Almost every high school athletic program in the country has an organization to support the efforts of their young athletes, but the Benton Touchdown Club is taking the Booster Club concept to a whole new level.
In 2014 Benton’s football booster club disbanded and from that was born a well-organized promotion and fundraising machine, raising thousands of dollars for Benton’s Football program. According to Benton Touchdown Club board member, Terry Benham, a great deal of the club’s first year success was due to corporate sponsors and the intentional focus of the board on raising money, one hundred percent of which is used to promote Panther football.
“Back in the 80’s when I was in school, the booster club was responsible for all athletics programs and their idea of a fundraiser was, ‘Hey, let’s go have a carwash.’ Now, the Benton Touchdown Club looks at every aspect to maximize revenue in order to support football outside of the school budget.” The Benton Touchdown Club is run by a board of five: President Brian Black, Chairman Rob Pepper, Treasurer John Penn, Matt Beck and Terry Benham. Each member of the board is a professional businessman who brings their own area of expertise to the game. General membership varies each year, but with the Panther’s winning 2014 season, Benham expects membership to increase greatly in 2015. “Anytime you’re trying to build an organization, winning helps, and we did that a lot last year!”
The Benton Touchdown Club’s activities go well beyond a normal booster club. In 2014 the Club was in charge of organizing all volunteer activities at football games, tailgating, feeding all the senior and junior high players before each game (over 2,000 meals were served in 2014), purchasing gloves for the team and the Club even took charge of marketing the team through the design of a new decal for the Panther helmets and development of a website and Facebook page. “The new design on the helmet is unique, it’s cool and that’s one of the things we wanted to bring to the program – building a brand that people will recognize.” One of the problems the group quickly identified was the use of several different logos throughout the district. Some of the 2015 funds generated through the Club are earmarked to change out old logos and create brand strength throughout the community and around the state.
Promotion of the Benton Panther football program in 2015 is going to be a game changer due to digital efforts by the Benton Touchdown Club. Benham shared that the Club has contracted with Varsity News Network out of Dallas to build a website that will go head-to-head with any collegiate site. This season watch for live pay-per-view streaming of Panther games through Bentonpantherfootball.com, as well as delayed broadcast on local Fidelity Cable (Ch. 6) and radio coverage on ESPNWPS (formally KEWI, AM 690).
“We wanted to be able to give everyone that wants to see the game, such as alumni and out-of-town family, the opportunity to watch, but we knew that we had to come up with a way to protect gate revenues because they are such an integral part of the school’s athletic budget. Pay-per-view was the answer. So now if you can’t make the game, there’s another option to watch it live.” As part of revamped digital and broadcast initiatives, the Club will be offering an internship for students interested in this area to get involved with website maintenance, as well as production and broadcast of the games.
Out of all the things the Benton Touchdown Club does, one of the most important lies in their effort to be an asset to the coaches and encourage the players. “We try to encourage the players by meeting their needs and help to make them feel like they are part of something special. That’s our way of motivating.” The ‘hype’ videos played on the Jumbotron at the games are produced by the Club and include the acronym Head Coach Scott Neathery uses to encourage the team: F.A.M.I.L.Y. stands for Faith, Attitude, Mental toughness, Integrity, Love and You. “F.A.M.I.L.Y. defines the program. It’s about players, about parents, about fans, the pep steppers, cheerleaders, band, student body–everybody together,” says Benham.
Benton fans are coming to the games to support the kids and be entertained and now, thanks in large part to the Benton Touchdown Club, fans will experience an excitement akin to that of a college football game. Benham concludes, “Being an alumni of such a great program makes you feel incredible. I love my hometown and when you have an opportunity to see the hometown team do well, or Triple Threat do well, or any of the hometown kids doing well, it makes the whole community feel good. That’s why it’s been a priority to raise the bar of what people see through the Panther football program. Friday night is a special time in Benton; it always has been and the Benton Panthers have always been the fabric of what makes that magic in our hometown on Friday night.”
To follow the Benton Panthers or become a member of the Benton Touchdown Club, visit bentonpatherfootball.com or visit the Club on Facebook.