This month, SWA media rep, Will Jones touches upon some interesting topics, discussing; promotion, club awareness and support…
Last weekend the SWA in partnership with BUCS and Southampton University hosted one of our biggest events of the year, the Nationals. However due to the slightly unfortunate timing I’ve had to write this article before the event, so can’t really tell you anything about what happened. I’m sure it was epic. Watch out for a full write up of the event appearing on www.studentwindsurfing.co.uk and http://boards.mpora.com/ very soon!
Last month I proposed that in these difficult financial times clubs are the future. Read the article here. Thank you all for the kind feedback I received and it’s great to hear that many of you agree with me. I’ll definitely check in with Will Rycroft in a few months time and keep you up to date with how he’s getting on with starting a Club at Northumbria Uni.
I really do believe clubs will play an important part in the future of our sport. Being at Uni in Cardiff I was very lucky to have the opportunity to get involved with a well established and very successful club. Cardiff today continues to be flourishing each year, attracting a healthy sized group of new members. In addition the advanced sailors can regularly be seen tearing up the beaches of South Wales and have scored some good results on the SWA series this year. However I think in the first year I was involved (2009/10) the Cardiff club was definitely at an all time high. So what made the club so successful that year?
First of all I think credit where credit is due; Leah Pickering was an exceptional club president and she had the support of a dedicated committee. Leah was a very capable windsurfer but no superstar; it is by no means a requirement of the president to be the best windsurfer in the club. She was super organised and put beginners and club members windsurfing ahead of spending time herself on the water. At socials and events she led from the front, pretty much always the most enthusiastic party animal.
Secondly at the centre of the club was a solid windsurfing core. That year myself, Rob Richardson, James Goody and Seb Willis would take every opportunity to get to the beach, and I seem to remember we were lucky enough to enjoy what seemed like a never ending spree of 3.7 sessions. Leah and the four of us attended every one of the SWA events that year, joined by a good group from Cardiff at most of them, and we were pretty successful with results on the series. That year the SWA was supported by Plasma and I think between us we have the entire catalogue of T-shirts. Seb won the overall race series and both Seb and Goody scored well in the freestyle series and some good results in the waves. One highlight of the year was Rob, Seb and I winning the team racing at Nationals and Cardiff bringing home the BUCS trophy. I don’t think it was our windsurfing level that helped the club to flourish. I think more just the fact that we took every opportunity we could to windsurf and were eager to help out the rest of the club; teaching beginners and coaching improving windsurfers.
Further, attached to that windsurfing core was an equally core group of members with varying degrees of dedication to windsurfing but an absolute devout dedication to the clubs social side. Our socials would regularly see 40 or 50 members turn out with often a further splattering of friends, not attached to the club, brought along just to see if windsurf nights out lived up to their reputation. Windsurf nights out that year were legendary (and really have continued to be so ever since).
One other particularly important factor that made Cardiff a very successful club and continues to do so today; is the support we have fortunately received from industry. Just a few miles out of Cardiff is the head quarters of industry leader Puravida who have supported the Cardiff Uni club for several years now. This year Puravida has taken their support of students to the next level and become the lead sponsor for the wave series. Further to that Puravida are the lead sponsor to the BWA and sponsor a number of team riders too. I caught up with managing director Jim Brooks to help explain what Puravida do.
WJ: What support do you provide to the Cardiff Club?
Jim: Basically what we do is provide part subsidised club kit and discount to all club members. But really, and I think more importantly, it’s just about supporting the club. We help them with the organisation of any special events and bring along demo kit for everyone to use. We’re also able to attract some big names from the industry; in the past we’ve had Ant and Nik Baker come along and give talks or run clinics at the events. They run great clinics but also really help raise the profile of the club. One other thing our business does a lot of is running things like entry level wave clinics. Quite a lot of them are based around South Wales so we try and get the guys from the club involved in them, again at a heavily discounted rate.
WJ: What encourages you to support the club and what do you get back from it?
