As a sports marketer, what do you sell? The simple and obvious answer is, of course, tickets. Those game ticket sales in turn fuel other revenue streams: concessions, merchandise, and indirectly other types of program support.
But in reality, you’re selling much more than tickets. You’re selling an experience of your school’s brand and what it means to be a fan of your particular sports program. That experience means different things to different people.
Your entire target audience has one important thing in common: they’re all fans of your program to some degree or another. That means all of them are likely to respond to certain visual cues like your logo, colors, and images of your team, campus, or game venue. However, if you really want to market yourself strategically and effectively, you need to segment your audience further and get to know what drives them.
There are several ways to segment your fans: alumni, donor level, development group member, fan club member, season ticket holder, single game ticket purchaser, whether they’re die-hards or jump-on-a-winning-bandwagon fans, and of course the usual demographic indicators such as age, gender, and geographic location. One of the best ways to segment your current target audience is through market research surveys that enable you to understand their motivations for being a fan and what the game experience means to them.
Here are a few simple examples of what this might look like and how you could use it to drive tailored communication strategies:
·Students might value the fan experience because it reinforces their connection with the school and contributes to their sense of personal identity at this stage of their lives. What makes the student experience unique at your school? Think about how you can tap into traditions like these.
Alumni might be motivated by the opportunity to relive the fun and excitement of their college days, reconnecting with the brand through a combination of sense of tradition, nostalgia, and present day pride. Why not take advantage of opportunities like social media’s #TBT (Throwback Thursday) to help you reinforce that connection and encourage greater engagement?
Parents of students might see the experience as a way to strengthen their connection with their child and may feel a sense of ownership and pride based on their financial contributions to the school. Consider how you can encourage mom or dad’s commitment to the team.
Parents of younger children (whether they’re alumni or not) may value the fan experience as a means of creating memories, passing down a love the game, or teaching kids about teamwork. How is the game experience different for them, and what can you do to showcase the family-friendly side of your brand?
Locals who aren’t alumni and don’t have children attending your school may relate more to a sense of local pride or deep-rooted geographic rivalries. Think about what you can do or say that will recognize and encourage their continued support as honorary members of your organization.
When you understand what motivates your different fan groups to be part of the game experience, it’s easier to identify the right marketing themes. Some motivations or feelings will span segmented groups and resonate with the majority of your fans. Those are the themes you should consider for your overall marketing message. Other motivations will be specific to certain segments, and you should use those to tailor your engagement with each group.
Every ticket or season tickets package you sell represents a wide range of emotions and motivations that are felt by your fans as part of the game experience. So don’t just sell tickets: sell can’t-hold-us-down commitment. Sell remember-when-we nostalgia. Sell ours-is-better-than-yours rivalry. Sell this-is-our-house pride. Your fans will love you for it.
Football season is winding to a close and basketball season is heating up. No matter which sport you work with, these four tips will help you take your marketing efforts from having an average season to dominating your goals.
1. Talk smack.
As a sports marketer, you basically get paid to talk smack. How glorious is that? It’s a beautiful thing – as long as you get it right. Good smack-talk galvanizes your fans and increases ticket sales. Just remember that when you talk smack for your program, there are two groups who have to deliver on it: the team (of course) and the operations guys whose efforts ensure a good game-day experience for fans. Make sure you’re working closely with both. The other thing about talking smack is that in order for it to resonate, you have to talk the right smack to the right group. That can be tough if you’re new to a particular program, because every school and every sport is unique. When your messages are on point, you’re near the eye of the hurricane helping chart its path. If your messages aren’t on point, you’re going to be the guy getting crushed by the hurricane. To make sure you’re not that guy, follow the lead of your coaches and players: watch some tape.
