In the summer of 2004, I took my first trip to Chapel Hill, NC. I had just started Old Hat and Rick Hart, then on staff at Oklahoma Athletics but now the AD at SMU did me the favor of calling UNC on my behalf to see if they might have some work for me. Fortunately, they did and we’ve been working with UNC ever since. I made my way out there to discuss the details of what we’d be doing for the Tar Heels and afterward, I went over to the nearest apparel shop to grab a souvenir or two. I picked up a navy blue Nike hoodie that had the word “CAROLINA” embroidered across the front of it and more than a dozen years later I’m still wearing that thing as often as I get the chance.
On a recent trip to Charleston, SC, I happened to be wearing that very sweatshirt as I made my way to get my wife some yogurt from the market down the street from our hotel room. A fella was walking my direction and as we got closer he pointed at me and said in a louder-than-expected voice, “Go Heels!” I’ll be honest. I was a bit startled and it took me a minute to figure out what he said and why he said it to me. I had to remind myself that I was wearing an UNC sweatshirt. Fortunately, I was able to gather my thoughts quickly enough to offer a stuttered, “Yeah! Go Heels!” back at him before my confusion became too obvious. This exchange served as a good precursor to the one I had no more than 2 minutes later when I was actually at the market and another man gave me a hearty, “Go Heels!” when he saw me. I was more prepared this time and was quicker with my response. I walked out of the market fired up ready to shout my support for UNC at the next passer-by but unfortunately, I didn’t pass any more Heels fans between there and the hotel room.
Working in collegiate athletics for as long as I have and with as many different universities as I have, my wardrobe is full of team apparel that has been given to me over the years. It is not unusual for me to be wearing an SMU sweatshirt and Kennesaw State hat one day only to be followed up by a Texas A&M t-shirt and Michigan basketball shorts the next. There have been more than a few times that someone has approached me in a public place and commented about how great “that game” was last night, referencing some sporting event featuring the team I am representing with my wardrobe. Problem is, I rarely recall what I happen to be wearing that day so I have to look down at my shirt or take my hat off to remind myself who they think I’m a fan of. Then, I either express my agreement with their statement or have to admit that I missed that particular event.
Believe it or not, though, the point of this is not to talk about my wardrobe or my interactions at the local grocery store. It’s to talk about the bonds we form as fans. Hunter S. Thompson’s quote references football fans specifically but the idea applies to any fan of sport. We share a universal language that cuts across many cultures and many personality types. We are never alone. We are a legion and sports is often the only thing we have in common.
When was the last time you were wearing your favorite Aerosmith t-shirt and some stranger yelled, “Sweet Emotion!” at you? Or the last time you were wearing that old Incredible Hulk t-shirt and passed a guy that gave you a hearty, “RAAARRRRRRR!!!!!” No, sports fans are in a justice league of their own. And for some reason, though startling, we don’t question it when a random person yells, “Go X!” at us in the restroom at the bar just across from Xavier University’s campus.
Sports creates a bond between people who would otherwise be complete strangers and gives them something to share in common. I recently met a fella on an airplane and we spent the entire flight talking about sports. We didn’t even share the same team in common though. Our bond was formed over the fact that I’m a Sooner fan, Barry Switzer used to coach at OU, Barry Switzer played at Arkansas and that guy on the plane is an Arkansas fan. We connected over a former coach of my team that is a former player from his team. Sports fans are just searching for something to connect over!
The camaraderie that is felt between sports fans is obvious. I’m not uncovering any brilliant revelation here. But I did want to see how many sports fans recognize it themselves. In our fan survey, we asked how many of the participants felt a sense of camaraderie with people at sporting events. We further clarified the question by adding that they should not include people they were attending with. In other words, to what extent do you feel connected with all of the people at those events that you don’t even know. 75% of them said that they feel “a lot” and/or “a great deal” of connection with all those strangers with whom, beyond wearing the same color and cheering for the same team, they have no known commonalities.
Isn’t that kinda nuts? 75% of sports fans feel a connection with people they don’t even know, if for no other reason than that those people are cheering for the same group of people on the field wearing red to score more points than the other group of people on the field wearing blue!
