EUGENE, OR - University of Oregon Athletic Department officials announced Wednesday that they have ended their long-standing relationship with Nike and have signed with Walmart's Avia brand to provide all athletic apparel and shoes. 

"We appreciate everything Nike and Phil Knight have done for the University of Oregon and respect the organization immensely. However, we feel that it is time for a new era in Oregon Athletics and we are confident that Walmart is the right organization to represent the Oregon brand," one official stated.


Okay, did anyone believe that for one second? Did anyone truly believe that Oregon, a major collegiate athletic program, would drop Nike in favor of Walmart? Of course not. 

But why?

A lot of reasons, most likely. For one, Nike and Phil Knight have given so much support to the University of Oregon, they'd never dream of going with any other apparel company, much less Walmart's Avia brand. But let's swap out Oregon, and let's say Michigan instead. Or Bowling Green. Or UConn. Or East Popcorn State University. Would you have believed the headline then?

East Popcorn State drops Adidas; Walmart's Avia to provide Colonels Team Apparel

 

Would that headline be any more believable? Probably not. 

But why?

Avia makes fine apparel. I have a pair of running shorts from Walmart, and I don't run any slower when I wear them than when I wear my Nike shorts. In fact, I can't tell the difference. My favorite pair of running shorts are BCG brand, not Nike. Avia could provide athletic team apparel to the Ducks that feels pretty similar to what Nike provides. The Ducks could take the field in apparel provided by Walmart and they wouldn't run any slower, throw the ball any less accurately, shoot with any lower percentage or hit with any lower of an average. 

So if Walmart were to come to the table and commit to providing everything Nike provides and a financial incentive far greater than Nike, would any major university be willing to announce that they've dropped Nike or Adidas or Under Armour in favor of a Walmart brand?

Not a chance. But why?

The answer, of course: Perception. Pride. Respect. Quality.

There's no coach or athletic director in the country that is going to send their team on the field wearing Avia or BCG or C9. And even if they were, how tough would it be to recruit kids to come play for a school if they know they'll be trading in the swoosh for the... uh, "I" with a little arrow thingy on top? The coaches, the department personnel and the kids would be embarrassed to compete in anything but a top name brand. And why? Because they'd look ridiculous. It's the same reason NBA players don't shoot free throws granny-style, despite the scientific data that shows they'd make way more shots that way. They'd get laughed at. And no one wants to be laughed at.

I'm not arguing that this is a bad thing. I jog in cheap jogging shorts. But rest assured that if I were going to be on national television, I'd go buy some brand new Nike shorts. I'd also probably try to drop a few pounds. Because on the national stage, we all want to look good. And no disrespect to Walmart, but running out of the tunnel wearing the Avia logo on your chest is not an idea that gets anyone excited. It all makes complete and total sense. I get it.

But there's something I don't get. 

There's something I don't understand at all.

This philosophy of looking good and only being willing to wear what looks the best or shoot the way that looks the best... the philosophy that we all think makes complete and total sense... why does that not apply to everything that represents our collegiate sports teams?

Why are we willing to let our team run out of the tunnel after an intro/hype video that doesn't actually build any hype? Why do we show videoboard prompts that are cheap, canned reproductions that don't match our brand? Why do we promote the sport that has the highest potential and greatest need for ticket sales revenue with marketing collateral that is just "good enough," has no research behind it and isn't positioned to actually drive attendance? Why do we not even consider for one second letting our teams wear something that isn't absolutely first-class, but when it comes to promoting those sports, driving attendance and building a game experience, we often settle for what is least expensive? This isn't the case everywhere, of course, but there are so many times at so many major universities that an athletic department will choose the Walmart version of a creative service over the Nike equivalent.

A glaring example of this is most universities' online ticket buying portals. Every school in the country wants to sell more tickets. Every school in the country wants to drive attendance. Yet if you look at the online ticket purchasing experience at those schools, the user interface is terrible, it's impossible to find the information you need, it takes way too many clicks to purchase and the pages are bland and boring and do nothing to actually make a fan want to come to the event. Everything about these portals depend on a fan already wanting to come to the event so badly that they're willing to jump through hoops to buy a ticket. And not even cool, exciting, flaming-hoops-of-fire. Boring, bland, unexciting hoops. 

