How to Build a Profitable American Football Club
In order to profit as an American football club, you need to approach the many existing opportunities the right way.
If you're reading this, there's a good chance your club is already charging a yearly membership fee to its players. Membership fees are important for a few reasons: they help cover the costs of practice/game fields, the use of equipment, buses for away games, and usually the insurance for each paying player.
It's important to keep the fee at a reasonable number; you don't want it too low and risk losing money, but you also don't want it too high and risk losing players. Depending on the country/level, the number can vary. I know of some teams that charge as little as 90€/year and some that charge as high as 350€/year. Some charge 20€/month for the entire year (which ends up being 240€/year). Find the appropriate number that works for your club and make sure your players are getting their money's worth.
This is very country-specific, as many clubs in countries where American football is still relatively new do not (and would not) charge spectators to come watch a game. This could deter people from learning about your team and your sport, so it's understandable if this is not something realistically feasible for your club.
If you do sell tickets to games, however, finding the proper price point is imperative. If you have paying spectators, you need to be offering a true gameday experience, not just hoping to rely on the gameplay itself to be the only selling point. Some teams charge 5€/game, others charge 10€/game, and I spoke with one team that actually has a donation box where the fans can choose how much they decide to give at the gate.
Securing a sponsor is a great way to help monetize your club, garner more exposure, and generally gain credibility. Sponsors (or partners) usually offer cash benefits or exclusive access or discounts for their products and services. Sponsors come in all shapes and sizes, so even partnering with a local barber is probably good for both parties.
That being said, if you really want to invest and have high value to provide, going after a title sponsor might benefit your club more than anything else. Notable European clubs such as the SWARCO Raiders Tirol, New Yorker Lions, Dacia Vienna Vikings, SsangYong Danube Dragons, and the Projekt Spielberg Graz Giants all benefit from title sponsors.
Selling merchandise is a simple and effective way to profit as a club. Not only does it turn a quick profit, but it increases your brand awareness substantially. Think about it: the more merchandise you sell, the more opportunity people will have to see, recognize, and learn about your club. Besides social media, merchandise is the most effective avenue for brand awareness.
Many European retailers offer great deals and services for team apparel. Check out K.Noah (Austria), ACE Performance (Germany), Ridge Sports (France), and EP Sports (England). Many teams in Europe invest heavily in merchandise and reap lofty financial rewards like the Marseille Blue Stars, Potsdam Royals, Oslo Vikings, and Limburg Shotguns.
Perhaps the most unique and potentially high-rewarding way to profit as a club is to have a discount card. Primarily used by American high school teams for fundraising, discount cards are very inexpensive for clubs to take advantage of. Typically you sell a discount card for, let's say 20€, and on this card are several discounts to business and restaurants in the local area. Local businesses are typically quick to offer discounts on cards like these because it usually gets people to their store/restaurant who otherwise wouldn’t come.
Here is an example of a team in the States that uses a discount card. In Europe, the Thonon-les-Bains Black Panthers have successfully been profiting from discount cards since 2012. It’s an uncommon, yet beneficial way to generate some serious revenue for your club.
This is the best way to profit. Period. The better product you put on the field, the more fans will buy tickets to games. The better product you put on the field, the more people will want to buy merchandise. The better product you put on the field, the more sponsors will come to you, instead of you going to them.
It’s the easiest to say, yet the hardest to do. But if you are a consistent winner, profitability is right around the corner waiting for you.