Jim: Well the reason I really wanted to support the club is because I went to Cardiff Uni and I remember trying to get support when I was there. Really there wasn’t much available. So in 2007 when we opened the shop one of the first things we did was get in touch with the Uni club and look at how we could help them progress and move forward. What I get back from it is simple; the way I see it the more people we get into windsurfing the more customers I will have in the future, and you never know; some of the guys coming up through the club might turn out to be future champs.
WJ: You’ve now moved up to support the SWA as a whole becoming the lead sponsor for the wave series. What prompted that? What support do you provide? And how has your first year been so far?
Jim: There were two important things really that prompted it. Firstly over the last few years I’ve really seen the SWA grow and mature and embrace the industry. Now seeing the way they market themselves and have brilliantly embraced the media (Will’s note: I asked him to say that) they have really become a proper brand. Secondly seeing the number of ex students that come back to the SWA events once they have left Uni has really impressed me. It really shows they must be doing something right and it’s great to see so many of those ex students using their skills to help further improve the SWA; be it journalism students with the media or people who have gone on to work with computers helping to produce a website. The whole SWA is now run very professionally and is at a level where I thought I could really help by bringing in my experience from running the BWA.
My first year with the SWA has been great. I think they have a very similar ethos to us just being really eager to promote the sport and get people windsurfing; it’s been great working with such a passionate group. Each Uni that’s hosted a wave event really put their heart and soul into doing so. All the events have run really well, flowed really nicely and had a nice not too serious atmosphere. We’ve just been a bit unlucky with the wind.
WJ: You also sponsor quite a few individual riders. For people out there looking to pick up sponsors what advice would you give to them and how should they go about approaching potential sponsors?
Jim: My first peice of advice is to not think getting sponsored is just about your windsurfing level. As long as you’re active and improving your windsurfing and getting to the beach as much as possible you can be of interest to a sponsor. We want to get back exposure, so you need to be good at promoting yourself. The best people to sponsor are those who really embrace social media, keep blogs, get to the beach a lot and send people to our shop. We’ve never asked anyone we sponsored to produce results.
When I first started supporting the Cardiff Uni club at the wave event they ran I met Sarah Bibby. I was so impressed with her, not just for her sailing but for her enthusiasm and attitude. Particularly as a woman you could see she was going to attract loads of other women to the sport. So I offered to help her out a little bit with her kit whilst she was at Uni and from that she became a team rider and as we all know she has gone on to great success, last year winning the overall BWA women’s championship. She worked hard and she earned it. Someone with her attitude is exactly what sponsors are looking for.
WJ: Anything else you want to add?
Jim: I would just say that for the SWA and student clubs you don’t have to spend a fortune to make difference. Just a little support from a business can have a big impact. Just bringing along some kit to demo is always a great help and for any business it’s great exposure. I’m not trying to be the lone sponsor of the SWA, I think more the more businesses that get involved the better it will be for students and the industry.
WJ: Thanks Jim
Here is what Sarah Bibby had to say about the perks of being sponsored:
‘Having come through the SWA and now competing in the UK Wave events, it is great to have a sponsor like Jim on board to support me. Obviously there are benefits through discounted equipment, which helps a lot when new windsurf kit is so expensive or you break some! I also receive support through Jim at UK events and I am really excited to be riding one of his new custom boards which he has shaped specifically for me. There are plenty of benefits to being a sponsored rider, and I enjoy promoting Puravida through my blog, videos, articles and sailing’
I think most clubs out there, be it student or other, exist because a few individuals give up their time to make it happen. If they can get people sailing on old worn out kit and wearing dodgy retro wetsuits, clubs will be happy, they just make do with whatever they’ve got. But as Jim said ‘Just a little bit of support can make a big difference’. To those involved in running clubs, if you want your club to grow and be successful in the future you will definitely benefit from attracting some support from a local business. To do this you need to be proactive in publicizing your club, the more publicity you offer the more attractive you are to any potential sponsors. And the same goes to any individuals hoping to gain sponsorship. The more you windsurf and promote windsurfing to others the more attractive you are to sponsors. And to the businesses out there with the potential to provide support, clubs don’t just need money pouring into them. Just a little bit of time and effort from someone with some know how can make a big difference.
By Will Jones