Promoting our teams with poor quality marketing isn't just as bad as sending them onto the court in Walmart brand shoes. It's like sending them onto the court with no shoes at all. We wouldn't be giving them the tools to succeed and by relying on the least expensive option for marketing, we're not giving ourselves the tools to succeed in driving attendance. 

So all that said, I'm not ignorant to the idea that sometimes the least expensive option is the only option. Budgets are tight in collegiate athletics and sometimes you can control the amount you're given to promote your sports. So here are some practical tips that you can employ to help drive attendance at your events.

Ticket Sales Portal

Count the Clicks - How many clicks does it take to buy a ticket on your website? On the high end, we sometimes see that it can take up to 7-8 clicks to make a purchase. Some have streamlined it down to as few as 3. Obviously, the lower the number, the more likely people are to purchase. And most of the time, you can make changes to your site to bring that number down. Count the number of clicks it takes to make a purchase and see if you can cut that number in half.

Spruce Up the Joint - Unfortunately, most ticketing companies provide a portal that is boring and unengaging. They don't do much to actually make a fan want to purchase. But there are typically at least a couple of things you can to do customize that page. Take advantage of those opportunities by bringing your marketing campaign for that sport into the headers and other graphics on that page. In a perfect world, add some video content to those pages, even if it's just your stadium intro/hype video. Fans love to watch those things and if the only place to watch it is by going to your ticket sales page, that could go a long way toward driving ticket sales. Best way to sell a ticket to someone is to give them the opportunity to buy when they're most excited about it. 

Marketing Collateral

Forget Your Die-Hard Fans - I wrote an article a few weeks ago about how we need to start looking at schedule posters as advertisements rather than promotional tools. Because most of the time, they don't do much to drive attendance. But every advertising campaign starts with research to determine who your audience is. Maybe you don't have a budget for research. That's fine. You know your area and you know who has the most potential to become new ticket purchasers. Spend some time thinking about who those people are and develop a campaign that targets those people. The die-hard fans are going to come regardless of what the poster looks like or the tagline that's on it. So think about a way to appeal (both through messaging and through the visuals) to a different group. You'll probably find that putting all the seniors on the poster with a generic tagline isn't the best way to appeal to those people. Be bold and put something unique out there. Because like I said, the die-hards are coming anyway. And by trying something unique you just might appeal to a totally new group.

Game Experience

Take Advantage of Your Friends & Family - The best thing I can advise for improving your game experience is to identify where things are lacking. And the best way to do that is to engage a firm to do a comprehensive gameday audit. But if your budget doesn't allow for that, make your friends and family work for those tickets they begged you for! Give them a checklist and have them rate every experience on a scale of 1 to 5. Ticket takers, concessionaires, ushers, intro video, band, cheer, etc. You may not get a comprehensive report from industry experts, but you'll have more information than you started with. And sometimes it's good to have input from people who aren't immersed in collegiate athletics 24/7. At the very least, you'll have a unique perspective outside your own.

 

We might have mentioned it once or twice before, but last spring, we conducted a Sports180 with SMU Athletics. We met with SMU's staff, did the research, and decided how to strategically and visually approach this year and drive attendance at SMU events on campus.

Last weekend, SMU hosted Liberty University for the first Mustang home football game of the year. I #GotThere and watched the game in person! I love being able to see the work our designers created in real life. Usually I only get to see it on my computer screen.  Thanks again to the SMU staff for having me!

As a part of the Sports180, we've created many many pieces for SMU sports all following a consistent brand.  For football specifically, those include:

A dedicated football ticket sales site: GetHereForGameday.com

This HUGE poster:

Schedule Card:

Billboard:

Season Tickets:

Snapchat Filter:

Social Media Templates:

Stadium Souvenier Cup:

Yard Sign:

Fire Box Graphics - they shoot fire when the team runs out of the tunnel, and we designed this for the boxes.

Intro Video: 

Mustang You - Get to Know's

Player Features

 

Here's some photos of our video board graphics actually on the video board!

The article I posted earlier in the week has caused some negative, yet understandable feedback. It comes as no surprise to me that some feathers were ruffled by the solution I proposed to the new Federal Labor Standards Act. Below is an expanded version of a response I posted to a comment on the original blog post.

