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    Dartplayer Dot Net :: View topic - I need some help promoting darts
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    I need some help promoting darts

     
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    Jeff_MacIntosh
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    Joined: Sep 30, 2006
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    PostPosted: Mon Sep 24, 2007 9:47 pm    Post subject: I need some help promoting darts Reply with quote

    Either I am completely inept, or I am not speaking the right language when it comes to promoting darts.

    What I need more than anything else is perspective. I am going to surmise the situation as best I can, and I would be willing to listen to whatever constructive input is available.

    Our league has been going for over 15 years, but has dwindled quite a bit from it's heyday due to several factors. Our league is owned by a local amusement company, but we strive to make the league solvent on it's own...not profit...just have it even out.

    1 - We WERE a stop on Merit's $90,000 World Series of Darts tour until Merit went under. ($8,500 Empire State Classic)
    2 - Many of the bars that were the league's best supporters, have closed up shop.
    3 - Many of the bars left don't see the benefits of darts, and leagues. Quite frankly, I have to kidnap their first born to get them to recruit a team. They don't see that darts are profitable for them. Better yet, many locations are empty on dart nights.
    4 - We charge a sponsor fee to help cover the cost of the banquet, and trophies. One of our major selling points has been that the locations will get the sponsor fee back from their cut of the coin drop from league play alone, and then some.
    5 - When it once feasible to afford $6,000 plus on a banquet (the amusement company would chip in most of the money) when it was tied in the same weekend with #1 above. Now we have been relegated to having our banquet at the local AOH hall, which is essentially a bunker in the side of a hill. Many of our longer standing members have expressed dismay at how far things have dwindled since the good ol days.

    EXAMPLE - sponsor fee is $75 for our 4 Man travelling league per team. Location sponsors 2 teams for $150. Their end of the drop is $10 per match. 21 week season nets them $210.00 just for league play. This doesn't count food, bev, or the juke.

    Our league philosophy has always been that every team should get some money back at the end of the season. Our format is a $10 registration fee per player, and dues are $5 per week. The $5 dues is then broken up as follows...

    $4 for win/loss payout
    win/loss payout is calculated by multiplying the $4 x # players in match -8-, and dividing it by the number of games played in the match.

    $4 x 8 players / 15 games = $2.13 per game.

    now split it 70/30 for win/loss = $1.50 per win - $.63 per loss.

    $.50 for playoff fund = $336 total (32 Players x 21 weeks @ $.50 per week)

    1st place playoffs = $168 added to that team's envelope
    2nd place playoffs = $100 added to that team's envelope
    3rd place playoffs = $68 added to that teams envelope

    $.50 for banquet fund to cover food, trophies, etc...

    The $10 Reg Fee goes toward the banquet, and associated costs. The league keeps nothing for itself.

    Take team A for example...they won 1st place for the regular season with a record of 233 - 82, fetching $402.80 in winnings. Add $100 for going second in the playoffs, and they earned a total of $502.80 after paying a total of $115 per player, they got back $125 +.

    Take team B for example...they were 6th place with a record of 140 - 175. They received $323.75, and no playoff money. Still, they got $80.93 for each player.

    Not bad considering they were entertained for a couple of hours every Wednesday, had a nice website to view their stats, and other info, had a banquet with a buffett & free beer. Trophies for the top 3 regular season finshers, and top 3 playoff finishers.

    NOTE: Another rival league in town pays $1 per win only, and has a *BEEP* banquet - at least from what I am told by teams that have played both.

    Collecting sponsor fees is like pulling teeth. If you are familiar with the amusement business, you know that you can't berate your customer, or they will go with someone else. So you kinda have to baby them a bit.

    Some of these locations didn't pay after being sent 3 invoices mid season, and getting two calls from me, which delayed the banquet by almost 8 weeks because we didn't have the money to front for them to schedule the banquet, and chase after them later.

    I would like to think that the league has a lot to offer at a very low cost to the player, and the location. We just feel like we aren't getting the cooperation we had hoped for from the locations. Examples include...

    The locations are generally responsible for the recruitment of teams. The league starts off by sending a letter to all of the location managers/owners to let them know that the season is coming up, and what leagues we are offering. The league assists them by putting up flyers in their location, and by providing materials to the bartenders.

