The JDS social media sphere has been buzzing in recent weeks about sports. With the change in the seasons (though for some parts of the country it’s unclear whether we’re talking winter to spring, or spring to summer…), basketball championships and hockey tournaments are the talk of the town. In a society where Jewish visibility in sports is limited, many Jewish day schools boast strong athletics programs with an explicit connection to Jewish identity and values. And if the sports ticker that is my Facebook newsfeed is any indication, they win a lot too.
Sports are a real rallying point for many Jewish day schools. They bring the community together to celebrate successes and confront defeat, and they allow the school to show its pride to the wider community. For many prospective students and families, sports are a draw—even a deal-maker—to any independent school, Jewish or secular. They’re also a hook that many schools and universities use to engage their alumni and promote giving opportunities.
So how can Jewish day schools use their athletics programs to give texture to their value proposition and bring in new audiences? I’m so glad you asked … here’s my Top 10:
- Include images of your school’s athletes in action, and details about your sports programs, in any and all marketing materials. This way, prospective parents and students who value athletics highly will know that sports are a real option at your school.
- Promote community building when day schools square off against each other. For instance, two rival schools could have a contest to see which school can raise the most money from its community in advance of a big game.
- Provide opportunities for alumni to engage with the school through attending big games and related events. Many schools have alumni vs. faculty games around Thanksgiving.
- Showcase “scholar-athletes” in your community. And while you’re at it, you can even add a Jewish values component to the mix (a “middot-athlete,” for instance). Such honors have the potential to create community, naming opportunities for donors interested in sports, etc.
- Update your Facebook, Twitter, and/or website with photos and details of the athletic successes of your students and any related events (such as send-offs, pep rallies, etc.).
- Encourage interaction with peers from other backgrounds. Many Jewish day schools compete in sports leagues with secular or parochial independent schools, which can be a great experience for building those connections.
- Brand it. I have seen some awesome looking JDS sports uniforms and varsity jackets. Giving athletes the chance to wear these in public spaces, both on and off the playing field, is a great way to show off your school’s brand.
- Create Facebook contests between schools during rival match-ups or post videos cheering on your team in advance of the game.
- Use your school’s blog to pull out the teachable moments in your school’s sports events, in addition to the successes that your teams are having on the field.
- Market your school’s games as Jewish community events and publicize them to the broader Jewish community, to give local Jewish families a day school experience without any strings attached.
Of course, not all Jewish day schools have interscholastic athletics offerings, and the ideas above may not apply in your community. But all schools have in-school and extra-curricular activities that highlight students’ successes and connect to the unique values of the school. How does your school use sports as a marketing tool? What athletic opportunities, or other programs at your school, could you publicize in more dynamic ways to build community, attract new audiences, and even create new giving opportunities?