A few years ago, an acquaintance of mine decided he was going to start a sports apparel company. Like most new businesses, he was starting with nothing. He had no facility, he had no customers, he had no product. He just had an idea.
Oh, and he had one more thing. He applied to a program through the SBA that provided him with a steady stream of potential customers with built in brand loyalty to his new company. He didn't have to do a single thing to create that brand loyalty. This program was revolutionary. The government would take large groups of young people and spend four years slowly building an affinity within them for this guy's brand. They'd give these kids free product, they'd surround them with this company's logo and they'd teach these impressionable young minds songs that furthered a love for this guy's company. And every year, after spending four years instilling passion within these potential customers, the program would release thousands of them into the world where they would make more money than nearly half of the population.
Needless to say, my friend's company was set up to be a smashing success. Every year from the start of his company until the end of time, he had 5,000+ people who automatically loved his brand. All he had to do was supply them with a good product. Some of these people were more passionate than others, of course. And he couldn't retain them all. But what he found was that for the rest of these people's lives, they had at least some affinity for his product. On top of that, their ability to afford his product was better than average. So of course he was incredibly successful…how could he not be?
What was the name of this company? It doesn't matter because I made it all up. That is, I made up the idea that this was someone's company that couldn’t help but succeed. The rest of it happens every year at hundreds of organizations.
On average, about 1.8 million people receive bachelor's degrees from colleges and universities in the United States. The vast majority spent about four years being surrounded by that university's brand every single day. They walked past hundreds of signs, pole banners and trash cans all bearing that institution's logo. They sat next to thousands of other students wearing t-shirts with that university's brand across the front. They were taught the history of their school, songs they will never forget, and traditions that reinforced their love for their school. And then, after four years of this indoctrination, they are released into the world with the ability to earn an average of $18,000 more per year than those who did not attend college.
Can you imagine what Nike would do for that kind of exposure? What do you think Nike would pay to have their logo on every banner, trash can, building and sign on a college campus? The value of that level of exposure to a brand is incalculable. As a business owner I can tell you that I would have killed to have been able to start my business with a group of customers that already loved my company.
Those of us who work in collegiate athletics are spoiled. We’re playing with a stacked deck and we’re still losing. We have something Nike would pay millions of dollars for and that businesses everywhere dream about. I've used the number 5,000 in talking about the number of graduates that come out of a university each year. Some are less, obviously. But some have double or triple that number. The point is that collegiate athletics departments have four years of free marketing opportunities handed to them on a silver platter, and there are thousands of people graduating from universities every year who have will have some level of affinity for their alma mater for the rest of their lives.
No other industry in the world has this advantage. No one ever says, "Well, I wear Adidas because my grandpa wore Adidas and my dad wore Adidas." Even professional sports teams have less of an automatic fan base and less built-in loyalty than collegiate athletics.
If you have empty seats at your stadium or arena, you have no excuse. Or at least you don't have nearly the excuse that organizations in every other industry has if they're failing to bring in customers. If alumni aren’t coming back to support your athletic program, it’s because the product you’re asking them to support isn't good enough.
Winning Isn't Everything
The argument can be made that fans would come if the team would win and that as marketers, we can't control the product on the field. But the decrease in attendance among collegiate athletics isn't isolated to losing programs. Winning teams are losing fans too. The product on the field is great but fans are still choosing to stay home.
At home, the beer is cheaper, the couch is more comfy and the temperature is always a nice 72 degrees. That’s hard to compete with, but not impossible. Because we do have an advantage: they already love us. They spent four years seeing our logo, wearing our clothes and singing our songs.
We might not be able to control the product on the field, but there’s a lot more to the home-or-stadium decision than that. We can control ticket prices. We can control advertising. We can control strategically targeting the fans most likely to attend and understanding what makes them tick. And we can control the gameday experience.
