The Evolution Of Minor League Sports Team Websites

Apart from the major professional sports, such as the NFL and MLB, and major NCAA sports there is a lack of standardization on the various team websites.  MiLB team websites are included as a subset of the MLB platform because all you have to do is go to the footer of a team website like the Dayton Dragons.  You will see the “powered by MLB.com” mention in the bottom right.

In the various independent baseball leagues, summer college baseball leagues, indoor football, golf and other professional sports team (and league) website world there are a few major website developers.  Not all are equal however.  This imbalance creates opportunities, but there are a few underlying assumptions that each of the major developers have which hopefully will evolve to meet today’s demands.

Basic Needs Of Sports Team Websites

The needs of any college or professional sports team website should meet, at the very least, these basics:

  • The website should be stable, have minimal downtime, and not cause problems with the end user’s computing device (desktop, laptop, mobile device, etc.)
  • It should be at least useable on most mobile devices and be able to be read on the primary desktop/laptop browsers (e.g. Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari, Chrome, etc.)
  • It should be the authoritative final source for all public information relating to the team.  Certainly, last-minute changes to rosters, game schedules, player injury status, and other short-term factors can be announced on social media or e-mail newsletters; but the website should be the final source of the day-to-day and year-round information
  • It should give accurate information to fans such as:
      • the prices for tickets + the methods of how to purchase them
      • official policies about ticket use for postponed games (e.g. rain out games)
      • the official policies and disclaimers about being on stadium/arena grounds (to protect the team)
      • the official schedule
      • the official roster (even if embedded from a third-party stats/roster service)
      • list of coaching staff including biographical information
      • official scores and recaps of games
      • the correct information regarding a promotion, such as where people should report and at what time if running a pre-game promotion on the field
      • links to the league (or conference) and other teams in the league
      • official history of the team, including famous alumni
      • official sponsors for the team and/or league (including any banner ads)
      • “call to action” to have people join the official team e-mail newsletter
      • accurate stadium/arena historical information + directions to the stadium (including anything regarding parking)
      • links to the team’s official social media platforms
      • standings and/or team (and league) leaders –> or at least links to the official repository of such information
      • link to any web page (on the site or off the site) with official, licensed merchandise
      • where to get any official team/league-endorsed mobile apps
      • official information of how to get in touch with the team, such as front office contact information
      • community outreach information, both what the team has done plus contact information to get athletes or team representatives into the community
      • any official web page or other directions for those seeking jobs and/or internship opportunities with the team
      • the official website privacy policy, disclaimers, sitemap and other legal disclaimers
      • any other official information needed by the team

This list is a good starting point for everything needed.  As the marketplace evolves, however, this list is going to be insufficient to help a team increase its valuation.  In a moment, you will get some more ideas of what an official sports team website has the potential to do.  Some of this can be supplemented with the team’s social media pages; but most will be tied specifically to the actual website.

Evolving Revenues Through The Team’s Website

A team’s official website usually has a significant amount of untapped potential for revenues.  Let’s break these down into three categories:

  1. Boosting existing revenue models
  2. Generating new revenues in the local market
  3. Generating new revenues nationally

Using A Team’s Website To Boost Its Current Revenue Models

While it is possible to have other revenue models, such as using the stadium or arena for unique events, most teams derive revenue from these revenue streams:

  • Ticket sales (all forms: walk-up, group, season, etc.)
  • Parking
  • Food concessions
  • Beer and alcohol
  • Team merchandise
  • Sponsors (signs, PA announcements, game program, ticket back, etc.)
    • A high-level sponsor may get a website mention/ad here, but it is usually a “toss in” or a part of the sponsorship package
  • Local camps and clinics
  • In-game promotions for the fans

This is the traditional “butts in seats” or “fans in the stands” business model where the revenue is derived from the physical world and, for the most part, from the local area (usually 20-25 miles around the stadium/arena).  A team’s website can be enhanced or modified to increase the likelihood of these revenue streams seeing improvement.  Here are just a few examples:

