How Restaurants Can Tap into Youth Sports Leagues to Increase Guest Affinity

    Brands can reach a targeted audience for a fraction of the cost of traditional advertising.

    Kid kicking a soccer ball around cones.
    Adobe Stock
    A brand’s values and how they choose to give back are as important as economic stability for the future of businesses, particularly considering ethical consumerism.

    As the highest inflation rate in the past 40 years continues to cause prices to rise, consumers across the country are beginning to change their spending habits, including how frequently they visit restaurants. In fact, a recent survey discussed in CNBC found 40 percent of consumers are now choosing to limit their restaurant visits and opting to entertain at home. 

    With consumers planning to cut down their restaurant outings, now is the time for restaurants across the country to begin improving and prioritizing their customer engagement and loyalty to ensure that when consumers plan to dine out, they visit their establishments. As the industry becomes more competitive, brands will need to look for out-of-the-box tools to reach their customers and stand out amongst their competitors. One option for restaurants hoping to improve brand mindshare and favorability is by turning to community youth sports league sponsorships.

    How does sponsoring youth sports increase customer traffic? 

    Currently, 65 percent of families are involved in youth sports in the U.S., providing brands the ability to reach more than 60 million children and families throughout local communities. While this is a huge audience, brands can target their reach to specific communities that are home to their restaurants in a way that’s more authentic than a flashy billboard, Facebook advertisement or other traditional marketing ventures. 

    For example, a restaurant chain hoping to increase the traffic to a specific store can sponsor the city or region’s local youth sports leagues to increase brand awareness, favorability, and recall. The brand can gain better visibility and goodwill with the entire community by placing their logos on jerseys and banners at sports complexes, offering family night coupons to leagues, and through various digital activations.

    By providing sponsorships directly to the communities where a brand wants to improve customer loyalty and traffic, restaurants will then be able to directly impact their targeted audience for a fraction of the cost of traditional advertising. Families will be more inclined to dine at restaurants following games or celebrate wins at restaurants that support their teams. In fact, it’s been found that 64 percent of consumers prefer to buy from brands that have a reputation for purpose, as well as profit. Meaning, restaurants that support the community will see a better return than those that do not participate at all. 

    Why in-person marketing will be crucial as marketing budgets decrease

    The prices for digital advertisements have steadily increased since the growth of digital spending began in 2020, with advertisers crowding sites such as Facebook, Google, Twitter and TikTok the past two years. For Google, ad prices rose 12 percent in 2022 while TikTok experienced an exponential increase of 60 percent year-over-year in 2022. Back in 2019, the quick-service restaurant industry reached $4 billion in local advertising spending. Now imagine what that number will look like at the end of this year.

    With youth sports, just $6.5 million invested would allow a brand to reach more than 2,000 leagues in any of the top 150 DMAs across the country. Brands would be reaching 2 million-plus households (6 million-plus consumers) all throughout the week for 12 weeks straight with consistent engagement to targeted audiences. Of course, brands can invest less than $6.5 million and still see significant brand visibility and benefits from working with youth leagues.

    With digital ad dollars continuing to climb and consumer spending decreasing, brands are looking for more efficient marketing channels to achieve their goals. Marketers can utilize youth sports as a more sustainable and efficient option to reach a targeted and engaged audience. Through local sponsorships, brands can prioritize omnichannel marketing initiatives to reach consumers both inside and outside of their homes. 

    Giving back to the community to build customer loyalty

    Consumers have long been opting for brands that align with their values and value-based marketing has helped brands attract more consumers. The recent political events in the U.S. have shown us that brands are making value-based stands and consumers are gravitating toward it. In local communities, consumers that see brands prioritizing social responsibility by supporting children are more likely to trust and support those brands over competitors who are not.

    Unfortunately, less than 50 percent of brands are considered trustworthy by consumers. A brand’s values and how they choose to give back are as important as economic stability for the future of businesses, particularly considering ethical consumerism. Brands who act on their values and pursue ventures that give back to their customers will have greater impact on consumer trust and repeat purchases, which will be essential as the market continues down its current trajectory. Studies show that just a 5 percent increase in customer retention rates can increase your overall profitability by 25–95 percent, which will be crucial in the next year. Youth sports are a great way for restaurant brands to have a positive impact on American communities, while simultaneously building a customer base.

    Evan Brandoff is the CEO of LeagueSide, a community sports sponsorship platform, who currently works with brands to help them utilize community sports leagues to reach targeted audiences and increase brand engagement and favorability.