2. Watch tape (a.k.a. do your research).
Do you know any college or professional football team that doesn’t watch tape? Yeah, us neither. There’s a reason for that. Watching game film gives players and teams insight into what went well (or didn’t go well) and what to expect from their next opponent. That type of research and analysis provides an important edge. Why not do the same thing with your marketing? Just like reviewing game film, there are two key areas you need to analyze: your brand and your target audience. When was the last time you thoroughly reviewed what your brand stands for, where it can improve on delivering the customer experience, and how strong your marketing strategy is? You also periodically analyze your customers: who they are, what they value most about the game day experience, how well their needs are being met, and what their satisfaction level is. The good news is that you can get away with investing in this type of in-depth analysis periodically (once per season) instead of having to do it for every game.
3. Develop your plays.
On the field or off, analysis is useless if it doesn’t translate into strategy. Use your brand and market research to develop your overall marketing strategy for the year, select the themes and media that are most likely to help you achieve your goals, prioritize your budget, and develop campaigns. Your marketing year can probably be divided pretty easily into its own set of seasons, and you need to have a solid campaign plan for each. Once you find something that works, there’s no shame in recycling it for the next year as long as you don’t get complacent. Complacency kills. You don’t want fans to be able to predict your next poster, email, etc. any more than your team wants the opposing players to predict their next move. So figure out what worked last season, make some adjustments to keep it interesting, and take the next year on like you own it.
4. Monitor the stats.
Ticket sales, game attendance, season ticket renewals, alumni contributions – these are all statistics you should be benchmarking and comparing to prior data. But don’t stop there: there’s more to measure if you really want to know how effective your marketing efforts are. While it can be difficult to measure the success rate of traditional marketing tactics (posters, print ads, billboards, radio, etc.), digital marketing offers a goldmine of statistics. Go beyond looking at basics like number of new and returning website visitors, and start measuring responses to calls to action and actual conversion. Incorporate a marketing automation tool so you can target your messages to different groups, move them along the conversion path, and measure the response you get to each email you send. Make your emails more personal and more interactive with videos that are customizable to each recipient – it’s more affordable than you think, and it helps seriously drive engagement and ultimately ticket sales.
I completely forgot that it was my turn to blog today. So...I'm going to turn your attention to what I've been working on the past day or so: releasing information about Old Hat Sports Branding's latest rebrand!
Here is a small glimpse of the logos that Jared created. Hannah, Tricia, and Zac also played major parts in this process. Rebrands are not easy, y'all. It takes a village and great cooperation from an awesome client like NMJC.
To see the complete set of logos, click here. And check back with Old Hat Sports Branding as I add more news stories and our latest work!
This week, I've been working on adding some of our latest logo creations to the Old Hat Sports Branding site. Here's just some of our latest work...
West Florida will begin their football program next fall, and Old Hat Sports Branding had the pleasure of creating their inaugural season logo. I love their school colors.
Charlotte Football begins their first season in Conference USA this year. Jared created a logo to commemorate that:
We also created a logo for the American Athletic Conference's first-ever football championship game, which takes place this December. This is the start of several projects for this new client.
We've created several logos for South Carolina's Gamecock Gala over the years, but in 2015 they celebrated the Gala's 10th anniversary. So, Jared created a Commemorative Event logo:
We've also finished a few projects recently that cannot yet be released, including a few really cool rebrands! Keep checking oldhatsportsbranding.com for more of the latest work from Old Hat Sports Branding!
Another year and another successful NACMA in the books for us. We had a great time catching up with current clients and connecting with potential new clients. Overall, the trip was a blast and here are the top nine things we learned:
1. Stuckey's is an American Tradition - Anyone ever heard of Stuckey's? It's a chain of gas stations that I thought had gone the way of the dodo bird. There used to be multiple Stuckey's locations dotting I-35 in Oklahoma but I haven't seen one in years. As luck would have it, there's one right outside Pensacola, FL and we stopped there TWICE on this trip. Stuckey's is a great place to stop if you want really cheaply made chachkis, ugly t-shirts, alligator claw back-scratchers, etc. We decided to pick up surprises for all the staff that couldn't make the trip with us. See below.