So what about my theoretical friend and his theoretical business? Was success really that easy for him? Of course not. He had to work at it. He had to realize that he couldn’t rely on the same old tricks to get fans to the stadium. He had to stop taking his steady stream of brand loyalists and their disposable income for granted, and start doing more to give them a product that is better than staying home. That was when he started succeeding. And if he didn’t do those things and ended up failing even when the deck was stacked in his favor, then he had nobody to blame but himself.
My father cried on November 16, 1957. He was 12 years old and he wept on my grandfather’s lap as he had just experienced something he had no recollection of ever experiencing before. His beloved Oklahoma Sooners lost a football game for the first time in more than 4 years. When OU began their 47-game winning streak, he was only 8 years old. So there he sat, tears flowing down his cheeks, while his father held him and assured him that everything would be okay.
On Saturday afternoons in the early 1980s, my father and I would get in the car and leave our farmhouse in Guthrie, Oklahoma for the hour drive to Norman. Going to OU football games was not guaranteed but often I would have begged enough that my dad would give in and take me. Sometimes the whole family. Sometimes just me. We’d stop by the tailgate of James and Maryanna Martin for fried chicken. We’d go watch The Pride of Oklahoma (OU’s marching band) warm up. We’d throw a football around on the South Oval. And I would bring every dollar I had saved so I could buy a new OU jersey at the stadium. But the best part was sitting next to my dad while he explained the finer points of the game of football to me.
I remember where I was when the Denver Broncos won their first Super Bowl. I know who I was with, what I was wearing and most importantly, I remember the emotions I felt. I remember driving to Kansas City to see the Broncos play the Chiefs. I remember night after night at the Lloyd Noble Center with my brother and dad watching Wayman, Mookie, Tim and Stacey play basketball. I remember the flyover at the old Mile High Stadium before the game started and how loud and overwhelming it was. I remember meeting Ozzie Smith in the parking garage outside Busch Stadium and getting him to sign a ball for me before we took in an afternoon Cardinals game. I remember standing next to my best friend in Oklahoma Memorial Stadium as the clock wound down after OU beat #1 Nebraska 31-14 after spending years in that same stadium watching OU lose game after game after game with him.
I remember, because those moments are important. I remember, because now that I am older and my brother has moved a thousand miles away, my best friend and I rarely make time for each other and I don’t see my father nearly as much as I should, those moments are what I hold as my most prized possessions. No one can take them from me and I’ll take those memories to my grave.
These are the moments that sports create. Sports brings people together and creates moments shared by fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, brothers and sisters, and friends. I’ve never met anyone, regardless of how much of a sports fan they are, who doesn’t have at least one great memory surrounding a sporting event. They remember where they were, who they were with and what happened at that event that made it so special. Chances are, they get emotional when they think about these experiences. I get emotional just talking about it. Some people have one. Some people have many. I’m lucky… I have hundreds.
Sports are important, plain and simple. Sporting events provide an avenue for people to have experiences that shape their lives. Sports gives people memories that stay with them til the day they die. More often than not, even when their team lost, the memory is held as a fond one.
Sporting events are in a battle with convenience. And the statistics show that we are losing. Kids are upstairs in their rooms playing Minecraft or texting their friends while dad is downstairs in his man cave binge-watching Netflix. When that child is 80 years old, they aren’t going to be telling their grandchildren about the Saturday afternoon they spent playing video games. But being outside on a Saturday afternoon with thousands of other people screaming for the same cause, a ballpark hot dog in their hands and their hero… their father… sitting next to them? That creates a moment that will live on forever.
Old Hat exists for the sole purpose of helping create those moments for people. Whether through driving attendance to sporting events, improving the gameday experience once inside the stadium or arena, aiding in fundraising efforts for athletic departments and their capital campaigns, or any one of the many other things that a sports organization must do to put teams on the field, Old Hat is here to help.
