Many clubs ask their members to limit time spent on each machine (usually 45-60 minutes max per person), in an attempt to democratise the gym. Time limits are useful to a degree but even waiting 45 minutes for an exercise bike is a big ask. Ensure that PTs and instructors are on the gym floor offering workout advise to customers. They can show people the benefits of less popular equipment and encourage runners and elliptical trainers to increase sprint times, so they train in shorter, more intense bursts.
Efficient Access Control
The majority of fitness centres already use a version of access control; typically this is by way of a membership card. At OpenPlay, we integrate your booking statistics with your access control system. Alternatively, we have developed an access control app that fits seamlessly with your OpenPlay account. Instead of a card which can be forgotten or lost, a barcode system works straight from mobile and operates even in offline mode. This barcode system is particularly efficient for guests or external users who have a squash court booking. Their unique barcode can be programmed to allow them access through reception, the changing rooms and the squash court they have booked.
Among adults, 5-a-side is the most popular version of football, because, compared to larger games, it is easier to organise. Everyone can find four friends (however skilled) to cobble together some sort of team. The rise of leagues and high-quality artificial pitches across the UK mean that 5-a-side’s popularity has snowballed. A 2015 Sport England Survey estimated that 1.5 million people play the game in the UK each week. 11-a-side used to be part and parcel of a football enthusiast’s Saturday morning, but it has suffered a devastating defeat against the smaller, nippier game. Powerleague, the UK’s leading mini-league provider, made a profit of 3.7 million pounds last year, proving that there is big money in the little game. Organising a 5-a-side league has its challenges, with plenty of competition out there; but if done right, you will be reaping financial rewards.
Weekday evenings sorted
Monday to Thursday evenings between six and ten will be your bread and butter. These times have the potential to be booked back to back, week on week. Provide a variety of start times as some people will come straight from work while others choose to eat dinner first. Be wary of the Friday night trap. The UK has a *cough* active drinking culture. Many leagues have flopped because players swapped toe shots for tequila shots. This is not to say that weekend leagues won’t have their draw; a Saturday morning can be a success, but it unlikely to be your prime money earner.
Sponsors are keen
If you look at Powerleague or Goals Soccer Centres, the two leading small-sided league providers, their pitches, website, bibs, and goalposts are plastered in sponsorship advertising. Their astroturf may be electric blue (thanks to Lucozade Sport), but they are all in perfect condition and the latest generation rubber crumb. You don’t have to paint your pitch pink anytime soon; sponsors may be able to supply your goalposts or help with your marketing campaign.
Suitable for all levels
For those who have never so much as grazed their knee on a football pitch, requesting to join an established team can be unnerving. That’s why 5-a-side leagues are the gateway into the addictive game. Although many people enter a league to keep fit and enjoy themselves, there is no doubt that the notion of winning is an enticing element. The tighter the match, the more adrenaline and excitement, so be sure to provide divisions for the tenderfoots, the dab hands, and everyone in between.
Larger Pitches can be divided in half or thirds for multiple games, giving you, the organiser, more buck for your bang. Having various games played at once can also create an intimate, sociable atmosphere that enhances the whole experience and keeps players coming back.
People sign up for the season
Most leagues run throughout the term time or seasonally. This means that your pitches are block booked for months at a time. One of the downfalls of this is that people’s enthusiasm may start to wane as the season draws to a close. It is your job as an organiser to keep energy levels up (maybe your sports drink sponsor can help you there). Referees should be on the ball during play to keep the game tight. Send text reminders the day before sessions, so players have no excuse to back out last minute.
Selling a package deal
When running a league at your premises, you are selling more than just a patch of grass; you are providing the whole game. So long as the experience is top notch and the players come away satisfied, people will be prepared to pay more than they would to rent a pitch. Of course, you must factor in referee costs and your fee for the organisation, but the numbers add up.
5-a-side is profitable; the success of it can be seen by the many triumphant leagues and by the plethora of high quality, artificial pitches that are sprouting up in almost every town in the UK.
Generally it is the retired generation who are most reluctant to embrace online booking. With small print, confusing tick boxes, and ad banners, it is completely understandable. Self-service checkouts received a barrage of complaints when they first arrived. There is less human interaction, glasses need to be put on, and for goodness sake I already put it in the bagging area! But self-service checkouts have massively reduced business costs and increased service efficiency. 90% of shoppers aged 18-39 find self-service checkouts easy to use and appreciate their speed. Only 50% of those over 60 feel the same. At OpenPlay, we understand the reservations some of your customers may have when it comes to digital. That’s why our online booking process is straightforward; with no unnecessary pop-ups and easy to follow steps.