Like I said, the connection between sports fans isn’t breaking news. Every sports fan has experienced it. What you may not have realized, however, is the positive effect sports fans can have on an athletics program. The ever-important home field advantage is because of fans. The scholarships student-athletes receive through the athletic scholarship funds wouldn’t exist without the fans. A department's primary source of revenue (ticket sales) would obviously disappear without fans. Apparel sales, sponsorship dollars, local economy boosts, etc... All because of fans. 80% of those polled think that fans can either “probably” or “definitely” affect the outcome of the game. There’s no doubt in my mind that fans affect outcomes and could do so even more if we focused more on developing relationships with fans.
If you take one thing away from this article, let it be this: Sports does not happen without every member of the team working toward achieving success. It does not happen without the athletes. It does not happen without the coaches. And it sure as hell doesn’t happen without the fans. If you are a sports fan, take pride in what you give to the game. If you are an athlete, thank the fans for wanting to watch you play. If you are a coach, try to tune out the criticism of those people that think you should have gone for it on 4th-and-27 from your own 12-yard-line instead of punting and relish the opportunity you have to affect the lives of young people through your job. All thanks to these crazy fans.
The wait is finally over! For a few weeks now, we've been teasing about the release of a new podcast. Yesterday, we published Episode 1 of Stop the Clock, featuring an interview with Matt Roberts, Director of Athletics at the College of Charleston.
Stop the Clock is a podcast about the most amazing moments in sports history when you just wanted to stop time and live in that moment forever, or, those not-so-amazing moments when you would have done anything to have another shot at it. The idea for the podcast was actually born out of the book I'm writing, also called Stop the Clock. I've been conducting a lot of interviews with the nation's top collegiate athletics administrators and I'm recording those interviews to then turn into content for the book. What I'm discovering though, is that many of the people I'm speaking with are great storytellers. Some of these stories are too amazing not to let the world hear. So, I decided to turn the best stories with the best audio quality into a killer new podcast.
Some people call it "Advertising Prom." Others call it the "Academy Awards for local advertising." Here at Old Hat, we call it "The night we hang out together in our fancy clothes." OH recently attended the Oklahoma City ADDY Awards- the advertising industry's largest competition which recognizes the creative spirit of excellence in the art of advertising. It was a lot of fun to get dressed up and see some of the fantastic work being created in the OKC area.
We submitted a large variety of projects that were completed in 2016 and were fortunate to get awards for 10 of our submissions!
1. Bronze - Collateral Material - Special Event - Card, Invitation, Announcement Campaign - Texas AM Football Tickets/Box
2. Bronze - Non-broadcast video - Wisconsin Men's Basketball
3. Bronze - Still Photography - Black & White, Single - Illinois Football Photos
4. Bronze - Cinematography - Illinois Football lntro
5. Bronze - Video Editing - Wisconsin Football
6. Silver - Social Media Campaign - Duke Social Media
7. Silver - Out of Home/Ambient Media - Large Venue - Single - Army Helicopter
8. Silver - Website - SMU Get Here For Gameday
9. Silver - Still Photography - Campaign - Utah Football Campaign
10. Gold - Effects or Motion Graphics - Duke Men's Basketball Projection
It was exciting to see that our awards were not limited to one area, but were representative of each of Old Hat's various divisions. Since the Duke Men's Basketball Projection project won gold, that project will now go on to compete at the Regional Level and then hopefully make it all the way to the National ADDY Awards.
We've already completed some fantastic projects in 2017, so I have no doubt that Old Hat will have another successful time at next year's ADDYs!
Mark "Hot Rod" Riordan: He has a few nicknames, "Godfather," "White Rhino," and a horribly-awesome rugby nickname that we cannot remember, nor should we probably write for people to read. Mark is an OH OG. Full disclosure, we heart this guy. If we were a celebrity couple we'd be OldMark or MarkHat.
So OldMark goes back all the way to 2005 when he was with the University of Michigan. It would be an understatement to say this relationship helped put Old Hat on the map. Mark is probably 100% the reason why Zac needed to create the position of video project manager and why I'm living in Norman, Oklahoma. Mark is the man. Which makes perfect sense since he's working for the 12th Man Foundation at Texas A&M. Partnering with Mark and his crew on KyleField.com is arguably one of OH Interactive's proudest moments. The site broke the mold for most stadium development sites you see today.
Ladies and gentlemen, buckle up. It's time for 20 Questions with Mark Riordan.