  • Enhancing a team’s exposure in the local community by improving its rankings in the search engines for local-oriented phrases which get entered in high amounts.  A previous article on this site explains the need to address search engine optimization (SEO) for sports teams
  • Promoting a team’s RSS feed to RSS directories, blog directories and even podcast directories (dependent on some XML web code) to give more exposure for each news item/game recap in the local area.  Here is more on RSS for sports teams and leagues
  • Being smarter and more creative with the e-mail newsletter feature.  Many teams regard this as an afterthought; but it can be a legitimate driver of new (and repeat) fans coming the stands if done correctly
  • Proper use of hashtags in Twitter.  For example, many teams do not use the #CITY (where CITY is the actual city name) in their tweets which have enough space for a hashtag.  The #CITY hashtags often have followers locally which can give exposure to local prospective fans who have never seen the team previously
  • Watermarking fan photos and uploading them to a site which allows images such as Facebook, Flickr, Pinterest.  Then embed the photos on the team website so fans can download them and share them as they like
    • The watermark would simply have the team name, phone number for tickets and website

These suggestions are all in addition to the off-website actions your team can take, such as placing your game schedule on the various online event calendars which serve your local market(s).

Using A Team’s Website To Boost New Local Revenues

One thing never goes out of style for businesses in any metropolitan market.  That is the person (or entity) who can generate quality leads over and over again for local businesses who need to increase market share in their industries.

What most sports teams fail to realize is that they have this potential right now due to the accumulated “authority” given to their websites by the search engines.  Most teams, right now, have the potential to “outrank” many local-oriented phrases in the search engines.  This is because the team often gets links from local authority web properties such as:

  • local newspaper, radio, television websites
  • local government websites (city website, chamber of commerce, etc.)
  • personal blogs from people who live in the area
  • business directory websites
  • event calendars serving the local area
  • local online forums
  • people locally are linking to the team’s website pages on their personal social media pages
  • other local websites and blogs which have accrued local authority themselves, and their links to your team’s website are passing on some of that authority as an “endorsement” to the search engines

All of this means that your team’s website has the ability to rank for local phrases better than most other local businesses or directories.  You simply have to provide the website structure and ability for new pages to generate leads for local businesses, year-round.  This actually now exists for a travel team in United League Baseball.  Take a look at this local business directory for the Brownsville Charros.

Some of the pages listed already are ranking on the first or second page of the search engines at the time of this post.  The goal is to lease out these pages for business categories where you do not have any “exclusive” sponsorships (or any sponsors at all) for a monthly rental fee once you rank in the search engines.  Of course, you can grant any local business exclusivity on the page your website has for that industry if that business becomes a full sponsor.  If he/she doesn’t care about your sport or your team, but still wants the leads, then you at least can “rent” the space (per month or for the off-season) at some fair price that your local market will bear.

Again, by ranking on the first page of the search engines (having an optimized page plus leveraging your website’s overall search engine authority) you now can open up new revenues locally.  The local business wants leads, and your website’s page has more authority than his/her website.  This combination opens up hundreds of possible new sponsors or, at a minimum, monthly web page rental income streams.

All of the above is just the beginning for using your team’s website for new revenue models in the local market.  Please contact us for at least three more strategies to leverage your authority in the local market.

Using A Team’s Website To Boost New National Revenues

One of the biggest reasons most sports teams don’t make money nationally is that they don’t ask themselves the right questions.  For example, in independent baseball, many fans get a chance to talk with players and the coaching staff.  Frequently the fans are asking about which equipment to get for their kids.  Very rarely, however, does the front office ask the question:  “How do we take these questions by our fans and reach a national audience with answers likely being asked around the country?”

One such answer can be found again on the Charros website.  By understanding XML code, affiliate programs, plugins and some other basic website information this travel team now has a chance to offset some of its expenses.  Each of the products listed comes from the affiliate program service used to handle tracking and commissions given by one of the online baseball product retailers.  The team will get a commission from each order anywhere in the USA, not just from the local market.

The reason this works is that besides the local “authority” being granted a team’s website (see earlier) each team also gets links to its website from national authority web properties including:

  • Sports media websites, including authoritative bloggers and mainstream sports media
  • Wikipedia
  • Online sports forums
  • Other sports team and sports media social media properties

Ideally, the team’s website will rank in the search engines for some of the equipment-oriented phrases being entered by people nationally.  You also would get the benefit of helping people in your local market buy equipment if you don’t have any sponsor who sells the same equipment.

Of course, there are many other ways to monetize the national audience.  These include ways to monetize:

  • Trivia
  • Intellectual property (how to information, etc.)
  • Affiliate programs to sports books
  • Memorabilia
  • Selling text links on archived pages to help other businesses rank their websites
  • CPM ads (these are not the per-click ads)
  • Many other online methods

Should any of the three new revenue models be of interest to you then please contact us.  We look forward to helping you with your team or league website questions.

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