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Volume 20 No. 42
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Pooling their efforts: USA Swimming partners underwrite major marketing campaign

USA Swimming this week will launch its largest marketing campaign, a $500,000 effort called “Swim Today” that’s aimed at boosting swim participation.

The campaign is being underwritten by nine of USA Swimming’s partners, including swimwear brands Arena, Speedo and Tyr, and five-time Olympian Dara Torres has signed on to be its spokeswoman.

Creative features children and lighthearted tag lines that highlight what’s fun about swimming.

Creative, which was developed by Minneapolis-based Colle & McVoy, will run online and on TV. It features children along with lighthearted tag lines designed to highlight what’s fun about the sport of swimming.

For example, there’s a digital ad that shows a kid underwater in a cannonball tuck beneath the words, “Basketball. Football. Cannonball. Which sounds the most fun to you?” There’s a 15-second spot that shows a kid in green goggles breaking through the water’s surface as a voice-over says, “I’m dedicated. I’m passionate. I am an alligator.”

USA Swimming and participating companies like Arena, Speedo and Tyr hope the campaign helps boost consideration of swimming as a sport among parents and kids. A recent study commissioned by USA Swimming showed that 80 percent of parents don’t view swimming as a sport in the same way they do soccer, basketball and tennis. They typically get their children lessons for safety reasons but don’t sign them up for swim teams. They also view swimming as less fun than other sports because there’s a misperception that their kids would have to join year-round teams.

“There’s a chance to change perception of the sport and make it less intimidating,” said USA Swimming chief marketer Matt Farrell. “It’s the first time we’ve done this kind of campaign, so there are no benchmarks, but if we raise participation by a percentage point or two, that’s thousands of swimmers.”

Speedo USA President Jim Gerson added, “Learn to swim is important, but shifting to the fun and inspiration of the sport is important. Kids do things that are fun, and that’s what this campaign highlights — it’s fun to get in the water. It’s going to help all of our businesses.”

Arena, Speedo and Tyr contributed $50,000 each to the campaign. Six other partners, including the American Swimming Coaches Association, National Swimming Pool Foundation and Swimming World Magazine, contributed $25,000 each. USA Swimming contributed $200,000.

The ads will be targeted toward families with kids and appear on Facebook and specific sites visited by mothers of young children. The PlowShare Group is placing the public-service ads on TV stations nationwide and expects there to be more than 13,000 airings this year.

USA Swimming currently has 400,000 members. Its membership increases 1 percent to 2 percent on average in non-Olympic years and more than 10 percent in Olympic years. Farrell wants the non-Olympic-year membership increases to rise to the same level as Olympic-year increases.

“Sports like golf, tennis and hockey are doing more to promote youth participation,” he said. “We don’t want to be asleep at the switch.”