Old Hat believes that there’s nothing greater than sharing a sports experience with someone you care about. We also believe that the purity of these moments is being lost to technology and convenience. Too often families opt to stay at home, everyone in separate rooms of the house staring at their own devices and not connecting with one another. My son will have no memory of the Saturday afternoon he spent playing Minecraft while I watched Breaking Bad on Netflix. However, he still remembers going to the OU vs. Texas football game when he was only 8 years old. He doesn’t remember it because OU won or lost. He remembers it because he was with his brother and his dad. He will always remember it. Because of the experience.
In exciting news out of Norman, the creative agency formerly known as Old Hat Creative, announces the beginning of a new era with a name and logo change. "Ideas Designed to Inspire Through Strategy," abbreviated, "ID.ITS", is the new moniker. "This new name really encapsulates who we are," says CEO and now lead of the ID.ITS, Zac Logsdon. "We feel like this change has been long in the making." says Logsdon. "We've always felt like we were ID.ITS. Now, it's as if for the first time we're actually being our true selves...and if it wasn't known before, it's now evident for everyone else to see with our new company name and logo!"
Robert Smith, Chief Operating Officer and Director of Client Relations, took a leadership role in both the name change and the logo development. Smith says, "I don't mind saying I really inserted myself into the logo project from day one. It was kind of my baby, and something I wanted to be as much a reflection of myself as it was a reflection of our new company and direction. I feel like Zac has been leading us towards this direction for 12 long years and now we're so excited to finally be ID.ITS!"
Much thought went into the actual logo design. Smith explains, "Some of the more obvious choices were using the color red, which as any marketer knows, represents love and profitability. Both of which are needed in any company." Logsdon continues, "Because Old Hat has made a clear shift to the digital age, we included the large dot in our logo to indicate we know the World Wide Web, often referred to as the Net." Particular aspects of the former logo were also tied in. Rather than having the word "Creative" in the new logo, the group opted to use a small "c" placed strategically above the "I", as a nod to their past designation.
Smith says that an important lesson was learned during this process. "We originally chose the tag line 'Ideas Designed to Inspire By Strategy', but because of the problem it would present with our logo acronym, we changed 'by' to 'through'. Paying attention to these types of details can prevent you from looking like a real idiot with your peers and others in your industry. Nobody wants their acronym to include 'IBS'. That's just dumb."
When seeing Logsdon and Smith explain the reasons for the changes together, it's evident that this change is truly the correct decision. It's like they share one mind. The mind of "ID.ITS".
Yesterday, I took some time to read this article, which gave great insight on how Nike lost Stephen Curry to Under Armour. It's a bit lengthy, but well worth the read. In a nutshell, before Stephen Curry was Stephen Curry, NBA MVP, he wore NIke. And Nike has a chance to keep him under their umbrella, by re-upping his contract. But a meeting in the 2013 off-season, in which Nike didn't recognize the signs of Steph Curry's potential, has led to great things for Under Armour. Their bet on Curry is paying off tremendously: not only did they get a steal considering how Curry has turned out, but his potential value to Under Armour now is $14 billion. AND Under Armour's U.S. basketball shoe sales THIS YEAR are already up more than 350% as compared to last year.
In this fateful meeting, Stephen Curry likely felt unprioritized (Nike's biggest players were not in attendance), disrespected (they couldn't pronounce his name correctly, a presentation slide with Kevin Durant's name wasn't updated) and undervalued (they offered him less than $2.5 million). To be fair to Nike, at that time, Stephen Curry was dealing with injury issues and NIke already had a lot of big stars in their arsenal (including LeBron James, who is locked into a $500 million lifetime contract with them). At that time, it wasn't necessarily a BAD business decision, but I'm guessing they are kicking themselves now.
So, what? Why should you care? What can you take from this article which can apply to you and your team?
Don't be afraid to try something new. Look for potential and opportunities everywhere and be willing to take a risk. It may pay off tremendously. Both Under Armour AND Steph Curry took a risk. And it's paying off. Forge your own path, do what the others are NOT doing and see if it pays off.
