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Bottom Line Up Front: Communities have never needed sports the way they need sports this year. From nailing the pitch to differentiating your capabilities, here’s the ultimate Sports in 2021 breakdown — so you can capture every sales opportunity flying your way.

It’s 2021. Kids, adults, and everyone in between have gone without organized activities for the better part of a year. That means no group fun. It means no dependable active hobbies, and it means no regular dose of community. 

Well, guess what? That deprivation is over.

Starting now, our communities are opening back up. Our gyms and our stadiums are unlocking their doors, and our athletes — hobbyists and elite players — are once again getting their chance to shine. 

Sports are back in a big way and our question to you is… are you prepared for what’s coming with them?

Massive sales opportunities. Ample fundraising potential. Tight deadlines, harried athletic departments, and the brilliant chaos of community excitement.

It’s all coming — right at you. And if you’re not poised and ready to catch it, your customers will find another print shop that is. So this is your warning, your start-up manual, and your pep-talk all at once:

Get ready. Get amped. And get moving. 

Stick with us for the next minute or two, and we’ll show you how.

The Total 2021 Sports Breakdown

To say this moment has been a long time coming would be the understatement of the year. As a culture, we rely on sports to carry us through. We depend on them to teach our kids the right values — like hard work and sportsmanship — and we lean on them to fuel a unified spirit in our communities.

In a normal year, they’re a huge part of our lives. But all of us know that this hasn’t been a normal year. And the hole that sports have left in our calendars the past 12 or so months has been striking.

No after-school games. No early morning practices. No weekend tournaments or anticipation of the next big rally. No pre-game nerves. No post-game celebrations. No enduring spirit, no unwavering excitement, and no committed perseverance from players and fans alike.

So that’s the context for your selling power. That’s what you’re walking into: a community that desperately misses the energy — the vitality — of sports. Kids, parents, coaches, peers — everyone has their sight on the big return. And you’re right at the eye of the storm.

Your products can help give 2021 seasons and leagues the oomph they need to recapture their spirit. Your services can help make getting teams off of the ground floor quick and easy. And your technology can help empower everyone from families to schools to get — and stay — involved.

So you have a big role to play here. A huge one. And it’s your job to deliver — but it’s also your job to promote. To let your community athletics — from schools to neighborhood leagues to competitive teams — know that you’re open for business. That you’re equipped to help them get things going, and that you’re eager to take a load off of their shoulders so they can focus on the important stuff. Like, you know, winning the game. (Or, at the very least, getting everyone cheering.)

Everyone’s electrified by the return of sports. But most organizations are already feeling the heat. So let them know you’re ready and waiting — and get ready for the major results that roll in.

2021 Sports: The Pitch

While there might be new rules and regulations in your city’s sporting capabilities, the heart behind the recreation is still there: giving kids (and older athletes!) a goal-oriented outlet, giving families an activity to come together around, and giving communities a boost of unified, good-natured, and enthusiastic fun. 

So yeah, things might be different. But sports are still important. They’re still crucial — and instead of ignoring the strangeness or minimizing the abnormalities, we believe you’re in a unique position to emphasize them. To make them special.

To help sports in 2021 stand out. 

It’s been a year nobody will soon forget — but it’s time to make things unforgettable for a different reason. A better reason. 

You should be pitching uniforms, spiritwear, and fan gear that give voice to the great return. You should be pitching Online Fundraising Stores that vow to support leagues and initiatives through the tumultuous year. You should be pitching end-to-end order fulfillment, seamless e-commerce set-ups, and do-it-yourself design contests — because at the end of the day, making life a little bit easier to control is a change that’s more than a little bit welcome.

If you’re ready to impress your audience of eager sports enthusiasts this year, we’ve developed a 4-step pitch breakdown that’ll leave them wowed:

Ease Comes First

Whether you’re responding to the feelers of old customers or you’re reaching out to prospects for the first time, the backbone of your pitch should be simplicity. As in, the simplicity your services make room for — taking the onus off of them to spend substantial amounts of time, exert substantial amounts of effort, or feel undue (and substantial amounts of) stress. In fact, with the way you do things, time, effort, and stress won’t be in the picture at all.

