Marketing and Youth Football with Dave Cisar

By Eliot Clough | Posted 9/9/2019

Believe it or not, youth football and marketing go hand in hand, especially if increasing involvement and retaining athletes are high priority goals.

RELATED CONTENT: [PODCAST] Consultant and coach Dave Cisar discusses how to build a successful youth football program

Dave Cisar, founder of Winning Youth Football and the Screaming Eagles Youth Football Organization, addresses common misconceptions about recruiting and bringing back young athletes on the Coach and Coordinator podcast. “Part of it is a lack of focus. They think recruiting is just going to take care of itself. They think they can go to the swimming pool two weeks before practice, hand out a few flyers and think they can be successful.”

Cisar firmly believes that more must be done to reach kids who may be interested in the sport. “Then when [success] doesn’t happen, they think, ‘Well, our community hates football,’ and that just isn’t the case,” says Cisar. “Quite often, what happens is you don’t have a good brand identity and you’re not communicating that brand very well.”

For Cisar and the leagues he runs, their mission is “To develop a love and appreciation in our players so they can continue to play a game that teaches live lessons like no other.” Tying the brand to the mission is also key. “Our brand is, we’re going to have great coaching,” starts Cisar. “We’re going to be very organized. We’re inclusive, we’re not a select program. We’re merit based … and our byproduct is we win.”

While not every league has to have those specific labels, knowing your identity surely doesn’t hurt. “I don’t care what your mission is, your mission is your mission, your passion is your passion … and you have to understand where you are in the market place and where you want to be.”

Knowing your market is also key. “How are you positioned against other brands or other organizations in your area?” adds Cisar. “For instance, if you’re like an I-9 program [where] you just show up before the game and have a little practice and play and your mantra is, ‘Hey, this is for parents tired of running all over the place and don’t want to invest a bunch of time,’ that’s fine. But you have to understand that brand and communicate that brand and have a mission wrapped around that brand.”

A large part of communicating that brand is holding events during the season for other kids and parents who haven’t been exposed to the league. “What you want to get [parents and kids] to do, is to kind of dip their toes in the water,” says Cisar. “So they can see, ‘Hey, you’re pretty well organized and I may not know much about football. But these guys kind of sound like they know what they’re doing.’ So that’s what we want to do.”

Getting your current players involved is helpful as well. “So what you do [to get the information out] is hand out a flyer to all of your players, not only on email, but face-to-face,” adds Cisar. “When they leave practice, the team’s moms [are] out there with three flyers. The flyer will say, ‘Hey, we’re having a practice event on Tuesday.’ So, Tuesday they’ll come to practice and there will be question-and-answer if you want and free pizza at the end of practice. And by the way, we have an open house for our game on Sunday, and if you sign up, you get a $40 discount and a free game jersey.”

Having the athletes aid in the effort as well as showing off a little bit is something that’s easy to get the young athletes to play. “We have a poster contest … So last year we had 120 kids, we had 120 posters all along our fence on that Tuesday when the parents showed up. We also had all of our trophies, about 30-some trophies we’ve won,” laughs Cisar. “Then we have the practice and we let the [new] kids participate in practice. They aren’t in pads, but they do our warm-up and we let them do some games … we let the kids and the parents see that it’s not all hitting the whole time. We do a lot of technique stuff and then we also have fun.”