Recognize the value of the "everyman". And how they could speak to your fans. You may need to look past the "stars" in your program to find those that may not shine as noticeably bright. Do you have an undersized walk-on point guard from an in-state school who may not get accolades and minutes but is someone who works hard, is well-liked and inspires fans of all-ages? Don't you think most fans may relate to that person? Rethink your promotions and try putting that kid front and center.
You never know who will be your champion. Kent Bazemore was undrafted rookie who Under Armour signed to a shoe deal....but he turned into Under Armour's greatest pitchman when he pushed Steph Curry their way. Look for your champions and see if they can help you reach your goals.
Being overlooked can inspire a leap to greatness. Curry had been overlooked most of his life. Denied by larger schools (including the Alma Mater of his NBA player father), only drafted 7th in 2009 (still..pretty respectable), and riddled with injuries early in his NBA career, I'd say all of that has motivated him to be what he is now - already considered by many as the best shooter in NBA history. Think twice before you overlook someone who doesn't seem like a perfect fit on paper. Maybe consider taking a chance on that intern or GA who doesn't have a lot of experience but is straight willing to outwork anyone who comes their way.
Treat everyone like gold. You never know, a $100 donor could turn into a million-dollar donor, a fan in the nose-bleed section may purchase a stadium suite or a fan of one sport only could someday hold season tickets to all of your sporting events.
And make sure to proofread your PowerPoint presentations.
Are you wearing green today? I bet if you're living in Denton, TX your chances of wearing green today are much higher than the general population. Not just today, but any day.
Why? Because that's the home of one of our fantastic clients - The University of North Texas (aka the Mean Green).
It's pretty likely you've heard about North Texas, or some reference to the Mean Green. Or maybe the only thing you know about them is that "Mean" Joe Greene (yes, the last "e" is silent) gets credited for giving them their Mean Green moniker, which actually isn't quite how it happened.
There's a lot going on at North Texas Athletics right now, and it's an exciting time to be working with the marketing team on their upcoming football season. They recently hired Coach Seth Littrell (I'm already a fan because he played fullback for OU during their 2000 National Championship season) and some other Texas natives like Graham Harrell. It should be a fun season to watch some Mean Green football.
Old Hat will be working with North Texas once again to develop the campaign for football. This year we're bringing to the table a process that's new for us, but has been used and perfected for many years by our newly merged partner.
The process is what we call the Sports180. It's an in-depth discovery we use to unveil the thoughts and attitudes of those inside and outside the department tied to the sports programs, and even some that may have no association with the programs. We take that information to determine where there are gaps and overlaps in the way a program is perceived, and bridge those gaps/reinforce the overlaps through our recommended marketing tactics. It's not rocket science, but it's effective, and I'd venture to say it's something very few athletics programs are doing on their own. It requires time, cooperation and organization throughout the department.
Here's a brief look at the process:
• Step One: Scouting
Any good coach or recruiter has to do some research to determine the true potential of an athlete because there's much more to an athlete than meets the eye. It's the same in any athletics department or sports program. Things can look one way on the outside, but does that line up with what's on the inside? If not, this could eventually hurt the program, usually from the inside out.
• Step Two: The Playbook
After gathering all the notes, research and findings, what happens next? That's where we recommend the playbook- think of it as a prescription from your doctor. The best way to a winning season is to have a playbook in hand well before your first game.
• Step Three: The Game Plan
Based on the playbook, the game plan includes the specific X's and O's for each game. It's great to have a playbook, but some decisions have to be made at gametime. This step involves the shaping of your brand to match the recommended prescription.
• Step Four: Execution
It all comes down to execution, and by this step in the process we're ready to put some legs behind all the strategy. This is where all the hard work pays off and fans get to meet the new you.
I'm looking forward to seeing this process through on a smaller scale with the North Texas football campaign, and many other clients in the future.