Those who dislike change are unlikely to abandon you for another club or venue… They dislike change, remember?
Plan for the future…
Forward thinking and future planning needs to start now. The upcoming generation of retirees are already online and digitally adept. They are not going to revert back to paper the day they clock off for the last time. OpenPlay makes the online experience as smooth and streamlined as possible. It is easy to navigate with minimum clicks involved. The sooner you get your bookings online, the quicker your current customers will get to grips with the system and embrace the world wide web.
There’s always someone who whips out a fifty when buying a round, counts coppers at the newsagents, and tuts at the beep of an oyster card. Yet, e-commerce is booming, causing “heartbreak on the high street”, and is expected to increase by 23.3% this year alone. You may keep the cash till for energy bars and coffees, but your big sales need to be accessible online.
Consider a dual system…
You are likely to have someone at the facilities for a duration of the day who can take bookings from those that are not ready for online booking. Even with this dual system, their membership, payments and data can be logged into the same OpenPlay system as the rest of your clients. This is still much more efficient than manually logging everybody’s bookings. As other members basque in the ease of online booking, word will spread and others will be encouraged to join in. This is an investment that will increase in value as online sales continue to grow.
Sponsorship is commonplace in professional sports. Everything from the pitch border to a player’s socks is selling something. On an even bigger scale are the competitions and stadiums themselves, that go by Heineken Cup, Sports Direct Arena, Aviva Stadium. Marketing is a success when we repeat a brand’s name aloud, as we do again and again with these advertorial nomenclatures.
Grassroots sports are largely untouched by brands, despite their desperate need for funding. Sponsors could help finance equipment, attire, or travel, whilst they themselves benefit from the exposure. Powerleague is an excellent example of grassroots venue sponsorship. With bright red pitches sporting Budweiser logos, their facilities and equipment are kept in top condition. Perhaps we are more precious about the authenticity of our local sports. Or maybe we just don’t know where to begin.
Assess your assets
Where can a banner be hung? If your entrance is by a main road, an advertisement there could attract the attention of passing traffic. Tennis nets, football pitches, printed materials, social media posts, and your website are all places that can be branded. Venue sponsorship is all about visible advertising. Small posters can be hung on the back of bathroom doors. Walk through your venue with fresh eyes and identify every nook and cranny that has advertorial potential. Do you get a lot of website and social media traction? Host your sponsor’s name and logo on your website and big them up in your tweets and Instagram posts. You need to be able to offer something back to anyone that gets involved, so think about how you can sell these spaces.
Identify your needs
Are you looking for new equipment? Uniforms? Is there a giant gaping hole in your net? The more specific you are about your requirements, the more compelling your case. Perhaps the sponsors will want their advertising to be directly related to the funding, eg. they buy a goal post that is branded with their logo, or supply jerseys can sport both your team name and “Janette’s Launderette”.
The Cafe around the corner from your training ground will directly benefit from sponsoring your your venue. Maybe they could supply drinks and snacks for the venue. The local launderette could sponsor your towels or your staff uniforms (so long as you keep them clean). You could also ask members of your club about their businesses. They are already interested in your venue, so are more likely to listen to your ideas.
Create a sponsorship proposal
How many members do you have? Roughly, how many people pass by your badminton courts each day? Do you have a large social media following? Figures are crucial, but don’t exaggerate them. You need to look serious about the relationship and proud of your business. “People don’t invest in what you do, they invest in why you do it”- Ever seen Dragon’s Den? It is the story you tell and the passion you show.
Introduction: Who you are, what you do, why you do it. Your plans and potential: What you’re hoping for and why you expect success! Your interest in them: Draw parallels between their brand and yours. Do you both champion a strong community ethos? Are both businesses focused on health? Flatter them, but don’t pander them. Direct sell: Make your transaction clear. What do you want in figures and what do they get back in figures? Contact detail: Ask them to get in touch with you.
Call the business and ask to speak to someone in charge of venue sponsorship. Bigger companies may have a marketing manager, but for smaller businesses it will most likely be the owner or general manager who decides. Phoning before sending is a good way to introduce yourself. It helps them discern if you are a worthy business partner. You may even discover that they don’t do venue sponsorship, so you save yourself the time of tailoring your proposal to them.