    This year I printed 2000 slips of paper with league info regarding this season for the bartenders to hand out so they wouldn't have to spend time spelling it out to everyone. They can just give the slip out wth the change.

    We thought it was a great idea...

    Some bartenders thought we were trying to get them to our job for us. Most of the location owners couldn't gve a rat's ass either way...so they don't communicate with their staff.

    Mind you, we all understand the economics of how a bar runs. People in the bar means people spend money. People spend money means people leave tips. People leave tips means the bartender makes more money.

    Now, remember that comment about how many of these locations are empty on league nights? Why is this such a seemingly hard sell? Why are location owner/managers not extolling the virtues of having league in their location when it means money for them, and their employees?

    A few facts about our area - NY does not allow video poker or video gambling anywhere other than authorized casinos, and horse tracks. many states do allow this, which is a literal cash cow for amusement operators in those states. Those operators have much better cash flow than us in NY.

    As a business, the smoking ban in NY has hit us hard. The bar business in this state has never really recovered from it. College bars that have small smoking areas outside are the only locations that have really bounced back. Since the amusement biz is directly affected by something such as the smoking ban, it hit our business very hard too. Some locations were down more than 50% for a while, but have never come back to pre-ban levels.

    There are no locations in our area that feature darts. Most locations have 1 dartboard, and a small percentage have 2. We have one spot that has 4, but they are hardly used. We have six in a pool hall, and they do fairly well. They frequently run an in house league there.

    The area has alot of college bars around, and they just don't want to be bothered with darts. I guess the first problem is that I see it as more of a priority than they do. Secondly, and this has happened more than once, they locations are actually upset that they need to pay a sponsor fee to help support the league.

    I hear of other LCs that have locations that run leagues all the time, and have good, active participation from the location owners/managers. Why is my area so different. Why do I have 3 or 4 good locations, and 30 bad ones, instead of the other way around?

    Where did it all go wrong? I am sure there are a few dynamics I may have missed, but if you ask me any questions, I will do my best to answer them.

    Any help would be appreciated.
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    Mustang
    Dart Gunny
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    Joined: Jul 04, 2006
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    Location: Nashua, NH

    PostPosted: Tue Sep 25, 2007 8:20 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

    You have made some very good points about how all areas are different. I am not from New York , but I do have some experience with leagues and locations in all parts of the country. My discalimer is: Nothing is black and white. You have to try (and fail a bit) to find the right combinations.

    1. You have all the facts and figures well organized. (Always good.) It seems like your league may be a bit 'spoiled' possibly. Money back, banquets, play off money, trophies/awards, etc. are all great but you usually see one or two of those items, not all of them. This can get pricey.

    2. Also, doing all the things mentioned above can mean you are catering to your top players. (I am married to Dave Kelly, so I have been through this argument more times than you can even imagine.) Top players are great, wonderful, phenomal people. I married one. The problem is they do not make up the majority of your league. They are the minority. To thrive, you need the guys who are more worried about where the waitress is to get a beer than their PPD. There are a lot more of those around.

    3. Typcially, in soft tip leagues, you do not have a sponsorship due from the bars or at the most, $20 or something minimal. Sponsorships like you describe are more common in steel. Locations do not like to have money leave their hands. In soft tip, the operators put a cut of their money in to run the league. (This gets very involved partially with tying a location to an operator through leagues and getting all of the other equipment in the location to supplement their profits. It may even act as a loss leader.) You are saying it is no longer in the operator's hands. That could be a problem.

    4. What is your operator saying about the league? If there is some underlying issue about being taken out of the loop or about the cost of maintaining the equipment or any other agenda they may have (starting a new Golden Tee program??), this attitude could be transferred to the locations. Darts could be pushed to the back burner. Make sure you are on good footing with the operator and that they are actively supporting your efforts (and their profits!!) in the locations.

    5. One thing can overcome a lot of these issues and that is getting more players. No offense, but anyone with some accounting skills can "run" a league. (I do not know you and that is no reflection on you or your skill set.) The key to a league is the guy going to the bars and getting people who have never thrown a dart out of their seat to play. Get give aways from local alcohol distributors and have contests to see who can hit a bull, get the highest score on count up (good to introduce that habit of dropping coins) or any other fun thing you can think of. Recruit. Recuit. Recruit. If there is a demand and growth, the locations take notice.