From the beginning stages, where you’re sending digital, interactive Sales Presentations with customer-specific mockups, to the middle stages, where you’re enabling your customers to customize their own Online Store, to the end stages, where the inventory is produced and sent out directly to the buyers — everything is streamlined, polished, and fast. Your customers can engage with the process from wherever they are, whenever it’s convenient for them, and they never have to worry about organizing logistics, managing oversight, or troubleshooting issues.

Because you take care of it all. A true end-to-end order fulfillment service, your priority is giving leagues, teams, and schools the products they need to re-enter the arena with confidence — and without the resource-sucking hassle. The more you emphasize how you’re equipped to do that, the more impactful your pitch will land.

E-Commerce Galore

But it’s not just about simplifying things for your customers — it’s also about simplifying things for their people. Their end-consumers: the athletes, families, and fans that can’t wait to reunite with the game they love in full force. And that’s where the power of your e-commerce capabilities comes into full display.

With your Online Store set-up, you give your customers’ communities a way to engage that’s efficient, effective, and personal. They have the convenience of being able to access it (and show support) 24 hours a day, 7 days a week — and they can browse, buy, and get things delivered whenever it works for them. Whether it’s an Online Uniform Store for players, an Online Spiritwear Store for families, or an Online Fundraising Store for the whole community, your customers have the power to customize the aesthetics, messaging, and offerings to fit their needs.

That means getting ready for the season has never been easier. It means making sure families and peers have the fan gear they need can happen, even if in-store shopping is still limited. And it means money can be raised, spirit can be fueled, and excitement can be restored — without the admin chaos that typically comes with running a store.

If simplicity is the backbone, then Online Stores are the heart. Show off what they can do in your pitch, and your prospects will respond — with urgency.

Customization for Unity

And then there’s the customization power. The opportunities that your capabilities bring to the table — at every stage in the production process. Let’s start at the beginning: with InkSoft’s Proposals, your prospects can receive digital mockups of custom designs — and leave their own comments right in the presentation.

But that’s only if they want you to take the first run at the designs. If they’re interested in a more hands-on design process, they can engage the Online Designer and actively mold the products they want to create. Then there’s the Online Store itself: customers can choose the graphics, media, and messaging inside the store, tweaking it so it’s distinctly in-line with their team, league, or school spirit.

But still, that’s not all. Let’s get into the fulfillment stage: how will the products be packaged and shipped? Are there discounts or bundles? Do certain members of staff get priority rates? Can players and fans personalize the goods with their names or favorite numbers? These are the questions that your customers get to answer as they decide on the nuances of their custom fulfillment set-up — it’s their system, their way. So let them know that at every turn.

2021 Sports: The Offerings

So we’ve got the basis of your pitch nailed down — now let’s get into the specifics of what you’re selling, in a special-to-2021 sort of way. 

Because, like we said before, your ability to capitalize on the strangeness of this year will be your biggest differentiator. By speaking directly to the new needs of customers, the new behaviors of athletes, staff, and fans, and the new reality we’re all living in, you’re exhibiting your value today. And that’s a whole lot more important than exhibiting value that would’ve mattered in 2019.

With that in mind, here are some great product categories to get your wheels turning:

Practice Gear

While athletics customers will always need practice gear, regardless of the year, the sales opportunities you have this year are unique. Whether you change up the messaging (and lean into a “˜WE’RE BACK, WE’RE READY’ theme) or embrace new high-value products, like face masks, your pitches have the power to stand out.

Think about it like this: practice gear is for more than just the time on the field (or the court, or the rink). It’s for the travel and the festivities. It’s for the warm-ups and the rallies. It’s for the times when players are commuting, interacting, and gearing up for the big event. Items that prioritize health and wellness, that prioritize endurance and determination, will go far.

Special Jerseys: In the same vein, uniforms, and jerseys this year have the potential to heighten the playing experience for everyone — athletes, fans, and whole communities alike. But that can only happen if they’re truly given the chance to shine. Here are some 2021-centric ideas to get you thinking:

“˜Stronger Than Ever’ Messaging: game wear that maintains where there’s struggle, there’s room for triumph.