For the first time in our 12 years of existence, Old Hat entered a few things in the 2016 Oklahoma Addy Awards. I was under a tight deadline to get things entered and ended up failing our print division by not entering anything that required a hard copy (i.e. anything print related). I only entered 5 videos and our SMU environmental graphics project and they all won awards.
So on Saturday night, we got all dolled up and went downtown to the awards banquet. Here's a pic of me and my wife looking all perty before the show:
And now, without further ado... The projects for which we won Addy Awards:
Well, it's official. Today marks the date that the merger we've been talking about for the past few months finally takes effect. Truth be told, Old Hat Creative and Third Degree Advertising have been working together for many months now in preparation for combining into a single company. But today is the day that we no longer exist as separate entities. Old Hat and Third Degree are one.
What does that mean, exactly? Well, on one hand, not much. And on the other hand, it means a lot.
What is NOT changing?
Primarily, Old Hat will continue to be the company you know and love...
2. You'll continue to be the life of the party by being able to quote random facts that you found by viewing our email signatures.
• When hippos are upset, their sweat turns red.
• Banging your head against the wall burns 150 calories per hour.
• Billy goats urinate on their own heads to smell more attractive to females (female goats, I assume).
3. You'll continue getting the most amazing creative to help you engage your fans, improve the gameday experience, sell tickets and increase fundraising.
4. Our dedication to ridiculously good customer service will never fade. We'll continue to always be available, always be responsive and never miss deadlines.
What IS changing?
Well, we're getting bigger...
1. Old Hat is currently headquartered in Norman, Oklahoma with remote employees in North Carolina and Utah. Starting today, we will have talented employees working from offices in Oklahoma City; Durham, NC; Greensboro, NC; Salt Lake City, UT; Charlottesville, VA and Frederick, MD.
This is me outside the OKC office with the downtown skyline in the background:
And, we're getting better...
2. Old Hat has a long history of producing amazingly awesome creative. This merger puts us in the position to make that creative even more awesome by adding research, media planning/buying, digital strategy and implementation, content creation, repositioning, media audits, copywriting, marketing automation and much more. We're taking our creative and making it smarter.
The UNC Ticket Sales site is a perfect example of taking our current offerings (web design and development, video production, on-site video shoots) and combining that with the expertise of our new partners (research, strategy and marketing automation).
So to summarize, nothing that you like is going away. We're just going from ridiculously-awesome to far-more-ridiculously-awesome. And just for fun, here's a photo tour of our OKC office.
This is a map with doorknobs showing all of the locations of Third Degree's clients from all over the United States. It's rad.
This is a cool yellow couch. The wall behind me says, "Elevate."
This is a really big pencil we use write all of our really big ideas down with. It's bolted to the wall so no one will steal it.
This is the room where we keep a guy named Richard.
Just kidding. The men's room says, "Dick" and the ladies' room says, "Jane." How clever is that?
This is a cool red refrigerator where I get to keep my Diet Dr Pepper.
2015 was busy! It was filled with lots of projects for a wide variety of clients. When I was asked to share a few of my favorite projects from 2015, I knew it was going to be challenging. Every project is fun and unique in its own way. A few of the projects from 2015 that stick out to me are:
1. Towson Women's Basketball Intro Video
I enjoyed this project because the Towson Women's Basketball coaching staff had a clear vision of what they wanted this video to be. We traveled to Towson to shoot footage of the women's basketball team and Baltimore to bring their vision to life. It was the first video shoot I'd been a part of where we captured footage off campus. My favorite part of the video is how our video crew was able to show the movement of the team and basketball through the iconic locations in Baltimore.