I would like to reiterate what I stated in the article which is that, "If you love your current creative staff or freelancer, don’t fire them just because you can’t afford to pay them enough to meet all your needs." The idea that we are advocating widespread layoffs leaves me wondering if people actually read the article or just the headline. I clearly stated that I do not feel changes should be made if an athletic department has a good creative staff in place. 

What some people may not realize is that I was once on an internal creative staff myself. And if I felt that someone were advocating that I get fired, I'd be quite upset. However, the FLSA rules are estimated to have a $1.5 million impact to the average mid-major athletic department. While some can absorb that, others will have to make cuts. That's just the reality of the situation. I would love to think that rather than cutting anyone, departments would increase everyone's wage to the new threshold. I just don't believe that's realistic. Departments will have a greater need than ever to get fans in seats to increase revenue and honestly, I've never seen a situation in which using Old Hat wouldn't save an athletic department vast sums of money over having in-house creative. I've run the numbers many times and the fact of the matter is, a department could save themselves thousands of dollars annually by using Old Hat for their high level creative rather than an in-house crew. 

We can't forget that the mission of an athletic department is anything other than educating the student-athlete and giving the opportunity to as many young people as possible to compete and get an education. The FLSA rules are going to have a major impact whether we like it or not. We are simply recommending an option that will help contribute to a department's ability to continue that mission.

Big changes to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) will take effect on December 1, 2016. That means you have the first half of the school year to: (a) get as much overtime out of your current employees as possible while you still can, and (b) figure out how the heck you’re going to make things work when the new rules go into effect. 

Here’s the issue in a nutshell: you won’t be able to afford to keep doing things the way you do them today. 

We all know that there’s no such thing as a 40 hour workweek for employees in collegiate athletics. Especially not for employees at the lower end of the pay scale. Right now, you don’t have to pay overtime rates to professional, administrative or executive employees whose salaries are $23,660 per year or more. But come December, that threshold jumps to $47,476 per year. So here’s the question: can you survive without all the overtime hours your lower-paid employees currently work, or can you afford to pay them a lot more in the future? 

It’s not like you have a bunch of extra money laying around. And if you’re a Division I school, you may already in a budget crunch thanks to recent changes related to food service and scholarship rules.

Unfortunately, your practices, games, and related activities are not going to magically start fitting into a tidy little 40 hour workweek…no matter how many of you write letters to Santa. 

Something’s gotta give.

Here’s our advice: cut your creative staff.

Yep. You heard that right. 

Drastic times call for drastic measures. 

So yeah. Your graphic designer. Your video production specialist. Send’em packing.

We’re not saying you don’t need marketing support. Of course you do! It’s just that you don’t need to keep those individuals on your staff as yet another piece of your salary and overtime puzzle. And even if your marketing team isn’t working overtime, we all know they’re still a likely target when budget cuts come around.

The way we see it, you’ve got 3 alternatives to consider.

#1 – Hire Freelancers

If you’ve never tried it before, this might sound like a good idea. But most of you who have been around the block once or twice are cringing right now. Most athletic departments haven’t had a lot of luck with freelancers providing consistently high-quality work that’s on time and on target. Unless you have a freelancer who has worked with you before or who came from the collegiate athletics marketing industry, you’ll probably find they lack the expertise and insight you’re looking for. On the other hand, if you’re lucky enough to have found a really great freelancer, that person is probably working a lot more than 40 hours for you at an annual salary that’s lower than the new FLSA threshold…which means in December, you’ll have the same problem with your freelance rock star as you would with your own in-house staff.

#2 – Two Words: Student Internship

Hey, look around. In your neighborhood, there’s no shortage of young soon-to-be-professionals eager to build their resumes and score some real-world experience. And most of them don’t want to work anywhere close to 40 hours a week anyway. Assembling a low-cost creative staff will be like shooting fish in a barrel! What could possibly go wrong? Well, other than lack of experience, inconsistency, the need for a lot of oversight, not having any of the aforementioned industry expertise, some pesky rules or limitations… Reality check: you get what you pay for. There’s a reason you haven’t relied on this type of manpower to serve as your creative staff before. Sure, you may have some top-notch students who help you out from time to time, and that’s great. But as a year-over-year strategy, trying to rely on them to fill the gap FLSA is about to create won’t earn you a barrel of Gatorade over the head.

