By the Staff of NYSportsJournalism.com
January 11, 2016: Dick's Sporting Goods wants to have both an immediate and long-term impact in sports and beyond, not just as a national retailer — with more than 600 locations in 46 states and growing — and as a rookie partner with the U.S. Olympic Committee, but also in the way it connects with students and athletes.
In 2014, under the auspices of the Dick's Sporting Goods Foundation, the company founded Sports Matter, a multi-year project that has committed $25 million to support youth athletics, with a focus on programs and teams that were being or about to be eliminated due to budget cuts.
In its first year, Sports Matter raised some $4 million and helped more than 180 teams nationwide, according to Dick's.
The platform was expanded and enhanced in 2015, including aligning with DonorsChoose.org, a crowd-funding destination, to reach more people and assist more programs.
Case in point: In December, Dick's and the Dick's Sporting Goods Foundation funded the Girls High School Hockey showcase, played the Ben Boeke Arena in Anchorage, through 2018, extending what was, due to lack of funds, its final season.
According to Dick's, between 2009-2011, some $3.5 billion was cut from school sports budgets.
The problem is nationwide, and growing. By 2020 an estimated 27% of public high schools in the U.S. will not have any sports, according to the retailer.
"Saving youth sports is a core mission of our company," said Lauren Hobart, svp/CMO for Dick's Sporting Goods and president of Dick's Sporting Goods Foundation.
Last February, Dick's signed a deal to become the official sporting goods retail sponsor for the U.S. Olympic Committee and Team USA. Activation began to ramp up for the 2016 Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro.
The alliance is anchored by "The Contenders," an in-store and multi-media program to provide U.S. Olympic and Paralympic hopefuls with flexible work opportunities and other support to help them reach their goals. Lead spokesperson is Kerri Walsh Jennings, three-time gold medal winner in beach volleyball.
To date, more than 70 Contenders are working in 87 Dick's Sporting Goods stores in 31 states across the country, being offered flexible work schedules and competitive compensation to give them them time to devote the necessary time to training to be part of Team USA at future Olympic or Paralympic Games.
"We have had such positive feedback on the program, from the Contenders, our customers and their fellow associates," said Hobart. "It's truly a win-win."
In March, Dick's Sporting Goods launched a brand campaign, "Who Will You Be?" The effort — which included an extended anchor spot and several breakout spots focusing on different young athletes and specific sports — was intended not just to drive traffic to its stores but also to support Dick's position as presenting sponsor for ESPN's "College Basketball Championship Week," its USOC alliance and to put a spotlight on how young athletes are motivated.
Lead agency is Anomaly, NY.
"What we really to want show are athletes in a more personal, emotional environment; to show their commitment and dedication, and support that in ways that tell people it is real and not a manufactured marketing ploy," said Ryan Eckel, vp-brand marketing for Dick's. "We truly believe that sports make people better, and it is the kids and athletes we focus on who make sports what they are."
This month, the retailer launched Dick's Team Sports HQ, an all-in-one platform that will offer youth sports leagues across the country three key services – online registration and team/league Web sites, custom uniforms and FanWear and access to donations and sponsorships.
Dick's is also building a bond with teams, athletes and students in numerous other ways, including award-winning documentaries; an alliance with Harlem Lacrosse and Leadership, a non-profit group that "provides academic intervention, leadership training and lacrosse to at-risk youth," which includes a dedicated TV spot, "Sports Matter - Tyler"; and a 20-year naming rights deal signed n 2006 for the home venue for the Colorado Rapids of Major League Soccer.
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