Send and follow up
Send it off! If you have not heard back within a week, follow up by phone, email, or visit them in person. Do not be hostile; remain positive and curious.
Do the deal
If you’ve made it this far, you know that they like your brand and your message. Keep focused on what you can offer and why your venue is a worthy investment.
Sports venues have it tough. Peak times can be severely overcrowded, with double booked courts and a waitlist for classes. On the flipside, a sports centre at 11 am on a Tuesday can resemble a ghost town (cue tumbleweed and Western music). It is during these off-peak times, that money is sucked up through the air vents, making the margin of profit less and less. We’ve compiled our top tips to help you make use of idle courts and pitches.
Market to those who stay at home
Weekday mornings tend to be quiet, as most people are either at school or work. However, stay-at-home mums or dads could benefit from ‘Parent and Child’ sessions or ‘Tennis Bootcamp’. Retirees may enjoy playing if they have somewhere to chat over coffee afterwards. Consider running low-impact sessions that incorporate elements of pilates or work on coordination, strength and balance.
Bubble arena in winter
The bubble option is pretty pricey, so you must ensure you have the demand for it. Each winter, more and more tennis clubs are erecting poly air domes over their courts. The dome can be assembled and disassembled within a matter of hours. Air circulates within the tent via a fan unit (which also doubles as a heater). Bubbles require investment, costing around £55,000 for a single court. Once purchased the materials are yours to store during the summer months. They last between six and eight years, with replacement parts available at discounted prices.
This concept is pretty straightforward but essential if you want to increase footfall during these off-peak times. Adjusting your price points is a delicate balancing act; you don’t want peak time players to become outraged at the difference in price, but the saving needs to be enough to entice people in. A 15 to 30% reduction is a good goalpost mark for you to experiment between. OpenPlay makes it simple to adjust your pricing for each session so that you can play around with different options. If you get it wrong, try a new pricing plan!
Promote your pitches on a platform
If you’re a small venue, or perhaps a school with a football pitch, you may not be the obvious choice when people are searching for facilities. Having your facility on OpenPlay expands your potential reach, making more people aware of your services; you might say it evens the playing field.
Get in touch with nearby schools and offer class coaching sessions or host their sports day at your venue. These can be one-off days or weekly events. If they are not keen on taking slots that occur during school hours, perhaps you can run an after-school club. Offer to collect the children from school and walk them to your venue. Parents will be delighted as it saves them making an extra journey.
A dark court is an unplayable court. With night falling as early as 4 pm in December, if you do not light up your courts or pitches, you sacrificing after-school training and evening sessions. Floodlights are expensive to run, so many clubs operate them via a token system. Players buy tokens and insert them into the light slots, activating the lights for an hour at a time.
Get bookings online
Gone are the days when people will inquire in person or by phone; everybody is online. Reservations need to be quick, portable, and 24/7. By using OpenPlay’s booking software, you can accommodate last-minute bookings as well.
Free for the public to use, parks are by no means cheap to run. Grass needs to be cut, pavements swept, and all facilities should be maintained and put through rigorous safety checks. Local councils fund the bulk of a park’s running costs but, with over-stretched government budgets, sometimes this just isn’t enough. We’ve come up with a few ideas to help you run a profitable park.
Sponsorship of space
Memorial benches and tree headstones are favourites amongst the dead community, but the living also have a lot to give to parks. Whilst no one wants to spoil green fields with advertisements, there are plenty of sponsorship opportunities to take advantage of. Sports facilities, in particular, are lucrative spots. Tennis nets and goal posts can advertise sportswear brands or energy drinks. A skatepark can feature graffiti style advertising. Keep sponsorship in line with the ethos of the park; promotional content should not detract from the vista of the space. Consider naming your park after a local business or corporation, as part of a sponsorship deal. A sponsorship title is a big decision, as, admittedly, it lacks a personal feel, but it prove to be of substantial financial benefit to your park.
Maximise facility rental
Nowadays, people don’t bother with visiting a venue in person to book; everything is online. If you have facilities that are underused, you need to reevaluate your booking system. OpenPlay provides bespoke booking systems specifically geared towards sports venues and activities. Stagger your price points for prime and non-prime time slots, to maximise usage potential. Don’t just rent to private individuals, but encourage coaches to hire out the space for coaching and activities.