#3 – Outsource It

If only you knew somebody with a wealth of industry experience, mad design skills, a deep bench of talent, and serious strategic chops that you could hire and rely on without having to even think about overtime or paying a higher salary. Oh, wait. You do. All joking aside, Old Hat can provide everything you need from a creative standpoint. From design to video production, project management, strategic planning and copywriting, we offer a full range of creative services. We’re good enough, we’re smart enough, and doggone it, people like us. If you don’t have your dream team in place right now, take them off your payroll and let us be your creative staff instead. Want to have a designer right there on campus with you? No problem – we can be the one to hire them, pay them, and worry about their hours, plus we’ve got the capacity to absorb any excess work. 

Or don’t cut your creative staff. Augment them the smart way.

If you love your current creative staff or freelancer, don’t fire them just because you can’t afford to pay them enough to meet all your needs. I mean, really. Do we come across as that callous or short-sighted? (For the record, we’re neither.) Instead, let us augment your team and handle all those extra hours you can’t afford to pay them for. Old Hat can provide you subscription-style creative support that will cost you a lot less in the long run than paying overtime rates or higher salaries, while delivering the highest quality results. We’ll work with you to come up with a plan that gives you all services you need, when you need them. We’ll even dedicate somebody to becoming your brand expert. Everybody wins! Want to talk it over? Give us a call.

 

When someone asks me to look at a website, there is almost always a disclaimer.  Usually, a “don’t be too harsh” or “don’t spend too much time, just give me some quick thoughts.”  For the most part, I assume this means they do not want detailed review of their site - just some top line things I notice, without an explanation.  While this seems simple, it is something I have spent years trying to get better at doing.  

Here’s the challenge. I have spent a lot of time studying websites, how they function, and how users interact with them.  Every website I look over, I approach from the perspective of someone who has been there and built something similar; someone who has had to deal with users not having a clear path or call to actions.  That’s because when Old Hat is working through a web project, I pick apart every detail during the initial phases of the project. 

Once we get to final quality assurance, however, I have to switch roles.  I have to step into the mindset of someone who has not viewed the website every day for the last six months.  Why? Because the person asking the question needs me to simulate someone who is interacting with the brand for the first time, not someone who has gone to over 5,000 websites in the last five years. This stage of the web development process calls for a fresh set of eyes.

Why am I telling you this? Because as a marketer who has been closely involved in a web project (or any project for that matter), you need to be able to do the same thing in order to see what you’re working on the same way an everyday fan would see it.

Here is my guide on how not to be an expert.  

1. Forget everything you know. 
Seriously, you have to take yourself out of the daily grind that is a long-term project and pretend you are viewing it for the first time. 

2. Forget everything you know, round two. 
It takes a lot to put your experience and knowledge to the side, but when reviewing a website, you have to take this unbiased approach. 

3. Change your habits.
You may not realize it, but you have developed habits in your day to day interaction with the project. This might be things like how you first view the page or which navigation you check first. Make a conscious effort to recognize these habits and then do something completely different.

4. Make yourself uncomfortable
Along the lines of those habits, you have a certain level of comfort. You have found the way you find easiest to get from point A to point B, but other users are going to find ten more ways to maneuver through the site. You need to find those ways and make sure they are a pleasant experience.  It will be uncomfortable at first, but that means you are approaching it the right way and reviewing your new site properly.  

5.  Think like your parents or grandparents.  
You have to be able to approach the site like it’s the first time you have ever seen it. For me, this involves sitting back and thinking about how I have seen my 92 year old grandfather use his iPad.  He seems to be trying to put his finger straight through the screen or like he is trying to punish the buttons he is clicking.  He only notices the things that have movement and will follow instructions on the screen to a T.  

6.  Think like your little brother or child.
I have watched my younger cousin fly through an entire site in with one flick of his wrist, missing everything but the footer and the header.  He missed calls to action and the meat of the site, but that was how he wanted to consume the content.  The best thing you can do here is watch how others consume that content, then imitate it the best you can when you go through the site. 

7. Click the first thing you see.
As you go through a project, you will start to notice more detail on the pages.  You will see things that were not there on first glance.  New users will often click the first thing they see that is remotely relevant.  You, on the other hand, have a bit of site blindness because you have been to it so often.  Try going through the site by clicking the first thing you see.  

 

 

Your brand is the story. Your logo is the cover of the book. That's how I would best describe the brand/logo relationship.