    So there are a few things you may want to consider. As much as we would like to run soft tip leagues like steel, we can not. If you don't own the dartboards or have the ability to put one in, you have lost a lot of power.

    I wish you well. As a past employee of Arachnid, I am a big proponent of soft tip. I play in a steel league on Wednesday and Soft Tip on Friday. I am fortunate to live in an area that supports both.
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    Jeff_MacIntosh
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    PostPosted: Tue Sep 25, 2007 11:58 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

    First of all, I appreciate your reply. I am going to give you whatever additional info I can that may offer more perspective. Forgive me for breaking down your post, I just figured it would help me respond to what you are saying.

    Mustang wrote:

    1. You have all the facts and figures well organized. (Always good.) It seems like your league may be a bit 'spoiled' possibly. Money back, banquets, play off money, trophies/awards, etc. are all great but you usually see one or two of those items, not all of them. This can get pricey.


    I would appreciate it if you, and others would chip in and mention just what is offered by their leagues so I can figure out what is too much or too little. My trophy bill was $1500 last season. I had to chuckle when you used the word "spoiled" because not long ago I heard a player say "The guy in Rochester gives away a Harley every year...why don't you?"

    Mustang wrote:

    2. Also, doing all the things mentioned above can mean you are catering to your top players. (I am married to Dave Kelly, so I have been through this argument more times than you can even imagine.) Top players are great, wonderful, phenomal people. I married one. The problem is they do not make up the majority of your league. They are the minority. To thrive, you need the guys who are more worried about where the waitress is to get a beer than their PPD. There are a lot more of those around.


    That is why we pay out like we do to all teams, so that everyone gets something back. The team A/B illustration was to show how even a 6th place team that went nowhere in the playoffs got a decent amount of money back. This is also the reason why we went to Handicap. We have an Open division for the hotshots, but the payout structure is the same for both Open, and Hcap. We don't offer playoff money in Handicap to eliminate the urge for people to sandbag for the playoffs. Both divisions get paid for their wins/losses.

    Mustang wrote:

    3. Typcially, in soft tip leagues, you do not have a sponsorship due from the bars or at the most, $20 or something minimal. Sponsorships like you describe are more common in steel. Locations do not like to have money leave their hands. In soft tip, the operators put a cut of their money in to run the league. (This gets very involved partially with tying a location to an operator through leagues and getting all of the other equipment in the location to supplement their profits. It may even act as a loss leader.) You are saying it is no longer in the operator's hands. That could be a problem.


    The operator owns, and runs the league. I work for them part time helping to run the league. The league never runs in the black, and is always bailed out by the operator every year. I am sorry if I didn't make that clear in my post.

    The operator also works with other operators in the area (provided they play well together) to allow their boards into the league as well. The is a board fee charged to the other operators since this is considered a service for them to offer their customers as a value added product..


    Mustang wrote:

    4. What is your operator saying about the league? If there is some underlying issue about being taken out of the loop or about the cost of maintaining the equipment or any other agenda they may have (starting a new Golden Tee program??), this attitude could be transferred to the locations. Darts could be pushed to the back burner. Make sure you are on good footing with the operator and that they are actively supporting your efforts (and their profits!!) in the locations.


    See #3 above. The operator created the league. And it has always been in their interest to maintain it, since it helps keep the lights on.

    Mustang wrote:

    5. One thing can overcome a lot of these issues and that is getting more players. No offense, but anyone with some accounting skills can "run" a league. (I do not know you and that is no reflection on you or your skill set.) The key to a league is the guy going to the bars and getting people who have never thrown a dart out of their seat to play. Get give aways from local alcohol distributors and have contests to see who can hit a bull, get the highest score on count up (good to introduce that habit of dropping coins) or any other fun thing you can think of. Recruit. Recuit. Recruit. If there is a demand and growth, the locations take notice.


    I think this is where the breakdown occurs. For a while, the league/operator was doing promotions like what you mentioned in the above paragraph. We have noticed that few bars are ever interested in recruiting teams. I was talking to one barowner a few weeks into last season, and he was disappointed because I only had two teams for him...that he expected me to walk four teams into the door for him.

