When it comes to martial arts marketing, standing out from competitors can be challenging.
The industry has seen a lot of growth in recent years, with a 2019 report from IBIS World revealing that in the US the sector is currently totaling $5 billion a year in revenue.
The report also shows that around 3.6million people are actively participating in martial arts every year, and there are over 80,000 martial arts businesses.
But like so many of the ubiquitous fitness brands many know and love, there are universal marketing tactics you can use to stand out, attract attention, and recruit new students.
In this article, we’ll highlight 9 actionable marketing ideas for your martial arts business and how to apply them. We’ll dive in first with two examples of successful sports brands that managed to stand out from the rest. Skip ahead to:
Two Examples of Effective Sports Brand Marketing
The examples below had hugely successful campaigns. Each used different techniques and took their industry by storm. The success of the campaigns helped the brands to build awareness, define their brand identity, and increase revenue.
Campaign: Just Do It
We all know Nike and we all know its great sportswear products. Nike is, after all, the world’s largest sportswear company and their marketing campaigns are among the most memorable.
But as we’ve discussed before; Nike doesn’t sell products, it tells stories of great and ordinary athletes and their perseverance. This is exactly what the brand did with its 1988 Just Do It campaign. The series featured a range of professional and amateur athletes talking about their achievements and the emotions they feel when exercising The campaign included TV ads, one of which featured an 80-year-old marathon runner who explained that he still ran 17 miles every morning.
To this day, Nike uses moving stories like this to evoke emotional responses from viewers, encouraging them to think “they did it, so why can’t I?”
2. Chicago Blackhawks
As a professional ice hockey team, you’d expect the NHL’s Chicago Blackhawks to be a bunch of tough, untouchable guys.
The team embraced emotional content and created its #WhatsYourGoal campaign to show a more down-to-earth side of players’ personalities, as well as to strengthen its connection with its fans and the community at large. It was an opportunity for the brand to build its social media presence, and by engaging with fans as they shared their goals – the campaign was a success.
In this 2014 – 2016 campaign, both players and fans posted their goals on social media using the WhatsYourGoal hashtag. Fans were rewarded with players pitching in to help them reach their goals. The Hawks did everything from babysitting to playing hockey with seniors, surprise birthday visits, and giving away match-day tickets.
The campaign received submissions from over 21,000 fans. It reached over 46 million people organically on Facebook and generated 4.5 million impressions on Twitter. In addition, more than 24 million people engaged directly with the content via social media.
The examples above both tapped into making their campaigns personal – which is why they were so successful. So how can you make your school personal to your target audience?
9 Ideas for Martial Arts Marketing
Martial arts marketing is just like marketing any other business. You just have to tailor each particular strategy to fit what you have to offer.
1. Offer a Referral Program
74% of people say word of mouth is a key influence on their purchasing decision, so offering a referral program is a great place to start. Implementing a successful one will have your students acting as your brand ambassadors and essentially – it’s free advertising for your school.
You can tailor the specifics of your program based on what you offer. Consider the following basic elements when planning your referral program:
- An incentivizing offer. A great offer will provide value to your existing students and encourage their potential friends and family to sign up.
- Promoting your program. From the moment someone joins your school, make them aware of your program! Be sure to promote it regularly; consider sending out a newsletter to existing students reminding them what they can save if they refer someone new.
- Keep it simple. Complicated offers where the referrals, or its terms and conditions, require too much effort from a member won’t work. Make it as easy as possible for people to benefit from the program.
For more information, check out this step by step guide on how to set up a martial arts referral program.
2. Sponsor a Community Team or Event
A recent report from Cone Communications highlights that in today’s world, consumers want to support brands that do more than “just business”. Sponsoring an event in your community is an excellent way to boost your brand image in the eyes of your target audience – 73% of consumers care about the company and not just the product.
By sponsoring a team or event, you’re showing that you’re interested in contributing to the community. You’re making things a bit more personal.
Plus, being a sponsor is a great opportunity for you to advertise your school. For example, you could opt to sponsor your local football team and provide them with football shirts with your school’s name and logo.
