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Spirit Wear can be a Key Fundraising Source for Youth Sports Organizations

Selling spirit wear has always been beneficial in helping youth sports organizations and their members market themselves in their local communities, but the sale of apparel is becoming more significant to clubs, leagues and associations as they look to return to sports activities after being shuttered due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Fundraising through the sale of spirit wear is a trend that’s been gaining momentum in youth sports since March and has been effective in helping generate needed cash flow.

David Goerke, Augusta Sportswear Brands vice president of marketing, pointed to how helpful fundraising is during this time, and noted there’s a lot that can be accomplished from selling spirit wear.

“I think you can use apparel as a billboard — for parents, kids, friends, grandparents, neighbors — to take pride in their communities,” Goerke said. “What brings out community pride better than, whether it’s a high school, park, or a little league program, that can rally the community? It brings people together. These are essential organizations to any community’s pride.”

Running youth sport leagues is time consuming, so it’s helpful to utilize available resources to simplify the process of selling spirit wear to help support the organization.

“These organizations are made up of volunteers,” said Ryan Wenkus, SportsEngine’s vice president of e-Commerce. “As everyone’s lives are busy, dealing with something like fan apparel or uniforms is a lot of work if you don’t use technology to streamline that.”

SportsEngine Gear powered by SquadLocker is one option available to organizations interested in selling custom sports apparel to raise money. The set up process involves just a handful of clicks, and SquadLocker has several customer-friendly features that make ordering from a free online store simple, such as stores open 24/7, assistance with logo designs and single-unit sales and delivery. 

There are also no contracts to sign and the company offers easy and hassle-free returns, even on customized products, and turnaround is quick — all items are shipped in less than two weeks from when they were ordered, according to SquadLocker’s website.

Organizations, leagues and clubs can work with their SportsEngine representative to ensure the appropriate items are being marketed to help address organizational goals, such as what kinds of products are likely to be popular for their respective demographic.

The platform features a wide range of clothing manufacturers, including popular brands such as Nike, Under Armour and Adidas, and there’s some value choices as well, such as Augusta Sportswear Brands and Badger. SquadLocker has almost 20,000 products available to choose from to decorate on an individual basis, said Gary Goldberg, chief executive officer of SquadLocker.

Goldberg also highlighted how important individualized orders are, pointing to how SquadLocker has helped change how sports apparel is sold in recent years. 

For years, the traditional method has been orders are shipped to league or team representatives, who then distribute the products that were purchased. Options tend to be limited, and a lot of product is handled by a team of people. The process is slow, inefficient, and doesn’t offer much customization. What SquadLocker does is faster, individualized, and contact-free, which is likely to be key for the foreseeable future as social distancing becomes more of a societal normality.

“With SquadLocker, you don’t have to hand gear out. You don’t have to have people trying on sizes. You don’t have to collect physical payments or sizing forms,” Goldberg said. “We handle everything digitally and deliver direct to the player’s home.”

Gear sold through the platform can have markups of up to 15%, set to meet an organization’s goals. Price markups aren’t available any higher than 15% to help keep price integrity, as it’s important to not price people out of wanting to participate in the fundraiser.

Goerke said a lot of spirit wear that sells well during the summer months includes T-shirts, training clothes and headwear. He also cited there has been increased interest in clothing that has UV protection. He said trucker-style caps in particular are popular, regardless of age group, and are affordable and practical to wear year-round. He said that when it starts to get colder, fleece products and hoodies do well in the fall and winter months.

“People in the community will want to put on a hat that showcases their support of the little league park that’s been in their community for 40 years,” Goerke said.

While having an open storefront is critical, it’s also important to market the products being sold. Using strategies such as email campaigns and promoting for-sale products on social media is necessary. Goerke suggested it’s helpful to have kids, parents and even coaches shown in photos wearing the gear as part of the promotions.

Making the process as easy as possible for the parents, organizations and participants to purchase and share the link is also important.

“The key to fundraising through storefronts is getting the word out,” Wenkus said. “Anyone that wants to be successful in raising funds for their organization, they have to be able to market that store to the athletes and the families inside of their organization.”

He added: “You can’t just build a store and hope people will come shop at it.”