    They would be more than happy to sit there and let the league/operator do all the work. Part of this comes from the nature of the business relationship. Bars see operators as a necessary evil, not a partner to help them profit. This sentiment is a poison to the relationship. Bars feel as though we work for them, not in partnership. With that in mind, the operator has no ill feelings about charging a sponsor fee, since the bars look at helping their own profits by recruiting teams with contempt.

    To me, it would seem to be a no brainer for the bar to find 4 guys who want to shoot. We aren't lacking for dart players in the area, we are lacking the support of the locations in simply inquiring if these folks would like to play in a league. Hence the slip of paper idea. While some think I am delegating my responsibility, I was under the inpression that since they stand to profit too, I was actually give them a valuable recruiting tool in those paper slips.

    I would guess I am expecting to much from the barowners in that regard. Is that what it amounts to? Am I right, wrong, or whatever? Are we to expect anything from the barowners? Do they have no obligation to the league? Is that the reality we face, we do 90% of the work while they sit on the arse, and profit?

    You mentioned not being able to run the league like a steel league. Can you elaborate on this for me? I ask because our league has always had a sponsor fee. Unfortunately I wouldn't know any better.

    Is the league really asking too much by asking the barowners to put up a whole $75 per team...something that is made up in no time? Try to understand my rationale here...

    If they don't have a team in the league, then they don't have that business in their bar in the first place. We feel the best way to get teams is to recycle your weekend business, and get them in the door during the week. So paying the $75, and getting that money back from the food/bev/juke/dartboard over 21 weeks more than pays for itself. If they made $40 profit from those 8 guys each week, that would be $840 in return for their $150 investment (2 teams - one home one away each week) . Does that not justify their $75 "contribution" to the league? Or am I relegated to accepting the reality in which I live?

    Then again I could be totally inept...lol...You made a good point about going to the bars, and dragging people off barstools. That has not been done by us (the league) in a while.

    Thanks again for your time, and I anxiously await your reply, as well as anyone else's.
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    Jeff_MacIntosh
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    PostPosted: Mon Oct 01, 2007 7:43 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

    I would really appreciate some additional input.
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    Mustang
    Dart Gunny
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    PostPosted: Mon Oct 01, 2007 7:45 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

    Sorry for the delay. We are at the end of the fiscal year here at work. I promise I will write this afternoon!
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    vanduynl
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    PostPosted: Mon Oct 01, 2007 8:49 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

    Jeff,
    here is a forum from League Management on SEWA

    http://sewa-darts.com/modules.php?name=Forums&file=viewtopic&t=9155

    Hope it helps some
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    Mustang
    Dart Gunny
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    Joined: Jul 04, 2006
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    PostPosted: Mon Oct 01, 2007 1:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

    You have a lot of information there. I'll try to skip to the location owner issues. I think that is a big part of the confusion.

    My sister ran a bar back home. It is how I got into darts. She had over 30 teams playing out of her location during the course of the week. She ran blind draws on Sunday nights with money added that drew people from all over. She was an ideal location manager, a dart player.

    You are absolutely right about the fact that darts draw people in and the location will recoup their funds, but not all location owner/managers are dart players or even know about darts. The fact of the matter is that they have many ways they can 'spend money to make money'. You are asking them to spend it with you. Maybe they see a benefit in spending it elsewhere to get a bigger payback. Just because they can make money with darts, it does not make it their best way to make money.

    Your locations also sound like they are used to a system of some sort. If you are being asked about bringing in teams to a location, then at some point someone must have gotten teams for them. It sounds like this is expected. If that system has stopped, they are unaware. They need to be retrained. The slips of paper may get the information to them, but it still needs someone (if not their staff, someone from the league) talking to people. Nothing beats face to face contact signing people up. Promotion is the key to any dart league.

    Maybe if they are not able to create their own teams they could get some help. Do some promotions like we talked about, except put some of the onus back on the location. Ask them for free appetizer certificates or something else that affects them as prizes. Maybe even make a deal that for every team that you get someone gets a free meal. Have a gung ho player from your league recruit in the bar and they get a meal out it.

