JERRY KEEFE'S MARKETING SKILLS PAYS DIVIDENDS
SYLVANIA, OHIO – Sylvania, Ohio has become one of the fastest growing success stories in not only SPA but in all of senior softball.
In eight years the SYLVANIA SENIOR SOFTBALL LEAGUE has grown from one ten team league to two leagues with twenty teams and nearly 300 participants from age 50 up.
In addition, the four-year old SPA SYLVANIA GREAT LAKES NIT CLASSIC, spearheaded by members from the SYLVANIA organization, is now in the top sixteen attended senior softball tournaments among all SPA, SSUSA and ISSA senior tournaments east of Las Vegas.
Although he won't take all the credit he deserves, JERRY KEEFE has been the major moving factor in both.
“It took a lot of people not just one to get the ball moving to form the League and the tournament,” KEEFE said, “ GORDON HIRSCH, BRUCE ANDERSON, GARY MEYER and myself got the idea to start a senior league back in 2008 and that is how it started.”
Most of the original members of the League came from the East Toledo organization and really weren't happy with the ETO.
Borrowing on his marketing skills as MARKETING DIRECTOR for TOLEDO JEWELERS, KEEFE organized a marketing plan that would make any organization proud.
Using a newspaper blitz in all papers within a FIFTY-MILES radius, he promoted and advertised for senior softball players. He then devised a mailing list using names of former players from rec leagues the quartet knew and topped it off with a phone blitz.
“Reaching potential customers, advertising the product and then selling it is the secret to any marketing plan and it really worked well for us,” KEEFE said.
Another major factor in getting the league going and keeping it growing in popularity since 2008 has been sponsors.
“We couldn't keep our price per player down without sponsors,” KEEFE stated,”Without them it would cost players over $100 to sign-up in the League as opposed to the $70 we now receive”.
“The sponsors take care of the team shirts and hats and the league's biggest expense then are the field rentals and year-end awards. Members of all the league championship teams receive jackets and we also have additional individual awards at the Leagues Awards and Recognition Banquets,” he explained.
Foremost among the sponsors is FRICKERS SPORTS BAR in SYLVANIA. Owner RAY FRICK sponsors six teams in the twenty-team league. He also backs the 70'S FRICKERS SPORTS BAR travel team and is constantly contributing additional money to the organizations operation.
Speaking of tournament teams, there are travel teams in the 50, 55, 60, 65 and 70 teams from the SYLVANIA league.
“ Having travel teams has also helped increase our membership as members look forward to playing in different locations like Columbus, Barberton, Dayton and Shelbyville, “ KEEFE explained. “Maybe in a few years we can go to DALTON and other SPA tournaments.”
Attending SPA tournaments in BARBERTON and COLUMBUS also gave KEEFE the idea to have a senior tournament in SYLVANIA.
“I contacted SSUSA and SPA but nobody was interested in us,” KEEFE explained, “But that changed when SPA EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR RIDGE HOOKS met with me at THEE BUCKEYE CLASSIC TOURNAMENT in JUNE, 2011 and talked with me about the possibility.”
“I was thinking, yeah right, you will probably forget about me and SYLVANIA as soon as you get back to OKLAHOMA. BOY WAS I WRONG!!.”
HOOKS flew to SYLVANIA in JULY to meet with KEEFE and PACESETTERS ROB CONOVER about SYLVANIA hosting a tournament.
He followed that up with another meeting in DECEMBER and shortly thereafter the SYLVANIA GREAT LAKES NIT was born.
“Just like the creation of the SYLVANIA SOFTBALL LEAGUE, getting the tournament started also was not a one-man operation,” KEEFE said, “In addition to ROB CONOVER and PACESETTER PARK, we received a lot of help from SPA's LARRY MILLIRON and HO HOFFMAN, especially through promoting our tournament at THEE BUCKEYE CLASSIC and on their web site. HO and RED BOLE also furnished us with their data base of over 200 teams with names, e-mails and phone numbers we could contact about our tournament.”
KEEFE and the SYLVANIA tournament might have needed help at the start but now they are not only running on their own, but also helping other SPA tournaments directors.
In his marketing mailer about the SYLVANIA tournament, KEEFE also promotes THEE BUCKEYE CLASSIC, COLUMBUS and other area SPA tournaments.
“Those tournaments are always promoting our tournament on newsletters, web sites and handouts at their tournament, so we do the same for them,” KEEFE explained, 'I have found if SPA area tournaments work together to promote each other, we all benefit.”
The SYLVANIA League also has one of the best marketing tools in senior softball with their own web page at sylvaniaseniorsoftball.com. Lots of interesting articles, player profiles, current news and archives.
However, it also has one of the best photo shoots in any senior web site. JOEL HANSON does a fantastic job with his pics on teams, individuals, sponsors, awards and such.
Surprisingly, the one thing KEEFE is most proud of is not the tournament or the league but rather a special event put on by SYLVANIA LEAGUE COMMISIONER JAY SCHRAMM and members of the SYLVANIA SENIOR SOFTBALL LEAGUE.
In MAY, SCHRAMM along with the league organization raised over $30,000 for the WOUNDED WARRIORS PROJECTS. It was done mainly through a triple header softball event featuring WOUNDED WARRIORS, SYLVANIA POLICE. SYLVANIA FIREMEN and SYLVANIA LEAGUE players among others.
There was also a number of other fund raisers and activities.
KEEFE and SCHRAMM both agree there should be more to senior softball then just wins and losses.
“With the creation of the SYLVANIA SENIOR SOFTBALL LEAGUE and the tournament, seniors have found an outlet to participate in an activity that they had previously given up on,” KEEFE summarized, ““At SYLVANIA PACESETTER PARK, senior players have found their own “Field of Dreams”
And you really couldn't ask for more.