2. The back seat of a Suburban is not meant for adults - Six adults in one suburban in a 45 hour (total) road trip is tough. Josie and Hannah are the smallest so we forced them into the third seat for a good portion of the trip. I gave them a hard time for complaining about it but the fact of the matter is, that seat wasn't meant for adults. Holli and I rode back there for a while on the way down there and then started the trip back with a solid 6 hours back there. It was not enjoyable. Here's a photo of me and Holli asleep in the back while everyone else is enjoying their spacious seating.
3. There's Only One Place Left in the World That Still Allows Smoking Indoors... And We Had Our Party There - For all of our clients that are chain-smokers, I'm sure you were delighted to see that the bar we chose for our party allowed smoking. For all of you that DON'T want lung cancer, I'm sure the cloud of smoke was a bit of a shock when you arrive. On the upside, the bar's vending machine DID offer condoms. So we had that going for us... which was nice.
4. Make Sure to Bring $1.25 to Pensacola Beach - Pensacola Beach is a pretty nice beach. Crowded... but the sand is white and the water is clear. But if you have any desire to walk out on the pier, you better have some cash with you. Pensacola must be very proud of their pier as they charge $1.25 to walk on it. It's like a toll road for your feet. We walked over to it but hadn't brought any methods of payment with us so we opted out of the walk on the pier. Oh well.
5. The Lighting is Better in the Suburban than in My Shower - So apparently sunlight through the back windows of a Suburband does a better job of showing missed spots on shaven legs than the lighting in my shower at home. Holli noticed a few spots on the drive out there that she had missed so she hollered at whoever was in the front seat to fetch her the razor she keeps in the glove compartment for this very reason. I'm thinking about installing a shower in the Suburban so she can kill two birds with one stone from here on out.
6. 500 Square Feet is a LOT of Awesomeness - The past few years, we've had a 20 x 20 foot booth space in the tradeshow. This year, we decided to go with a 10 x 40 foot space to mix it up a little. It was a little experiment. Well, due to a longer story than you care to hear, we expanded that to 10 x 50 feet. It was nice to have all that space but I think we'll go back down to 10 x 40 next year.
7. Robert and I have Similar Tastes in Swimwear - I've known Robert a long time... since we were juniors in college, to be exact. And we've worked together for many years. So I know him pretty well. But I have to admit that I was surprised when we got ready to leave for the beach and discovered that our swimsuits were nearly identical.
8. Just Like the Seminoles, My Diet Dr Pepper Record will Forever be Unconquered - FSU was the latest in my trek to have the record for the most Division 1 college campuses upon which a person has been photographed drinking a Diet Dr Pepper. This was number 26 for me.
9. People Would Rather See My Wife Hula Hoop than See Me Do ANYTHING - It all started as a joke. Last year we had a hula hoop at the booth because we wrapped a sign around it. Holli hula hooped with it, I video'd it, uploaded it to facebook and she became a hula hooping sensation. So I decided it would be funny to make this year's t-shirt giveaway an Old Hat University Hula Hooping Team t-shirt and to promote it, I'd have her hula hoop at landmarks all the way to Orlando AND at the booth. Well what I discovered is that videos of her hula hooping are far more popular than anything I've ever done on camera. So far, her videos have been viewed 3,201 times. The most popular was the one of her hula hooping with Nicole Imbrogno. You can view that on the Old Hat facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/oldhat
So today is my two year anniversary at Old Hat Creative. Much like my very first blog, this one will touch on a few things. A lot has changed for me in the last few years, though it seems to be settling down with much of the change coming in the first few months of that stretch two years ago.
