Creating Communities consultant, Eamonn, is also the founder of the grassroots Street Roller Hockey League here in Perth, Western Australia.
Created in 2013, the league has rapidly grown to over 100 teams, garnered media attention and continues to expand. We spoke to Eamonn about how he advances the community sport on a limited budget and he gives us some tips on how to use these techniques to promote community events.
How did you start the WA Roller Hockey league?
“My friend and I found hockey sticks in an op shop around three years ago. We’d seen street hockey and ice hockey being played around the world, and played NHL99 as kids and thought we’d have a game, just as a bit of fun. We organised one with skates, ice was just too hard, (and after all, we have a great climate in WA for a street league), invited some friends, and the WA Roller Hockey league had begun.”
What were the challenges of organising team sport for adults?
“I noticed my friends stopped playing sport after school or uni, mainly due to lack of flexibility in organised sport, or being nervous about their skill level.
Regular team sport doesn’t work for my generation, everyone is busy with life. It’s hard to juggle a fixed schedule of uni, work, paying rent or a mortgage and then on top of that commit to training and games.
It’s also pretty rare to start a new sport as an adult, so I wanted to create a league where the culture wasn’t too serious and the format not be too regimented or fixed. I like that everybody starts at the same level, that no one has ever really played before. I knew I wanted Roller Hockey to be something extremely fun in people’s lives, not feel like a burden or obligation.
While we’ve had some challenges around noise complaints, media coverage garnered a lot of support – we got federal attention from both Liberal and Labor Perth seats pledging $20,000 to the league to create a sound wall at Bayswater Bowling Club.”
How did you promote and grow the league?
“I had no money to spend on marketing, so to begin with, it was all word of mouth. After the first season, people had so much fun they told others about the league and became walking billboards! Random people starting joining and forming teams, representing their suburbs.
I sponsored some (local radio station) RTRFM events, spoke on some of their programs and consistently posted on social media, reaching out to people directly and asking them to like, comment and share our posts to get more organic reach.
I’m always researching and testing different promotional methods – recently we Facebook Live streamed a game and had a huge organic reach of 89,470. All of the teams have their own social media accounts and I share with them what I learn so they can use it for themselves for both their team and other things they may be promoting. I really believe in being transparent and generous with information.
I think if you make something fun and interesting enough, people will be curious to come along and will tell others about their great experience – via word of mouth or on social media.”
What similarities do you see between promoting Roller Hockey and promoting community events?
“Well, having a limited or zero budget is one. But Roller Hockey is proof that if you put the time into reaching out to people personally, you can get a great local organic reach, and that targeted reach is more personal and valuable than an expensive mass marketing campaign.
Community sport and community events share the challenge of needing to be flexible around people’s lives, too. Again, I think the focus should be on having fun, and being real and genuine in the way you reach out to people.”
Can you give us some free ways to promote events that have worked for Roller Hockey?
1. Send a personal email blast.
“People are much more likely to open an email if it comes from a real person, rather than an organisation. People tune out to impersonal communications.”
Rather than sending an email from your organisation, (which can feel anonymous and a little impersonal), make the Sender and Reply To address an individual’s details. MailChimp offers free plans for up to 2,000 subscribers in your database.
2. Be genuine.
“Use raw and genuine text in your invite, particularly in the subject line.”
For the most impact, avoid old-fashioned marketing-speak and write your emails with the language you use in real life. Read your words aloud and imagine delivering the invitation verbally to check if anything sounds too formal or over-the-top.
3. Connect with your circle.
“Say you have 10 people on your committee. If everyone personally invites 10 people in their direct social circle, that’s 100 potential attendees reached.”
Inviting each member of your circle over the phone or in person will get a better response than only using the online realm. It’s hard to ignore something when a friend or contact is personally inviting you. Compare that with how easy it is to delete an email, or leave it unread.
4. Harness your Facebook groups and friends.
“The more an individual sees your event information, the more likely they will be to attend the event.”
Post your event flyer, invitation or event on Facebook and personally request 10 of your circle to share that post on relevant groups and their own pages to increase collective reach.
For more information of Street Roller Hockey, visit www.streetrollerhockeyleague.com.au