1. NAME: Mark Riordan
2. OCCUPATION/TITLE: Vice President – Marketing & Communications
3. HOMETOWN: Olean, NY
4. PREGAME RITUAL: I used to like to get to the office before everyone else and crank the music up to 11 while I put the finishing touches on the script. Now that I’m in the development world things are a little different. I’m not in the office 6 hours before kick…more like two before kick and visit a few tailgates before starting my responsibilities.
5. FAVORITE THING TO SNACK: Bison French Onion Dip with potato chips. Anyone from Western New York will know what I’m talking about.
6. FAVORITE THING ABOUT YOUR JOB: I like connecting with the donors. Also, I like being part of the process that gives student-athletes a world-class education.
7. LEAST FAVORITE THING ABOUT YOUR JOB: Fan message boards. TexAgs, I’m looking at you!
8. HIDDEN TALENTS/HOBBIES: I have a Harley. I like riding but don’t seem to have the time to ride as much as I would like.
9. ADVICE TO YOUR YOUNGER SELF: Appreciate your education and think more critically.
10. YOUR GO-TO KARAOKE SONG: Not much of a karaoke kind of guy. The last time I did it, I went with Coolio’s Gangsta’s Paradise at Old Hat’s 10-year Anniversary party. Actually, I think I have ever “karaoke’d” in public like three times in my life and two of those were at Old Hat parties. What’s with you guys and karaoke?!?!
11. FAVORITE MOVIE: Dumb & Dumber / Caddyshack
12. FAVORITE TV SHOW: All-time: Seinfeld Current: The Walking Dead
13. IF YOU WERE IN A BOY BAND WHAT WOULD IT BE CALLED: White Rhino (nickname from my lunch league basketball days at Michigan).
14. FAVORITE PLACE TO EAT: Wings ‘n More here in College Station.
15. WHAT DO YOU ORDER THERE: They have the best wings that I’ve found outside of Western New York…and that’s saying a lot. Notice I didn’t call them “Buffalo Wings”? If you are from WNY, they are wings. Also, it’s pop, not soda.
16. FAVORITE DISNEY PRINCESS: First off, I didn’t know there were only eleven princesses. I thought there were many more than that. Gun to my head, Belle.
17. WHAT’S YOUR SPIRIT ANIMAL: I like wolves…let’s go with that.
18. WHAT’S THE STUPIDEST THING YOU’VE EVER DONE: So many things to choose from! I guess one of the big ones is when I worked at a full-service gas station and thought it would be a good idea to start dipping to pass the time. I quit over 16 years ago but I spent almost 9 years rotting my mouth. All out of boredom.
19. WHAT’S THE LAST SHOW THAT YOU BINGE-WATCHED: I have three kids from 10-15 years old. Each one is in multiple sports (school, club, travel and rec leagues). Who has time to binge-watch anything?!?!?
20. IF YOU WEREN’T DOING THIS JOB WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING: Teaching high school and coaching football.
There are a handful of people who make your job never feel like a job. They challenge you to do your best work and they trust you to accomplish that feat. It is truly a pleasure working with them. I can say without a doubt that Brad Wurthman, Associate Director of Athletics, Marketing/Fan Development at the University of Illinois, is one of those people. He started working with Old Hat in 2011 while at the University of Cincinnati. Brad's very first project was this Bearcats Football Black Out game poster.
Everybody loved The Dark Knight theme in 2011!
His first video with us happened in 2012 and we've been fortunate to work with "America's Favorite Canadian Ginger" ever since. Some of my absolute favorite projects have been Wurthman's.
So what's the real story with this guy? We asked him 20 Questions to find out. Feel free to add your own Canadian accent when reading this.
1. NAME: Brad Wurthman
2. OCCUPATION/TITLE: Associate Director of Athletics, Marketing/Fan Development
3. HOMETOWN: Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
4. PREGAME RITUAL: Gum. Lots of gum. Specifically bubble gum. Plus trash talking. Other than that, I normally try to find about a 2 minute window where I’m completely on my own to just take a look at all of the work that has gone into preparing for our game and the people who worked on it to enjoy that feeling of accomplishment.
5. FAVORITE THING TO SNACK ON: Cookies. Is that a snack? If not, it would still win. I’d still pick cookies even if I wasn’t allowed to.
