We’ve gone over our best 17 tips for running a wrestling tournament, but what about marketing it to the public? It is important to have a marketing strategy in place. First, you’ll have to decide when your coaches or wrestling teams decide what tournament they are going to attend. In Illinois, for youth tournaments, many of the tournaments fill up quickly so coaches must decide early which tournaments they are going to attend. It is in your best interest to get your information to the coaches prior to the start of the tournament season, but not so early that they forget about it.
After you decide when to host it, you need to decide what you are going to offer at your tournament. Not many people run varsity tournaments, I suspect the reason is they do not earn as much for the club as regular tournaments do, but require about the same amount of work. However, there is great prestige in running a first class tournament and if that is your number one goal you should pursue it.
You could also run is a rookie tournament. These always seem to fill up in Illinois. This is a great tournament to run, because it helps first and second year wrestlers have a good experience with the sport. Nobody wants to lose every tournament they are involved in.
Another type to consider is a regular tournament with no skill level designated. These are the most popular in Illinois, because they reach the broadest audience and all of your wrestlers can actually wrestle in the tournament. Parent help is critical to running a smooth tournament, and it would be pretty tough to convince all your experienced parents to work all day at a tournament that their wrestlers will not be participating in.
We also recommending looking into and learning what other successful tournaments do to market their tournament. This can be done by talking with coaches at tournaments or calling up friends to see what they do to market their tournament. After the first couple of years in running a successful tournament, it will market itself and you will have strong word of mouth and a long line of returning teams each year.
For example, after interviewing coaches casually at tournaments, I found that they use the state’s website to find out the dates of tournaments that are close to them. Also, I found other tournaments mailed flyers to all of the state’s contacts. You never know if a team has an opening in their schedule and is willing to travel 45 to 90 minutes to get in another tournament (or if they are looking to get some competition in a different part of the state). Each year I did this, I found teams asking to come that I would have never even thought to invite. The last 100 kids are where you make most of your money. At that point, all of your fixed costs are paid for, refs, gym space, table help, etc. so the last 100 kids are mostly profit.
Maybe one of the most important tips we can offer is to avoid picking a date where there is another tournament close by that will compete with you, particularly if you are a new tournament. Why not pick a different weekend? This way you can both attend each other’s tournament and help out your sectional by offering another tournament that is close by on another weekend. The only exception to this rule is if it is a varsity tournament. If that is the case, you can run a JV tournament, because most teams (at least in Illinois) will not send first and second year kids to a strong varsity tournament. We used this strategy on a weekend of a very popular varsity tournament. No one really offered an option in our area for this weekend but we did and had lots of kids attend.
Get ideas from the best tournaments marketing flyers. Why reinvent the wheel? Chances are if it is the tenth annual tournament, they have figured out what information is required on a tournament flyer. Each year we tried to improve the flyer based on questions we received. One frequent question was a request for directions, so we added that for the next year. Another was what awards were going to be given out. All of this information was on the tenth annual tournament, which we had not included the first year we ran a tournament. Avoid our mistakes by looking at several different flyers and use the best parts of each one.
Pick your awards carefully, it is important in your marketing of your tournament. We always awarded 1st-5th place with medals at the least. When we saw other tournaments were awarding trophies, we offered trophies for 1st and even stepped it up the following year with t-shirts. The kids love the awards they received and talked about them. Although no coaches will probably decide which tournament to bring their wrestlers to based on the awards, parents may decide to skip a tournament that has notoriously bad awards. There is not a tremendous amount of cost difference in providing nice awards as compared to cheap awards. As an added bonus, wrestling gear like t-shirts that showcase your tournament are a walking advertisement!
Keep these ideas in mind the next time you are ready to start marketing for a tournament. Learning from more experienced hosts is a great way to fine tune your strategy and get more teams signed up.