And unfortunately as often as we're told not to judge a book by its cover, that's exactly what we do because that's all we can do. What else do we have to judge it on, and who wants to read the book if the cover isn't enticing in some way?

We recently worked with the Amateur Softball Association/USA Softball on their logo rebrand. It was more than just a visual rebrand, they also decided to consolidate their name into USA Softball. They are the National Governing Body of Softball after all, so it made sense to make the name change on the heels of an Olympic year and with the buzz of softball being reinstated into the 2020 Olympic games (which was just finalized yesterday!).

Let's take a look at the new USA Softball and I'll also share some key points during the rebranding process.

Pre-Planning

Before it goes beyond your walls, there are things that need to be discussed internally by those closest to your brand. If you're scrapping your current logo and starting over, a lot of questions need to be answered to ensure you stay on track and in line with your company's core values. There's no doubt your brand has gained equity over time (probably more than you realize), so you need to be willing to give some of this up to start fresh. Here are some questions and thoughts to consider:

• Rebrand or refresh?

Sometimes a total overhaul isn't needed, but you should assess whether making changes to your current logo will suffice or if it's time to start new. Consider how much brand equity you have, what your current mark represents to your customers and raving fans, and whether slight modifications to your existing logo can get you through the next 10 years.

• Why are we doing it?

If you can't figure out why you're wanting to refresh or rebrand, it's probably not the right time. Your reasoning could be based on some event that has you moving a slightly different direction, or you're wanting to use a rebrand as a jumpstart to offer something different or enter a new market. Or perhaps your current logo/brand is stale and you want to rejuvenate your fanbase and customers by creating something new and exciting. Whatever the reason, make sure you know why you're doing it, because you will have to explain it at some point.

• Get buy-in early

Everyone doesn't have to be on board for a rebrand, but your key stakeholders and decision makers should be. Not only do you need buy-in from them early, you also need to know how involved they want to be and get any input on the direction in the beginning stages. Nothing will frustrate you more than developing a new brand that doesn't make it past the head guy's office.

The Rebrand

Deciding to do a rebrand is tough, but actually getting to a logo that everyone can live with is the real challenge. Here are some points to consider during the logo creation stage:

• Tell your story

As I mentioned, your brand is the story. And although your logo won't tell the full story of your brand, you should be able to easily explain how your logo is a good representation of your brand and your overall company culture. Remember, this is all people will judge you by until they get to know the full story.

• Get input early

It's important to get any preconceived ideas out on the table before starting on those first sketches. Get examples from others about what they like and why they like it. Just keep in mind any ideas should be easily tied to your brand.

• KISS

Keep it simple, stupid. This is easier said than done, but the best logos are the simple ones. Don't add things to the mix to accommodate everyone. Strip away what you can without removing the essence of your brand.

• Don't stray too far

After you've nailed down the primary logo, you'll likely want to create variations of this logo for other applications. Try not to stray too far with secondary and tertiary logo marks, and know when and how to effectively use them. You don't want to cause confusion about your brand by releasing 18 versions of your new logo.

 

 

The Unveil

• Celebrate it!

Soft rollouts are for wimps. You just created a new logo, now show the world! You've got to take that logo by the horns and ride it where it takes you.

• Timing is everything

Choose your timing. Consider what's going on in your industry and what events you have coming up within your own company that will naturally get more exposure. And if there's nothing noteworthy going on around you, use your logo unveil to stir up some excitement.

• You won't please everyone

There will inevitably be people that don't like your logo. Know that going into a rebrand. You'll hear more about the negatives than the positives, which is why it's important that you've considered all the things mentioned previously. This is your creation and careful consideration was given at every step, so don't take every uneducated and flippant comment to heart. If you can justify why you're doing what you're doing, you'll eventually get buy-in from those that matter.

Have you ever had that moment where you look at another program’s website, schedule poster, or other promotional materials and say to yourself: “Man! That’s so cool. I want exactly the same thing – except in my school’s colors.”

Of course you have. We’ve all been there. That moment of marketing envy happens all the time. And that’s ok, because last time I checked there wasn’t a commandment that said “Thou shalt not covet they neighbor’s marketing.”

