Strong advertiser support found for sports posters
The best newspaper projects find ways to combine the dual purposes of newspapers: community service and making money.
The Bossier Press-Tribune, a 5,000-circulation three-day-per-week newspaper in Bossier City in northwest Louisiana, has developed just such a project with the production of sports-schedule posters featuring local high school baseball, basketball and softball teams. For several years, the newspaper has produced the posters for each of the six high schools in its coverage area, giving students and their families a keepsake piece of memorabilia and local businesses a long-term way to stay in the consciousness of the community.
"Originally it was born out of our sports playoff pages. When one of our local teams made the state playoffs, we offered a signature ad page that was $25 per spot and then $5 a week to be on it for as long as the team was in the playoffs. Then if they made the state championship, the ad was free," said David Specht, publisher of the Press-Tribune.
Support for the ads was strong enough that it inspired the newspaper to think bigger. "We knew that people are big into supporting the local team," Specht said. "Business owners have connections to the teams with having kids on the teams and being sponsors. It gave us an opportunity to highlight these kids, generate revenue and bring the community into the paper."
For businesses in the Bossier community, buying an ad on one or more of the posters is an important way to participate in community life. "Here people are really proud of the schools. We have really good schools here compared with some other areas of the state. It's one of those feathers in the cap, so in that regard, you've already got a leg up on other types of sales," Specht said. "People know us as a community newspaper with a community focus and when we go in and say, 'Here's an opportunity to create a keepsake for kids and parents and provide them with something they're going to want to hold onto,' they want to be associated with that."
It's not unusual for businesses to take on exclusive sponsorship of one or more of the posters. Last year, one business sponsored the newspaper's all-area athletic teams and all-academic team newspaper features.
The Press-Tribune settled on making posters for the boys' baseball and basketball teams and girls' softball and basketball teams because of the levels of support they have in the community. While not at the level of high school football – for which the newspaper produces an annual preview section – they all attract a significant amount of interest.
"One thing we've done in the last two years in Bossier is produce team posters in black and white for cheerleading, middle school football and the band," Specht added. "We run the middle school football and cheerleader posters in September, and we run the band posters in October when competitions start. We got a lot of calls from band parents that were so glad that their kids were being recognized. That was a big public relations win for us. September and October are not bad months, but [the posters] keep the momentum going from August when we have the football preview section headed into the Christmas season."
Production of the posters is relatively pain-free because of a good working relationship between the school system and the paper. If the paper can't take the team photo itself, a local photo studio usually shares it in exchange for a photo credit.
No project should ever be considered a no-brainer, but in other communities like Bossier, where schools and sports are similarly important to the local populace, high school athletics team posters can be a good fit for a newspaper – not just for the additional income they generate, but also for the ties they help build.
"We can't always afford to be the sponsors we would like to be," Specht said. "If we sponsor one sports team, we have to sponsor them all, and we can't do all of them. Here's a way for the paper to shine a positive light on what is going on in the community. It really does help the community-newspaper relationship."
For more information, contact David Specht at (318) 747-7900.