The NBA Finals wrapped up last night with Golden State winning their first title in 40 years, finishing off one of the great seasons in NBA history. The Warriors are classy group with a likable cast including Steph Curry, Andre Iguodala and Steve Kerr. Kerr was one of my favorite Bulls back in the day (other than Michael and Scottie) and Kerr has enjoyed success at many of his career stops including playing, coaching or broadcasting. The Warriors also held off a spectacular series performance by one of the great players in history in LeBron James. I've been a LeBron fan for a long time but continue to be amazed / disappointed by all of the hate that's slung his way in spite of his on-court performance. Granted LeBron brings some of it on himself with actions like "The Decision" and "Not one, not two, not three, etc", but he is already one of the top 10 of all-time with several good years left. LeBron and MJ are often compared, many times unfairly because they are different types of players. Can't we be fans of both? I know I am. Jordan won four of his six titles in his 30s and LeBron, who just turned 30, already has two championships under his belt. Even though LeBron is just 2-4 in the Finals, that still holds up when compared to other legends such as Jerry West (1-8 Finals record), Wilt Chamberlain (2-5) or Karl Malone (0-3). Imagine what it would be like if Jordan, West or Chamberlain played in the social media era?
The New York Times reported yesterday that the St. Louis Cardinals were being investigated by the FBI for hacking the Houston Astros player evaluation computer database. We will see how this turns out, but the Internet has already had fun with this one and will call into question the accomplishments of the Cardinals over the last decade. I'm not condoning the hacking/cheating, but this has to be a lesson to create stronger passwords and don't re-use old ones. Especially if you're moving from one organization to a rival one!
Old Hat goes to 11 …. NACMAs. Another successful convention is wrapping up. A time to meet old friends and make some new ones. If you liked what you saw at NACMA or maybe weren't able to attend, check out the ways we use our experience and expertise to make you look good. Like Old Hat Sports Branding. Or court projection videos. Or Fanswers and Fangage. Maybe a print piece, large or small, is what you need. We will make you look good.
I realized this morning that NACMA is less than three weeks away...and started to get a tiny bit stressed.
We still have lots to do! NACMA is a team effort around here, and nearly everyone in the office is contributing in some way. There's been hotel reservations, party invitations...trailer rentals and graphics environmental. A photo shoot and ordering loot. Booth construction and office obstruction. And I don't have enough brain power to think of more rhyming phrases. Instead, I'll turn my attention to checking more off our list.
Old Hat Clients - make sure to watch your mail and email for more information soon!
One of the best parts of life is getting to celebrate special occasions. Last week I celebrated my fifth anniversary of working at Old Hat. I actually used to live in Norman, OK and started my Old Hat career as the Web Production Manager. When my husband got a job offer in North Carolina, I was excited about the move, but super sad about leaving Old Hat. Fortunately for me, a short time after I moved to NC, Zac offered me a chance to rejoin the Old Hat team as an account executive. I've thoroughly enjoyed getting to work with so many of our awesome clients on a daily basis and am excited to be a part of Old Hat's continued growth for many years to come.
Speaking of special occasions, I should probably mention that today is my 9th wedding anniversary. It's been an adventurous nine years filled with new jobs, new states, new homes, two kids, a dog and lots of fun. I wouldn't trade it for anything and am thankful for every day we get to spend together!
Old Hat knows a thing or two about celebrating big events as well. Often times, we are asked to design pieces to celebrate a milestone in a sports' history. You can check out some of our commemorative branding projects here:
Great staff photo, huh? Only, that's not us. And that will never be us. We don't wear power suits or ties. We wear jeans, t-shirts, ballcaps, athletic shorts... pretty much whatever we want.
I was looking at our "About Us" page the other day and I couldn't believe how corporate looking I had allowed it to become. All our staff photos looked like we belonged in a photo like the one above. But that's not us. So I decided to spend my morning getting US back into our about us page. There are no major changes here but it's a much better representation of who we are than it was before. This page doesn't include our entire staff, by the way. Just the people you're likely to come into contact with when you deal with us. Though after spending some time working on this page, I think we probably need to get our entire staff on here.