2. Army Football Videos, Graphics and Animations
We had the opportunity to do 6 different videoboard projects for Army football. I really enjoyed these projects because each one was so unique. We had the opportunity to do a high end 3D logo animation, a Make Some Noise crowd prompt animation, a Shuffle game, a Derby game, a hype video and an intro animation for Army to use prior to their own video features. Stay tuned for some awesome new projects for the Army / Navy basketball game on January 23 at Madison Square Garden.
3. Delaware Custom Font and Wordmarks
This project was great because we had the opportunity to create a custom font for the University of Delaware and then used that font to design wordmarks for Delaware and all of their sports. Since Delaware was getting a new uniform supplier, all of these marks were then used on their 2015 team uniforms. It was really cool to see our work being worn by all of the Blue Hen athletes.
4. Duke Social Media Graphics
I enjoyed this project because we were able to work with Duke to create a consistent brand across all of their sports. This included creating profile pictures and cover photos as well as a wide variety of templates and holiday graphics for each sport to use. We based the social media profile and cover images off of the Olympic sport poster template design to create an even more cohesive look.
2016 is already off to a flying start with some exciting projects underway. I'm looking forward to another year of memorable projects!
So it's 2016 which you've probably already heard, and you know what that means... it actually means a lot of things- like a presidential election year and the Summer Olympics in Rio and Leap Year and yes... Groundhog Day! Actually I think that occurs every year. Either way, none of these things bring me to the point of my blog.
The rollover into 2016 means I get to blog about my favorite projects from 2015 (hence the reason for the large 2015 graphic up top)! We like to do recaps and favorite projects lists around here, and sometimes we may even overdo it. But that's what we're all about (why do it when you can overdo it?).
With that, let's see how we did in 2015.
You may have seen in our latest newsletter how many new clients we were fortunate to work with this past year. Even I was surprised at all the new business from 2015. One of these new clients, the American Athletic Conference, just held their first-ever football championship. I'm proud to say Old Hat was able to work with the client on multiple projects to market the event and enhance the in-game experience for fans. It all comes down to One was the tagline for the championship, and that theme was used throughout the year in print, interactive and video work leading up to the big game. Here are a few of the pieces from the American Football Championship.
Another group of projects that turned out exceptional and unique are the Notre Dame template posters that have been used for their olympic sports. Notre Dame has been more conscious and deliberate about keeping their brand consistent (which I applaud), so the template posters this year came with a more stringent set of guidelines to ensure we were staying within the brand. Our designers did a great job not only staying within the guidelines, but the template poster could be seen as a **big word spoiler alert** microcosm of the style guide itself.
I would eventually include every project as one of my favorites if I had more time, because our designers across all media (interactive, video and print) are truly experts at what they do. We're very fortunate to get to work with the clients that we have, and our clients are also very fortunate to get to have our designers put together incredible projects day in and day out. I'll leave you with a few more of my favorites from the year. Here's to a great 2016 for Old Hat and our clients!
Our 2016 New Year’s resolution: share more of what we know.
In the past 12 years, we’ve learned a lot about sports marketing and fundraising. In fact, we’re not going to be shy about saying this: we’re experts. And we’ve realized that our clients, friends, and fans would benefit from our expertise – so we’re going to start sharing more of it.
Over the upcoming year, you can expect to see more articles on our blog about sports marketing best practices, achieving fundraising goals, advice for common sports marketing challenges, marketing trends, and more. If you’ve got a sports marketing question or challenge that’s keeping you up at night, send it to us! We’d be happy to tackle it in our blog and give you some free advice. After all, our staff has a combined 482 years of experience in sports marketing and development. I know what you're thinking. 482 years? Seriously? No, not seriously. But it's a lot.
But don’t worry, if you like hearing about our antics and personal escapades you’ll still be able to read about them on all our various social media outlets. Robert will still run shirtless through the snow. Zac will still do uncomfortable interviews with the OH staff. And Geoff might write a haiku again sometime.
So buckle in. Twenty-sixteen is poised to be the greatest year in the history of years. And your best resource for making it the best for you is right here at the Old Hat blog.