3. Host A Martial Arts Tournament
Holding a tournament on behalf of your school is an excellent way to bring the martial arts schools in your local area together and establish your dojo as a name in the community.
Build relationships in your local community by partnering with local businesses to provide prizes, like gift cards. In exchange, they get free advertising while you promote the tournament, as well as on the big day.
Marketing aside, it’s a great opportunity to engage your students and challenge their skill level by competing with people that they haven’t previously sparred with.
It’s an event that takes a lot of careful planning and you’ll need a solid team behind you – but hosting will shine the limelight on your school and attract new students.
4. Give Free Demonstrations at Schools and Social Events
While a tournament brings prospective customers to you, going out to schools, the community center, and social events takes you and your studio to them. That makes it one of the most proactive marketing strategies you can employ.
It ensures that you reach a wider selection of the community and engage with them face-to-face to showcase the benefits of joining your dojo. You’ll be able to connect with people who aren’t social media, as well as those who might not attend tournaments, or known anyone at your school to benefit from its referral program.
5. Offer Family Classes
Family classes are something you can promote as quality family time and an opportunity for parents to bond meaningfully with their children. Many parents want their children to become physically active – your school is the place to do it!
Apart from encouraging whole family involvement, you can tailor your class offerings to father and child, mother and child, even welcome other family members to come along. Position your classes as a social event for families and friends to do do something fun together, and learn something new.
6. Make the Most of Social Media
85% of consumers aged 18-34 report that they made a purchase after watching a video about a product – so your digital marketing efforts should incorporate this. Utilize social media platforms like YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook to showcase your school:
- Short videos of customer testimonials.
- Behind the scenes snippets of your school and classes.
- Promote giveaways. Facebook is the perfect platform for a “like and share” competition. Post a photo of your facilities and offer one lucky person the chance to win 5 free lessons. To enter, have participants like and share the post – it’s an effective way to promote brand awareness.
- Praise student’s progression. You could promote a ‘student of the month’ feature, where you highlight one student’s progress and they win a small prize.
Remember that when it comes to social media; it’s a conversation, not a one-sided promotional stream! Engage with your students on the platforms whenever you see a relevant opportunity to do so.
7. Email Marketing
Once you make contact with a new or potential customer, have some kind of incentive ready to offer in exchange for signing up a contact form which, of course, includes their email address.
A discounted session is a great incentive for a non-member in exchange for their contact information. After they have signed up, you now have a way of keeping in touch with helpful content, sharing school news, and extending enticing offers to get them to become a full-fledged student at your school.
8. Utilize Your Voice and Target Audience
Remember “Just Do It” from Nike? It helped to capture the essence of what the brand is all about. That’s what you are aiming for when you decide on your own tagline, motto, logo, and brand voice. You’ll use this to appeal to your target audience.
Do you specialize in martial arts for children? If so – their parents are your target audience. So what do these parents want for their children in a martial arts school? Conduct some market research to find out. Once you know exactly what will appeal to them, you can use it in your branding and marketing communications.
Take ake a look at these famous taglines and slogan examples for some inspiration.
9. Hire Top-Quality Instructors
All your other efforts could fall flat if you neglect this basic strategy. It’s your teachers who ultimately do the job of selling your dojo through the instructional quality of their classes and the interactions they have with students.
Hire someone who has achieved the highest level of mastery in their field or has some championship titles to their credit. They don’t have to work with you full-time. Perhaps they can come in monthly to hold special classes or less frequently to run workshops. Whatever the arrangement, ensure you fully advertise their credentials and achievements.
No matter the size of your martial arts studio or the type of martial art you specialize in, the main goal is for your school to thrive and grow.
From leveraging your current members so they can help you attract new ones, to refining your brand image and increasing your social media reach, there are many approaches you can combine into a successful marketing strategy.
Ultimately, marketing ideas are just that: ideas. They become tactics and strategies once you implement and test them to see what drives the best results for your school.