Surrey-based firm exports Basketball Coaching to the US

Green Star Media is a Surrey-based digital media company providing expert training plans, advice and insight to amateur and professional sports coaches. They publish a wide range of e-zines and websites, maintaining a continuing relationship with their customers. Established in 2004, their first target was rugby coaches, branching out two years later to offer support to footballers. Growing interest by football (soccer) coaches from the US paved the way for expansion into America.

With several years of successful export into the US soccer market, Green Star Media was sure there were more opportunities. “We felt confident exporting our football skills to the US”, explained Kevin Barrow, Publishing Director, “After all, we invented the game here! However, we wanted to find an additional market sector in the US to continue to grow our export business”. Green Star Media sought a US team sport with similar participation rates as soccer; desk research carried out by the company suggested the basketball-coach market could provide a good opportunity. However, this clearly might pose challenges; as Kevin described, “It felt as if we were going to try to sell coals to Newcastle – would a primarily US audience of more than 1.8 million basketball coaches take advice from a product published in a small English Village!”

The business identified some key decisions they would need to make before pursuing this further: how could they adapt their offering to be acceptable to the US market, in what format should the publication be delivered, how would the pricing structure work, and how could they communicate their marketing messages to this audience? Green Star Media had worked with UKTI for a number of years and contacted their International Trade Advisor, Iain Brown, to see what help UKTI could offer. Iain recommended the Export Marketing Research Scheme (EMRS). The EMRS is a UKTI Scheme providing professional advice and funding to help businesses understand the dynamics of a potential overseas market before creating an appropriate strategy for launching in this market and there is a nationwide team of professional Research Advisers to support individual companies.

Kevin met with Clive Hogan, Research Adviser for the South East of England, who helped him to structure a research plan to enable these decisions. Clive encouraged Kevin to travel to the US to talk directly with a wide range of people associated with the basketball-coaching market. In March 2012, Kevin spent a week in New York and New Orleans meeting with representatives of the National Association of Basketball Coaches and the NBA Coaches Association, college basketball coaches and other coaching providers; he also coincided his research trip with the NABC Convention in New Orleans.

The research results were most encouraging, “Whilst the basketball convention was clearly not as busy as US soccer exhibitions we’d attended, coaches were very keen on this offering and there was a real interest from the associations”. One clear finding was the requirement to bring an experienced US basketball expert on board. The research also highlighted the need to use ‘American English’ and format in US letter size (not A4). It was apparent that the basketball-coaches had a similar economic attitude towards buying coaching advice to their soccer counterparts, so Green Star Media decided to replicate the soccer-coach pricing structure. “A really positive finding”, explained Kevin, “was that a permission-based email marketing approach was preferred by our potential customers, enabling easy and cost-effective marketing communications!”

Armed with this knowledge, Green Star Media set to work to launch Basketball Coach Weekly. They hired Michael Austin, an experienced basketball editor based in Oregon, US; they secured a partnership with the National Federation of High School Coaches providing email addresses of their target audience. Basketball Coach Weekly was also immediately available on tablet through Apple Newsstand, where initial single issue and subscription sales were encouraging.

Six months after the launch of Basketball Coach Weekly, the publication had been warmly welcomed in the US and was trading ahead of budget with subscriber numbers 20% ahead of projections. By using e-publishing and e-marketing methods Green Star Media was able to penetrate a competitive market and successfully take market share from incumbent magazines and websites. “With this success, we’re now receiving interest from other large membership organisations who are keen to partner with us and add further subscribers”, Kevin proudly announced. Green Star Media’s employee numbers have risen from 6 to 19 in the past 5 years.

“The best thing about the Export Marketing Research Scheme”, explained Kevin, “is that it helps you to work out your strategy to enter a market quickly and easily. Without their help, it might have been a year or two before we’d even got to where we are now”.

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Sectors: Sports
Countries: United States
Export Action Plan