And besides, you know what they say: imitation is the highest form of flattery. I don’t know who “they” are, but that’s what my mother always told me when I whined about my big brother mimicking me. (Side note: I’m 99.99% sure he wasn’t doing it to flatter me, and hearing mom’s explanation always made me want to kick “they” in the shins. My brother usually got it in the shins instead.)

Most of the time, if you try to copy what somebody else is doing, they’ll take it as a sign they’re doing something right.

But here’s the rub: sometimes other people’s stuff just doesn’t fit you.

It’s like that time in middle school where you went out and bought something the most popular kid had, only to find that it looked kind of ridiculous on you.

Or that time when you really admired somebody else’s style (maybe their leadership style, their lifestyle, their hairstyle, their style of speaking… you get the idea), but when you tried to do things exactly the way they did, something wasn’t quite right.

Here’s another way to think of it. Wind back the clock to when you were in school. You had to write a paper about something. You found some really good information, copied it exactly, and turned it in. That’s called plagiarism. You got an F. You wrote another paper, but this time you kind of reworded things instead of copying them directly. You got a C, because it was pretty solid work but not very original. Then you wrote a paper where you used great information as a springboard for your own ideas instead. You crushed it and brought home the A. Yay, you! (Even if your actual experience didn’t quite happen that way, you get the point.)

When you copy somebody else, you’re not being your most genuine self. Even if others don’t see through it (which – trust me – they will sooner or later), whatever you’re doing won’t be nearly as effective as if you had done things your own way.

The same goes for marketing.

Sure, you can copy what somebody else is doing and just make it look like your own. And it might work out pretty well for you, at least for a little while. But it will never work as well as taking the time to create something that’s based on a deep understanding of who you are, what you offer, who you’re trying to engage, and the compelling reasons for your target audience to do what you’re asking them to do.

So the next time you see somebody else doing something cool, admire it. Get inspired by it. Then ask yourself why it works so well for that other brand. Think about the unique attributes, challenges, and opportunities of your own program and how you can use that understanding to come up with something that’s even better – for you.

Because once you start thinking that way, you’re moving from a marketing plan based on “I think” to a strategic approach based on “I know.” That’s when results happen.

Besides, wouldn’t you rather be the one who’s getting copied instead of the copycat?

Recently ASA Softball asked us to redesign their World Cup of Softball logo. The previous logo had been used for many years and they felt that it was time for a change. Since this was a logo that would be seen by people from all over the world (and because I had wanted to redesign this thing for years), I was really excited to get the opportunity to work on it! 

Our beginning idea was to create a design that was somewhat abstract and similar to other “world cup” logos around the country. Like these below, that show an "international" type flair. 

      

 

Most of these logos feature a stylized image of an athlete(s) engaged in the sport, usually made up of random shapes or patterns as well as various colors. The biggest challenge in this concept here was to find a pose for the player that said “softball”. Our concern was that there would be confusion and it would look like a baseball logo instead. 

There were other design elements to consider. Typography was an important concern. Because ASA planned to use this logo multiple years with only the the number changing, we needed to design it in such a way so that changing the year out wouldn’t interfere with other elements with in the logo. 

As we continued through the design process it became clear that the idea we thought we had just wasn't working and a more traditional approach was what was going to be needed. Rather than trying to salvage our initial concept (which felt a bit like attempting to make a square peg fit in a round hole) we decided that the best approach now was to start over! We got back to basics - and we ended up with a solid and attention-grabbing design that makes an impact for our client and would stand the test of time.

When starting what would become the final version, we began by looking for shapes to serve as a strong base as well as ones that eluded to softball. The shape of the home plate was an obvious choice, but we made some minor adjustments (curving the top of the plate) to give it a sense of coming toward the viewer, and matched the title text in a similar way. We also needed to figure out a way to show the magnitude of this softball event- countries from all over the world competing in front of an international audience- and conveying all this through a simple logo design can be a challenge. Using the shape and stitching of the softball while adding in the globe elements was an effective way to maximize our logo real estate. Add in some crossed bats for good measure (and for balance) and we were finally there. After a few rounds of minor tweaks, the logo was complete.

Sometimes in logo design, we can start with an idea that feels really solid. However, after seeing those ideas come to life, it becomes clear that what we had in mind just isn't working. In many cases it falls on us to take the initiative, be honest with our clients and offer alternate designs that are a better fit. In the end, reinventing the wheel isn’t always necessary, especially when a tried and true “back to basics” approach will do the trick. 

