Your voice should be consistent whether you're talking to sponsors or fans, future players or governing bodies.
This is where a brand tone of voice comes into play for sports clubs.
Even though you might not realise it, your club has a brand. If it's not something you've thought about, your brand might be as simple as a colour scheme and logo, but if you've spent more time working on it, you might have fully-fledged brand guidelines. Something most people don't consider is that how you communicate with your audience is part of your branding.
Take the example of Nike, whose mission is to empower and energise their audience. They use a bold and aspirational tone of voice throughout their marketing to achieve this. Even their tagline, "Just Do It", is urgent and motivational. Now imagine if they changed it to "Go At Your Own Pace"; while it could be empowering to certain demographics, there's no sense of urgency, and it's not overly energising, which works against the mission they have. In other words, their tone of voice wouldn't be a good fit for what they're trying to achieve.
The example above shows how important it can be to get your tone of voice right in your club and how you need to tie it into your mission, rather than having it as an abstract concept.
What is a brand tone of voice?
Simply put, it's how a brand (or, in this case, a sports club) talks to its intended audience. Think about the personality you want your club to have; that's what you need to convey to your audience in the words and tone that you use in your marketing.
Think of the following three things:
If you use a language that your audience will connect with in a message that speaks to them, then you can begin to form an emotional bond with them.
Think about the words you use and whether they would connect with your audience. To do this, you need to know your audience well enough to know whether the words you use would be the same as what they're using. For example, do you offer assistance or are you there to help? Little changes in word choice such as this can make a big difference in the long run, because you're suddenly speaking their language, and your audience feels as though they can connect with you.
If you connect with your audience in a way they can understand, they'll listen to you whenever you speak. For example, if you need to connect with sponsors, speak their language so they know you're talking to them and not the general public.
How can I define my club's tone of voice?
There's no right or wrong way to find your tone of voice, but the following methods can start you off on the right track.
Consider adjectives for how you want to be described
If you're finding it hard to put your finger on your tone of voice, a good place to start is to think of the adjectives that define your club. Think of words such as inclusive, fun, fast, competitive, or daring; to name a few.
These adjectives can be used to shape your voice and give it purpose. Consider the differences between a club whose voice is friendly, compared to a club whose voice is inclusive.
Our team needs YOU! Come along and join us at our next session.
Are you feeling left out? We want to give as many people as possible a chance to try our club.
Both of these messages talk about joining the club and gaining new members, but the tone is different for them based on the adjectives used to define the club.
Think of your club's mission
Your mission is the guiding principle behind your club; whether you strive to be inclusive to all, or whether you're delivering high-quality coaching and a pathway to the Olympics, every club has a mission. Even two clubs within the same sport will have a different mission, depending on why the club was started; use this to your advantage.
If you can translate your mission into the marketing you're producing, it can form a deep connection with the audience you're targeting. For example, if you started your club to help disadvantaged children access a sport they normally wouldn't be able to, and you're able to get this message across through your marketing, you may be able to attract more sponsors than a club that's exclusive to privileged teenagers.
If you're not sure what your club's mission is, talk to the people who started the club (if possible) and ask them what their vision was when they started the club.
Consider who you're trying to reach
In business, this is also known as a buyer persona, the ideal client you're trying to reach with your marketing activities.
Whether you're aware of it or not, your club has ideal people that it's trying to reach, you could be trying to attract new players to the sport, poaching players during transfer windows, or you could be trying to attract new sponsors. Your marketing needs to be talking to the people who are interested in what you're trying to do. For example, if you're running a women's only football club, your marketing shouldn't be geared towards men as that's not who you're looking for. Or, if your club is trying to attract new sponsors, you should show why you're worth investing in, rather than asking the general public to join the club.
If you're not sure who your buyer personas are, you might need to conduct some research. Talk to members of your club and see what they think of the marketing you're doing and whether it speaks to them. If not, ask them how they would change it to make it more appealing.
Think about the content that worked best in the past
If you've been pushing out content for a while, you've been building a library of information without knowing it.
Look back through what you've done before and see what's worked best for you. Was it that time you posted a video of your top 5 goals scored? Or was it the time you posted information about when and where your club trains? Take a look through and see not only which post got the highest number of likes, but also which one got commented on and whether any of them actively pulled in new players or sponsors.
If you can spot patterns in your high-hitting content, you could be on to something.
Think about what you don't want to be
While you might want to be friendly and fun, you also need to consider what you don't want to be.
Maybe you want to avoid sounding pretentious, or you want to seem fun, rather than overly competitive. Once you've worked out what you don't want to be, you can start thinking about how you can be the opposite. For example, "we don't want to be pretentious", could be turned into "we want to be down to earth".
What happens if your voice isn't a good fit?
Have you ever heard your parents or grandparents try to use current slang to fit in with the younger generation? It's usually met with cringing and cries of "Stop being embarrassing!". This is because although there's nothing wrong with the words they're using, it doesn't sound right coming from their mouths. You cool cats dig what I'm saying?
The same thing happens when a club gets their tone of voice wrong; it sounds unnatural and shallow. Both of these factors can make it hard for audiences to connect with the messaging.
Do you still think it doesn't matter? After all, what's wrong with being a little cringy sometimes? Imagine a government website taking on a joking and fun tone while trying to talk about taxes and how to claim refunds; they would be inundated with calls from people questioning whether the advice was legitimate and trustworthy. Or even worse, wondering whether they had been hacked. While this might be an extreme example, it hopefully gets the point across that a club's tone of voice is an important part of its marketing.