6. FAVORITE THING ABOUT YOUR JOB: Having the opportunity to be part of a team that can make an immediate impact on something that people are emotionally invested in. There’s a reason I want to sell sports and not something else.
7. LEAST FAVORITE THING ABOUT YOUR JOB: Since everyone can be involved in everything at times, progress can be slowed for certain projects – just have to keep your wits about you and commit to finding the best solution possible.
9. ADVICE TO YOUR YOUNGER SELF: Breathe. Take a moment to do the things that are important to you for personal reasons and not just for professional reasons. Set boundaries and stick to them – without compromising your ambition. Focus on learning, not only on progressing. Most importantly, always leave the blackjack table when you have more money than you arrived with.
10. YOUR GO-TO KARAOKE SONG: I think everyone has to have a three song rotation, unless you’re talented enough to audition for The Voice. Karaoke is not about my voice – it’s about crowd interaction. So, in very specific order…Don’t Stop Believing by Journey, Friends in Low Places by Garth Brooks, Hero by Enrique Iglesias.
11. FAVORITE MOVIE: Jurassic Park
12. FAVORITE TV SHOW: House of Cards
13. IF YOU WERE IN A BOY BAND WHAT WOULD IT BE CALLED: Who says I wasn’t? The Eh Team.
14. FAVORITE PLACE TO EAT: Smoke’s Poutinerie
15. WHAT DO YOU ORDER THERE: Montreal style smoked meat poutine
16. FAVORITE DISNEY PRINCESS: No contest. Ariel. Gingers have to stick together.
17. WHAT’S YOUR SPIRIT ANIMAL: I took two quizzes to answer this question. One said lion, one said llama. So, take that for what it’s worth.
18. WHAT’S THE STUPIDEST THING YOU’VE EVER DONE: All in a matter of about 2 weeks, I committed to go on a 3 week trip to China after graduating college. Though it turned out to be one of the best experiences of my life, I had no actual idea what I was signing up for at the time and it didn’t actually hit me until I was staring down at the center of the Pacific Ocean. Sometimes, not thinking about the end result leads to you to make the best decisions!
19. WHAT’S THE LAST SHOW THAT YOU BINGE-WATCHED: Narcos.
20. IF YOU WEREN’T DOING THIS JOB WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING: I grew up in a family of teachers and really believe in the power of education – but was not blessed with the same patience gene for rooms of 30 children so that was never going to work. However, I’d love to teach snowboarding and live in Western Canada at one of the resorts – it’s so much fun to watch someone experience their first linked turn because it’s a very individual sport – either you commit to it and fight through it or you don’t. I’m a sucker for a good story about overcoming challenges.
At the 2016 NACMA Conference, Old Hat lead a presentation on marketing automation. We highlighted the success of RaiseUpCarolina.com, a ticket sales website built for UNC that has helped increase ticket sales revenue by more than $500,000 and aided in selling out their premium seating areas for the first time ever. Marketing automation is one of the tools we used as a part of that project. We took a uniquely positioned website with a great user experience that built excitement for a specific program and turned it into a ridiculously effective sales tool.
A lot of people think of marketing automation as a ticket sales tool, in and of itself. I disagree. I don't think of marketing automation as a tool any more than I think of the handle of a hammer as a tool. The handle of a hammer is only effective if it has the head and/or claw of the hammer. Without one or both of those, it's completely ineffective in achieving its goal. Marketing automation is no different. Without combining marketing automation with other elements to drive results, you're stuck with something as ineffective as the handle of a hammer would be in driving nails.
Some ticketing companies are starting to offer marketing automation as a part of their platform. First, fans visit a school's primary athletic website, navigate to the ticket portal and then their activity is logged and put into the automation system. That information is segmented into audiences and communicated based on their interest on the site. However, there's one major problem with this approach: It's predicated on the idea that people are already interested in coming to those events. If they already want to come, attendance wouldn't be an issue in the first place.
Think about it this way: using marketing automation on a ticket portal through a primary athletic website (goheels.com, for instance) is like putting a ticket sales phone number on a blank, white piece of paper and posting it on a telephone pole on a street corner. It's boring, uninviting, really hard to find and once you do find it, it does nothing to actually make you want to attend the event.