    Get a deal from a dart distributor for darts. Ask the location (or operator!!!) to give money for 3 to 5 sets of mid-priced darts to give away. Remember, you want new players at the boards. This gets the tools in their hands. (A blind draw or tournament only pulls in existing players who are loyal to other locations.) At least by putting in some sort of financial assistance, locations know they are expected to contribute in some way to the recruitment of teams.

    I am from Indiana. It was all soft tip where I am from. The players paid weekly and the locations paid a small amount as a sponsor fee each season. Now I am in New England. Lots of steel out here. The location pays a big chunk and each player pays $20 each season. (No coin drop.)

    The soft tip league I play in out here has a unique program for their darts. They run two big seasons a year. Players pay around $80 a season. They have bars all over the state of New Hampshire. At the end of each season, they take the stats and put the teams into divisions. (Masters, a, b, c, d, e, and f) They then run a tournament for each of the divisions during a weekend at a local hotel. Every team gets some sort of payback with the top teams in each division getting $1000. There is no payback for wins during the season. As a matter of fact, they do not even post the stats the last few weeks to prevent people from trying to raise or drop a division based on the standings.

    You pay for wins and the tournament. It is sort of double dipping. By running a tournament as I mentioned above, everyone does get something. Even the E division gets the same money as the masters. They stand to benefit more from this than paying for wins.

    Also, who needs a banquet? Friday night they have a big $10 blind draw with everyone. Saturday night they have a DJ at the tournament. People pay for their own food, drink, and rooms for the weekend. Give them a DJ and you have a party. (Like the BullShooter.) Sunday they have the finals for each division up on a stage for everyone to cheer on. (Again, E & F players are getting the same things as the Masters & A players.)

    One thing the league does wrong, in my opinion, is they put the machines on free play the first year they did this tournament. Once you set that standard, it is tough to change. They are now stuck with leaving them on freeplay. The operator still has to pay technicians and staff to run the tournament. They should be able to have coin drop to offset those costs.

    There is no secret to making a league work. It is trial and error. The problem you have is that once you give something, they expect it. It is tough to make a change. Anything you decide to do here will cost you some players. If you cut trophies, someone will complain. If you pay tournament not wins, you lose some too. You may have to lose a some players to shore things up and move into a new direction where you can grow. There are a lot of ways to pay off at the end of a lague. You just don't have to do all of them. Laughing Laughing Laughing

    I think I am rambling, but I hope I helped in some way. Are you going to Niagara Falls for the BullShooter Regional? My husband and I are thinking of going. Maybe I'll see you there.
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    Jeff_MacIntosh
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    PostPosted: Mon Oct 08, 2007 9:38 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

    I will not be attending the Bullshooter this October. However, I am working on something for 2008.

    Once I confirm, I will announce.

    You are NOT rambling, I need every bit of info I can get my hands on right now.

    You had made a comment about how in Electronic darts, sponsor fees are rare because the operator profits from the coin drop or dues. That isn't really the case with us since all of the dues go to...

    win/loss payout fund
    banquet fund
    playoff fund

    As far as profit from coin drop, well...when you go to a location say once every two weeks, and the only money in the board is from dart league, you have a problem. The money it costs to pay someone to drive all over to the locations only to collect $10-20 is hardly profitable. There are times we have walked into a location and they have the board turned off because there weren't alot of people around (during the day mind you) at the time.

    I agree that competition exists for the barowner's time, and efforts. Bands, Karaoke, Trivia Nights, all vie for a piece of that pie. Perhaps I am guilty of assuming the barowners see us as an ally.

    More later
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    PostPosted: Sun Feb 12, 2012 9:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

    I thought I would resurrect this thread since it seems things don't change much over the years...lol...

    One thing has changed about my perspective of darts in my area. I have come to realize the importance of the smaller in house leagues on our route. I have come to the conclusion that these smaller in house leagues that are run by the bars themselves with logistical support on my end will provide the player base I need to keep our traveling leagues going.

    It would seem I have been spending too much time trying to keep the 4 man traveling leagues going when the support offered by the bars is spotty.

    Now if I can get some advice on selling the idea to the locations on my route, I would be grateful.
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