Last Monday I posted an article about the death of the schedule poster as we know it and talked about the need to breathe life back into it through treating it more like an advertisement than an informational tool. Simply informing people of when the games will be played and scattering athlete photos around an 18 x 24" space doesn't do much to actually drive attendance anymore. It needs to be a part of a grander marketing campaign.

So that begs the question: How do we do that?

Answer: Through a research & discovery, internal & external surveys, target audience indentification, strategic messaging, media audits and brilliant creative.

Sounds difficult and daunting, doesn't it? Well, it's not. It's time-consuming and requires expertise in all of these fields. It involves large groups of people working together to provide feedback and input. It requires everyone in an organization buying in to a common goal. But fortunately, Old Hat has the tools and processes in place to facilitate all of it. It's called the Sports180° Process and is our proven, research-based process that gets to the heart of your unique position. Through this approach, we help you clarify objectives, analyze your playing field, and develop a winning strategy.

We just completed the initial phases of the Sports180° with SMU and are entering implementation phase where we will launch an internal and external marketing campaign, a ticket sales website and multiple gameday experience pieces that are united under a common message and goal.

Phase 1: Scouting

The first step in the process is research and discovery. Understanding your internal culture and inspiring your staff can prevent disconnects between your brand promise and what your fans experience. Their weigh-in will produce buy-in.  We talk to Senior Athletic Department Staff, Individual Department Team Members, Development, Marketing, Ticket Sales, Sponsorship and Support Staff as Directed (Team Operations, Coaches, Game Operations, Designers, Interns, Game Day Contractors, Facility Staff, Merchandise, etc.)

There are other key groups that play a role in the success of your brand, so we meet with a few representatives or request their participation in your survey. This may include groups like Fundraising Club Members, Alumni, Students, Community Influencers, Individual Game Buyers, Premium Customers, etc.

By the end of this phase we’ll understand both your market and your uniquely compelling story, as told straight from the horse’s mouth.


Discovery process on campus at SMU

Phase 2: Playbook

In phase two we analyze the research and develop a playbook to achieve your objectives. This phase involves refining your leadership vision, identifying sales and marketing opportunities, aligning your target audiences with your brand differentiators, and assessing how you can win against your competitors.

Leadership Vision: Review and discussion of the vision shared by your organization’s key leaders.

Research Findings: Presentation of comprehensive research findings and analysis, including key takeaways and opportunities.

Audience Alignment: Development and presentation of profile personas for key current and desired target audiences.

Marketing Opportunities: Identification of opportunities that support your vision, engage your key audiences, and position you for greater success.

Examples of Findings:

 Phase 3: Game Day

Incorporating your feedback and our research findings, this is where we execute our recommendations and begin to engage with your fans, alumni and donors. We will present a set of campaign platforms that demonstrate how you will connect with your key stakeholders. You’ll also receive comprehensive reports with our research findings and strategic recommendations plus a detailed brand launch marketing plan.

Key Components

Strategic Recommendations: Summary of insights and recommended actions.

Brand Platform: Presentation of final creative look, feel, and messaging as a springboard for future tactical elements.

Marketing Communications Plan: Marketing campaign launch plan, including recommended tactics, message channels, delivery, and timing. 

Brand Style Guide: Written brand style guide detailing fonts, colors, photo types, brand language and more for internal use in execution. Provided following final approval of brand platform.



The SMU Sports180° is complete and the creative elements will begin to see the light of day in the coming weeks. Through our research, we were able to identify what their most important needs were and how to properly address those needs. Portions of the Sports180° process were also used in the Raise Up Carolina project where we conducted research to identify what was unique about football game days in Chapel Hill and built a site around that position that was targeted at the proper audience. 

A brilliant marketing campaign targeted at the wrong audience will produce no better results than a terrible campaign targeted at the right audience. Old Hat has the proper experience, tools and processes that allow us to both identify and target the proper audience and build the creative that will reach them.

The mission of most collegiate athletic departments surround the idea of developing the student-athlete. And we know that's impossible without the financial support that comes from having fans in the stands. Old Hat's mission is to increase attendance at sporting events. Plain and simple. Together, and using this process, Old Hat can achieve our mission while helping you achieve yours.

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?

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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.

Spoiled Sports

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.

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