SPOTLIGHT: SUNKIST CONNECTS, COMMUNICATES VIA SOCIAL
#SwimBiz Spotlight shares leading
practices from clubs to promote themselves – through social
media, sponsorship, communications and marketing. Please join us
for the 3rd Annual
#SwimBiz Conference on April 9-11 to learn from industry
experts and other leading swim clubs.
BY MIKE WATKINS, CORRESPONDENT
USA Swimming, 3/16/2017
Sunkist Swim Team Coach
David Orr acknowledges that not all coaches have the marketing
background he does.
As an actor and filmmaker in a past life, he learned much about
promotion and graphic design – and has used that experience
along with social media messaging to grow membership and connect
with the swimming community in and around Flowood, Miss.
It’s resulted in Sunkist winning four #SwimBiz Crystal
Kickboard awards from USA Swimming, including back-to-back
Marketing Club of the Year honors for 2015 and 2016.
“Like most swim clubs, we don’t have much of if any
money earmarked for marketing, so we use social media – which
is free – to reach our audiences,” said Orr, who
appeared on a variety of TV shows, namely The Young & The
Restless, in the 90s and 2000s before moving into coaching
“Not only is it free, but social media is the best marketing
method because it allows us to create fun, interactive messages to
connect and engage with everyone important to us.”
While social media – Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, in
particular – is no doubt instituting waves of interest in
Sunkist (and most swim clubs), it’s also connecting parents
and club alumni with what’s happening at the pool.
Orr said he’s seen more than a 100 percent increase in social
media marketing since his first year at Sunkist – but
it’s more than just likes and follows.
In his experience, true engagement begins and ends with people
already connected to the team – getting them excited to like
and share posts about team activities and the joy his team members
experience on a daily basis.
From there, the social media chain reaction reaches friends of
friends of friends.
“We definitely have a lot of fun every day, and I want our
social media posts to reflect that,” said Orr, who took over
Sunkist seven years ago and was honored by his Mississippi Swimming
peers with the Age Group Coach of the Year award in 2014.
“It’s infectious when we post photos or video of our
team members having fun or enjoying a successful meet; it gets
“Swimmers share, parents share, coaches share – and in
no time, hundreds if not thousands of people have also seen and
enjoyed. It doesn’t take long.”
One area – along with being colorful and young and full of
energy in his posts – Orr has focused on at Sunkist is
producing championships results.
When he arrived in 2010, the team ranked 7th in its LSC, and he
made it a priority to re-establish a championship
By the next year, the team won its first state championship, and it
has now won seven consecutive state titles.
Orr has a simple philosophy that has translated into team growth
– from 59 members when he arrived to 172 today – and
“Swim fun; swim fast,” he said. “It’s
something I’ve always believed. When you can win and have a
lot of fun doing it, people react and respond to it. That’s
what we want people following us on social media to recognize, and
“We want to share our victories with everyone on Facebook,
Twitter and Instagram – and then encourage them to share with
their friends. It’s really amazing, and very
Orr said before he, his team captains and parents jumped into
social media, he bought some space on a digital billboard rotation
in the community.
For several months, an advertisement about the team traveled
throughout the community, but it wasn’t until he took a photo
of the billboard and posted it to social media that the team really
started to see some marketable results.
"I’ve never been one to study analytics or metrics, but we
could see an increase in engagement and awareness pretty quickly
through social media response,” he said. “In no time,
the billboard went viral, and it became clear right away that
social media was the more effective, efficient way moving
As for having an advanced level of experience with marketing, Orr
said there’s an easy way for less-experienced coaches and
teams to enjoy a similar level of success with their social
“Look within your
team – your coaches, your athletes and especially your
parents – because, most likely, there is someone who has the
skills to raise your social media and marketing,” he
“And whatever they
might not be able to do or know, USA Swimming provides a
communications toolkit and seminars like (upcoming) #SwimBiz to
help. But remember, despite the technology, marketing and social
media are still about relationships. It’s always about
communicating and connecting.”