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Four Lessons for Creating Compelling Value Propositions

Posted By Mark Simpson  
18:33 PM

Unfortunately in the sports industry, we see time and time again organisations that do great work, but fail to maximise their impact because they can’t articulate the value of their participation products, services, programs or even traditional offerings to key audiences.

Over recent months, DHW Simpson has worked extensively with sports developing value propositions (VPs) for participation programs. Through this work we’ve identified four key lessons that can be adopted for sports to better ‘sell’ their wares. While the context here is participation programs, there is no reason why this approach can’t be applied to other offerings, or even to other industries.


What are Value Propositions and Why Are They Important?

First and foremost, what am I talking about? Value propositions, or ‘VPs’, are a succinct, clear promise of value to an audience stating why that audience should buy, take up or adopt your product or service.

While often thought of purely as a marketing and communications tool, good VPs serve a broader purpose.

For example, a VP provides internal clarity about what it is that you’re offering, to whom, and why they might want it. It can also serve as a ‘checklist’ for product development, helping you to ‘build in’ features and benefits to your audiences’ needs from the outset. Similarly, VPs can help inform tactical decision making such as what channels you might deliver through, what skills and expertise you need in your supply chain and more.

In short: they’re a critical foundation for a good product.


Creating Compelling Value Propositions

Through our work assisting sports with their participation offerings in recent times, we’ve identified a number of opportunities to set sports on the right path to developing great VPs. This guidance seems to have been useful in helping our clients structure their thinking and articulate the value of their offerings so I’ll share four key lessons here.


  1. Identify Your Audiences

Of those that do develop VPs for their programs, most focus on the customer. However, it is good practice to write tailored VPs for all stakeholder groups whose buy-in is critical to the success of your offering. Depending on what you’re peddling, this could be any number of audiences, but will often include:

  • Participants
  • Paying customers (e.g. parents in the case of a kids’ participation program)
  • Internal stakeholders or decision-makers, especially those who hold the purse strings (e.g. your Board and/ or Executive)
  • Deliverers (e.g. volunteer, casual or professional coaches and facilitators) and/ or the organisations they represent (e.g. sporting clubs, associations or schools)
  • Third party funders such as government or commercial partners


  1. Put Yourself in Your Audiences’ Shoes

Now that you know who you’re talking to, to understand how you can deliver value you need to know what makes them tick. Specifically:

  • What do they want?
  • What makes them happy or gets them involved?
  • What stops them from participating?

It is vital that you don’t assume your audience wants the same thing you do, or that different audiences want the same things as each other. For example, sports often trumpet ‘participation growth’ as a motivator for clubs in taking up participation initiatives. But to an overworked, underappreciated club volunteer, ‘growth’ might sound like shorthand for new teams, more administration and another fight with the local Council about ground access!

Put yourself in your audiences’ shoes. Be pragmatic. Be realistic. And if you don’t know – ask them!


  1. Identify the Features and Benefits

It’s important to identify the benefits that your program delivers your audience and the features that deliver them.

A lot of people have trouble at this step of distinguishing between a feature and a benefit. Try thinking of it this way:

  • A benefit is what the audience gets out of your product, program or service (e.g. achievement of a goal, solving of a problem)
  • A feature is the ‘nuts and bolts’ of the offering. The thing that that delivers the benefit.

For example, a program feature might be that it can be played on a variety of surfaces, requiring little in the way of space or fixed infrastructure. The benefit that this feature delivers for a host club is that it solves the problem of access to traditional facilities (and saves the need for that extra fight with Council)!


  1. Identify Your Point of Difference

Your program’s point of difference is what makes it stand out from the crowd. It never ceases to amaze me how many kids’ sporting programs market themselves as ‘fun, safe, short and social’ (or words to that effect) – the more they say the same thing, the more they blend into the (very busy) participation landscape.

To avoid this trap, first, ask yourself what you are differentiating your program from. That is, who or what are you competing with? This could be other sporting programs or other forms of leisure and entertainment.

Next, ask why is your program better than those alternatives? Is it cheaper? Is it of higher quality? More reliable? Easier to access?

Be pointed, be realistic, but be proud about why your offering is the best!


Final word

Having good VPs is critical. Not only do they help you convince your audience to buy or adopt your offering, but they also provide internal clarity around what you’re trying to deliver and, by doing so inform your program design and execution.

While these lessons aren’t necessarily exhaustive (and certainly won’t write your VP for you!) they will help in structuring your thinking to help you develop compelling value propositions. Give it a try and let us know how you go.

What other techniques have you found help you write a great VP? Let us know on LinkedIn, or if you want to chat more, don’t hesitate to drop me a line at or via