Introduce photography permits for media outlets or wedding and lifestyle shoots. Anyone wanting to host a special event at your park, such as a sporting event or even a party, should request a permit. Apart from the added fees, these will generate, it helps you to keep track of any significant gatherings set to occur on your grounds.
Licensing from fitness instructors
Parks are perfect spots for personal trainers, who would otherwise have to pay premium prices for indoor facilities. Just because you’re a public space doesn’t mean that businesses should take advantage. You can also ensure that fitness operators at your park, hold appropriate qualifications and are fully insured and hold liability. The Royal Parks charge between £350 and £1100 plus 6% commision for fitness licences. This is a key step to take if you want a profitable park.
Host sporting events that encourage families down to the park. Inflatable obstacle courses, movie nights, a jazz band and picnic event- the opportunities are endless. Have your park ranger give nature lessons to children, where they can plant a flower.
A particular hub on the weekend, cafes can be a lifesaver for early rising parents freezing on the sidelines of a football pitch. You only need a small stall or hut to provide coffees, teas and ice-creams. Drinks and snacks go down a treat and have a huge markup.
With equipment to buy, operating costs, and kit fees, running a sports club can be financially draining. Unfortunately membership and activity fees often fall short of the club’s expenditure. Hosting your own events (sport themed or otherwise) can be the life ring that keeps you from drowning in debt. A clubhouse (or even a sports hall) lends itself to a number of evening events that can be held no matter the weather, whilst a sports pitch or court allows for novelty sport and large crowds. As well as hosting your own functions, encourage your supporters to organise a fundraising event of their own, such as bake sales; or they could participate in a marathon.
Sports Quiz Night…
Like a standard pub quiz but all of the questions are about sport. Keep the kids interested by including questions about your coaches and the club itself. This could be a weekly event, driving your members back into your clubhouse and upping your food and drink sales. With opportunities to socialise and new friendships made, member morale and activity levels will rise. If not a quiz night, why not host a bingo event or an annual raffle.
Think of ways to spice up the sport you already provide: three-legged football, left-handed tennis, Over 30’s versus Under 30’s, or staff against members. These are great fun, and encourage players of different ages and levels to mingle. Be sure to promote the fundraising date via your social media channels and in your club.
Tournament and Barbecue…
No matter what sport you specialise in, this is a fantastic fundraising event. Organise a round robin style tournament, and keep each match short and sweet. A barbecue is the perfect way to round off the day, and you can get an instructor or a keen parent to manage the grill. This type of event is restricted to warmer months but could potentially be a weekly event during summer. Have extra games on the sidelines for young kids and relatives, such as rounders, limbo, and dodgeball. Not only will you get money from people taking part, but this is an opportunity for sponsors to get involved. They could host their own stand, present banners to be placed around the site, or supply drinks and snacks for the day.
Draw on national events…
Host your own mini world cup, with players or teams representing different countries. These matches can be played over one day or following the timeline of the actual world cup. A good idea is to have the matches in the morning of real games so, come airing time, players “relive” the match they played earlier. As well as the matches themselves, include activities such as Penalty Shootout or a keepy-uppy contest. Organise a World Cup Sweepstake, where friends and relatives can place bets on their favourite country (real or mini) to win.
After a tough tournament or training season, kids need to let off some steam too. This may not reel in the same cash as an alcohol fuelled night, but at least there is no need for a wet licence. Sweets, snacks, and fizzy drinks will be bought at an alarming yet lucrative rate and who are you to be concerned with their teeth? This is a cheap night to host, as anyone can jump on the decks with a Spotify playlist. All that is needed is a speaker, sugar supplies, and some disco lighting.
Your own matches…
So you’ve already drawn a crowd, now take advantage. Sell team merchandise: supporter jerseys, hats, and flags. Parents who stand in the cold on match days deserve a drink. Offer hot beverages in winter; cool drinks and ice-pops in summer. Give them the first class treatment and wash their cars whilst they sip on hot chocolate. Parents will look forward to match days and you will benefit from the pocket money.
Not only is this a fruitful money earner but you will also be spreading awareness about your club. Get an entire team down to the local supermarket to spend a day packing bags. They should wear their jerseys, chat to customers about the club and encourage people to join. If you have any events coming up (such as fundraising efforts listed above), make sure that your team are informing people about them. Perhaps you can print off leaflets for customers to take home with their shopping.
Fundraising doesn’t have to be a torturous task. Get your members involved and your event will be the highlight of your calendar.