Fundraising Jerseys: game wear that promotes a local fundraising initiative (whether for small businesses, a COVID-specific campaign, or a league-related initiative) in order to raise awareness & fundraising power.

Sponsored Jerseys: Maybe this year, the game wear is the fundraiser — and local businesses can sponsor the league/team in exchange for getting their logo onto the uniform. 

Spiritwear & Fan Gear: The players aren’t the only gear-wearers to think about — what about the fans? The families? The peers and the communities? This year, they’re going to want apparel and promo products that match their highly strange but highly excited reality: the pride, the perseverance, and the passion. They need offerings that give voice to all of it.

That means messaging that announces their resilience. Graphics that prove their unwavering support. Special “˜2021′ markers that call out their spark for having made it back to the world of sports — and their enthusiasm for getting to witness where their team goes from here.

It should be personal, it should be unapologetic, and it should be full of energy. They’ve had to keep their sports excitement at bay for the last year — so we know that their new spirit wear and fan gear has a lot of lost time to make up for.

Camps, Clinics, & Programs: The reality is, we’re about to see 9 months of sport programming squeezed into 3-4 months of activity. That means spring break and summer camps, training clinics, and athletic programs (ranging from elite to introductory) are getting their moment to shine. But in order to step into it? They’re going to have to be equipped with the right custom gear — and the right capabilities for seamless distribution.

Enter: your business. With your sports-specific offering mockups ready to be customized and sent out through digital pitches — plus your order fulfillment services that ensure campers/athletes have their gear before day 1 of the program — you’re taking the labor out of the labor-intensive process.

And you should, like with all other offerings, be getting 2021-specific. Unity messaging. Resilience call-outs. Products that get the kids amped up for taking on anything that comes their way. Get customers thinking about fundraising and sponsorship opportunities, and get them also considering design-oriented contests and rewards that’ll bring their athletes together even more. It’s all possible.

Gratitude Apparel

We’d be remiss if we didn’t call out the apparel and gear needed for our beloved coaches, staff, and volunteers. Regardless of the age group and regardless of the level, the athletics personnel that make sports possible for kids and teens alike are heroes. Their commitment, passion, and mentorship create inimitable learning (and fun!) environments for communities big and small, and we know how much they’re all appreciated.

But that doesn’t mean we can’t work to show that appreciation off in new, exciting, and meaningful ways. That’s where gratitude apparel and gear comes in: whether it’s as simple as giving free “˜2021 COACH’ t-shirts to the coaching staff or as complex as a whole kit of personalized merch for every coach/support staff, your customers have the ability to pick and choose the route that makes sense for them.

But remember: these offerings can be more than just offerings. They can be incentive for fundraising — if Highland Park Middle School meets its Spring fundraising goals, every volunteer coach will get their own personalized t-shirt/water bottle combo! Or, when kids submit their own designs (via Online Designer) for the campus-wide design contest, the audience favorite will be printed on the coaching staff’s apparel — and they’ll wear it every gameday.

The products — and how they’re brought to term — are up to your customers. They have total customization power. So now’s the time to get creative.

There it is — your jumping-off point. Take those categories and run with them. Based on what you know about your customers’ needs, your prospects’ wants, and your community’s landscape, have fun molding new proposals. Have fun differentiating yourself from the same old stuff. 

And then, start thinking format. What’s the vehicle for selling? What’s possible with the technology? Here’s a glimpse of the pool you have to choose from:

  • Online Store, Regular Payment: The most foundational e-commerce set-up is this one — where you input all custom products into a custom Online Store, and allow your customer’s community to access it, buy from it, and get those items delivered. End-consumers are able to put their payment details right into the store, and your customers don’t need to worry about tracking orders or consumer details — because your platform takes care of it all. This is the standard e-commerce vehicle, and, in 2021, everyone’s more than comfortable with it.
  • Online Store, No Payment: What if your customers need a way to deliver camp/clinic/program jerseys that have already been paid for through tuition? What if the community league needs players to input their names/numbers/delivery addresses, but the cost of the jersey was included with registration? What if the school in question includes one complimentary item of spiritwear for every student — but the student can choose which item it is?

