At the height of his competitive swimming career, Chris DeJong was ranked 5th in the world in the backstroke. He narrowly missed out on the 2004 Greece Summer Games and set his sights on the 2008 Bejing Games as his final chance to swim on the big stage. Unfortunately, at the Team USA qualifying meet, DeJong lost to Michael Phelps by three-tenths of a second, ending his Olympic dreams.
Afterward, DeJong pivoted and turned his love of the water into a successful swim lesson business with the goal of changing the way children learn to swim. By 2012, he had formulated a business plan and sought investors, including some parents of students, to fund the opening of a permanent pool. In 2017, Big Blue Swim School caught the eye of L5 Capital Partners, which acquired a majority interest in the business, and by 2018 the brand was franchising.
Big Blue’s model sets it apart from other swim school businesses as it focuses on the distance swam as the marker for success and empowers kids with the skills they need to feel confident in the water. The brand’s facilities are designed to provide a comfortable experience, with 90-degree pools and a carpeted view lobby for parents. Using Big Blue’s proprietary technology, parents can follow their child’s progress with each lesson, as well as sign up and manage lessons. The same proprietary technology also allows franchisees to optimize operations and revenue while providing an unmatched experience for parents.
Today, Big Blue Swim School is one of the country’s fastest-growing franchises in the $3 billion learn-to-swim industry, with more than 230 deals signed since 2018. In early 2022, Big Blue Swim School approached Trevelino/Keller to become its agency of record, managing the brand’s national and industry public relations, spearheading digital lead generation for franchise sales, developing creative and video for both the consumer and franchise sides of the business, as well as managing its NPOs, or “New Pool Openings.”
Each month, T/K crafts fresh news angles to pitch the brand to consumer, business and franchise media, offering a variety of experts in swimming, child health and wellness. Results from this coverage reach parents and create brand awareness for the company as it continues to grow. Our work with Dejong as a Forbes Council member also helps position him as a business thought leader and attracts franchisees to his impassioned approach.
Through our lead generation efforts, T/K provides Big Blue with a record number of MQLs each month and nurtures those relationships through the funnel. T/K also ideated and produced the brand’s first professionally shot commercial and public-facing videos, with several more in production.
In addition, T/K works with all local franchisees to help them realize their marketing goals as they plan for their new pool openings. We begin six months before the big day, and our work spans influencer relations, event attendance, family fun day planning, Chamber of Commerce ribbon cutting, local advertising and more. These efforts have helped multiple franchisees see record sign-ups before opening. We assisted with nine new pool openings in 2022 and are gearing up for at least 11 more.
2023 will undoubtedly be Big Blue’s biggest year yet, and we are excited to be along for the ride as this brand becomes a nationwide success.