Marketing for a Ballroom Competition

As the new competition coordinator for the UMass Ballroom Dance Team, one of the biggest responsibilities I am facing is marketing for a first time competition. There are many questions that come with this challenge, how far should the radius be to which I market? What methods are most effective? Least effective? If I am going to use resources to promote this competition, how much is worthwhile? 
Balancing cost with the effectiveness of marketing is definitely the hardest part. Facebook and our own website (which is currently under renovation) are obviously good free methods of marketing, and other ballroom dancers who I associate with will share our information. More and more since my entrance to the ballroom world 2 years ago I’ve seen facebook used as a marketing method, and it seems to be pretty effective. Almost every competition now has a facebook event, which I had ever seen before last Spring. This allows competition coordinators to send instant updates to competitors, remind them when registration closes, and follow up after the event with pictures and results. 
The other obvious place to market is through ballroom competitions themselves– making announcements at competitions, placing advertisements in programs, handing out flyers and talking to people. Other small competitions are generally very supportive of these efforts, and will often give you free advertising space in the spirit of supporting a new competition. These advertisements are no-brainers. The harder decisions are the medium to larger size competitions who want to charge you to place an advertisement. How far is the advertising radius? For Amherst our board has decided to advertise at all the Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island Competitions as well as the New York City and eastern/central New York competitions. Even if we gain only a few couples with registration at $40 per competitor you can quickly make up advertising costs in revenue should the advertisements catch on. However, it is a challenge deciding what is worthwhile. There is a medium sized competition approaching in Binghamton, New York in a few weeks time. They are 4 hours away each way. We’ve seen them attend competitions in Boston, so it’s not out of the question that they could attend our UMass competition, especially since there aren’t many schools that far West, however it is far enough away that it may not be worth it to them to attend a small competition. However, we don’t often have that much contact with them so placing an advertisement in our program may be the only way of getting any publicity at that distance. Ultimately we decided it was worthwhile because the cost of an advertisement there was about the cost of one competitor, which we could fairly easily get. The larger competitions charge even more for advertisements ranging up to $250 for a full page. But your advertisement is seen by more dancers, who ultimately may decide to attend your competition as a result. Additionally, though, one must consider who actually reads the advertisements in the program, is it a large percentage of the competitors? Ultimately, we’ve decided on the whole to take out advertisements, even if they’re expensive at larger competitions. 
It seems to me, the best way of advertising is showing up with enthusiasm to competitions with flyers, handing them out and talking to other teams. The more faces there are to go with UMass Amherst Ballroom, the better for us. As people make friends on other teams, those dancers are more likely to come to visit their friends and bring their teammates with them. Word gets around about enthusiasm, and we hope that it will spread to other teams. As a competition in its first year, our hope is to break even, and with good marketing it seems to me that it is a possibility we can even make a profit. That would be quite a success.

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