    Enter your payment-free Online Store. Athletes, fans, and anyone else your customers are trying to reach can click onto the site and choose their product — customizing as need be —  before entering their delivery information. And ta-da! No payment needed. Your customers can ensure only one product can be sent to each address, or you can create a hybrid Online Store — where players/students receiving a complimentary product are given a coupon code to enter, while everyone else needs to purchase as normal. Distribution made easy!
  • Online Fundraising Store: An extremely popular (and valuable) e-commerce vehicle in 2021, Online Fundraising Stores give your customers a way to raise money easily, conveniently, and with an emphasis on marketing traction. From the convenience side, partaking in the fundraiser couldn’t be easier — all end-consumers need to do to support it is click, scroll, and click again. From the admin side, your customers don’t need to worry about handling any backend logistics — the platform takes care of the organizing, the managing, and the distributing.

    Then there’s the marketing prowess. With something as shareable as a custom Online Fundraising Store, those inside the athletics community (and out of it) can share the store with their networks — with just a couple more clicks. Whether your customers are raising money for the team, the school district, the local hospital, or COVID relief in general — now there’s an efficient and effective way to get it done. And give supporters some knockout custom merch at the same time.
  • Online Contest Store: If your customers are looking for novel ways to promote a community-centric experience through their spiritwear, integrating interactive elements into their Online Stores could be the perfect move. Maybe it’s the Online Designer that’s right on the home page, waiting for end-consumers to engage — and once the designs are in, the top 15 options are given real estate on social media for the community to vote on. Then? The winning design is printed on the products for purchase.

    Other ideas? Maybe there’s a link on the home page that takes end-consumers to a social post, where they can comment their suggested 2021 team slogan. Or maybe the contest is oriented around voting on new colors, a new mascot, or a new fundraising initiative. The options are endless — what matters is that the Online Store becomes less of a “˜click-to-buy’ one-off page and more of a fun-filled, engaging experience. Sports are about community, and e-commerce vehicles like this help to make that sentiment clear. 

And if you’re looking for one more pro tip, here’s a great one: have a Sample Online Team & Fan Store, filled with pre-made design concepts and themes, ready to go. Include access to it with every pitch, talk up the art content your team produced specifically for the niche, and make sure every prospect is fully understanding what is, in precise terms, on the table.

Having a real deliverable you can point to — quickly and frequently — is a killer way to stand out. Especially in 2021, when everyone’s biggest concern is getting the thing they want fast. So let proactiveness be your secret weapon.

And if you enforce a marketing calendar to keep your team on track of what needs to be accomplished when? That’s just one more way for your productivity to soar.

2021 Sports: The Wrap Up

So you have the context, the pitching pointers, and the offering tactics. You have the creative inspiration, the differentiation capabilities, and the motivation to get the ball rolling as soon as you can.

The bottom line is, print-on-demand with Online Stores is dominating the marketplace. Booster clubs, support organizations, and every other customer in the athletics arena are all hesitating to place stocking orders — because uncertainty is still punctuating our days. Your services speak directly to that hesitation — paving a simpler way forward.

You can offer them flexibility, no matter what the next weeks, months, or seasons look like. You can offer them malleability, no matter what their budget today, tomorrow, or come summertime looks like. You can work with rush orders, having your sports-relevant graphics, fonts, and product mixes ready to go on short notice. You can work with different fulfillment needs, offering premiums to customers that want more oomph and cost-saving strategies for customers with less to work with.

You are perfectly positioned to capture every sales opportunity — no matter the customer, no matter the order, and no matter the intention. When you’re prepared, creative, and backed up by the right technology, you’re unbeatable.

Sports are back. Your communities are feeling the return of excitement, of pride, and of spirit. Be there to help them squeeze every last drop of potential out of the season. Show them what you can do today, and then watch as they come back to you for years to come. And if you don’t yet have the right e-commerce platform underpinning your business, now’s the time to boost your capabilities with industry-proven technology. InkSoft’s Online Store set-up is an end-to-end solution that increases your organization, productivity, and customer-facing appeal at the same time. And it was made precisely for businesses like yours. Get to know it here.

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