Marketing automation is an amazing way to help increase ticket sales and attendance, but tracking fans' activity on a ticket portal that no one is coming to doesn't take advantage of the power of marketing automation. If no one is coming to your ticket purchasing pages, you're not going to have anyone to track.
Marketing automation is simply a piece of a ticket sales tool. And here are the three things that render it completely ineffective.
1. Dedicated Ticket Sales Site
Again, the problem isn't that people don't know when/where the games are. The problem is that they don't want to come. Simply providing information is not enough. You have to create an interface that builds excitement. Look at your primary website real quick, select any sport, click to purchase tickets and determine if there's anything about that page that actually makes you excited about that sport. If the answer is yes, you're a step ahead, but you're still faced with the issue of forcing people to have to navigate through information about 25 other sports before they find the one they want to buy tickets for. There's a reason the producers of The Avengers built a website just to build excitement about that movie rather than just making it one of many options to look at on the production company's website. And there's a reason that every other major movie does the same thing. Using your primary athletic site to drive ticket sales is a mistake.
2. Off-Season Marketing Campaign
Most of the time, the marketing that takes place for a specific sport happens in the weeks leading up to the start of the season. It will typically continue through the season, but once the season ends, the marketing ends. Sure we send out ticket renewal letters and other information, but most of the time we cease to continue to make them excited about that sport. What we should be doing is actually ramping up our marketing efforts as the season comes to a close and keeping those marketing efforts going the entire off-season. One of the reasons RaiseUpCarolina.com was so successful is because it launched right at the end of the football season. Then, throughout the winter and spring, we were consistently pushing people to that site through a comprehensive marketing campaign. Because we were continually driving traffic to the site, marketing automation was able to do what marketing automation does. If you're not continually driving traffic to your site, you're not getting the most bang for your buck in what you're spending on marketing automation.
3. Digital Marketing Strategy
As discussed, marketing automation is only one part of a much larger puzzle. It is a force multiplier, much like the handle of a hammer. A hammer's head will drive a nail if you hit it hard enough. Add a handle to that head and it amplifies the force exponentially and makes driving that nail a lot easier. Marketing automation is the piece of the tool that makes your efforts exponentially more effective in driving ticket sales. What can make marketing automation even more effective? Other digital strategies that augment marketing automation. One example is geofencing. We can identify an area where you have a potential base of ticket purchasers and target them by geofencing that area and serving them digital advertising through whatever site or app they spend most of their time on. For instance, let's say you have a loyal and passionate fanbase at your basketball games, but those fans aren't coming to your football games. We geofence your basketball arena and all your fans have to do is use their phone to access the web in any way during that event. Once they do, we can then serve them ads on Facebook, Google, etc. to drive them to purchase. These ads will push them to your website where they then enter your marketing automation platform and now you're hitting them from all angles.
There's no question that marketing automation is powerful. A $500,000 increase in ticket sales at UNC is enough to prove that point, but it took a lot more than marketing automation to make that happen: A good program, a great marketing staff, a ticket sales team, a dedicated ticket sales website, an off-season marketing campaign and marketing automation. This season we'll be implementing a comprehensive digital marketing strategy including geofencing and hope to add yet another force multiplier to the ticket sales effort.
Recently, I ventured down to Dallas for a photo/video shoot with SMU basketball. This could possibly be a record of the most things captured in one day!
Our shoot included:
2 on campus locations
1 green screen setup
1 seamless backdrop photo setup
1 on court practical setup
1 audio/video interview setup
WBB on campus intro footage
WBB green screen player features
WBB on court intro footage
MBB green screen player features
MBB green screen intro footage
In order to capture everything in one day, it took a lot of planning and working together with our friends at SMU. Shout out to Ronnie, Director of Marketing, for helping organize everything. We needed to have every detail planned from where we were set up to what time student-athletes were coming to be sure we could capture everything in the most effienct way possible. I think we did just that!
I can't wait to see what Deb and her team do with what we captured. These intros, player features, and interviews are going to be awesome. Plus, these photos will look great on the posters and print pieces we are about to design.
Last week Dustin and I were in Murray, Kentucky, capturing footage for the Murray State men’s basketball team intro video. We’ve been fortunate to travel to Murray State the past few years for an on-site video shoot.
You can check out some of the past videos we’ve done for them here:
Each year, we work to create something new and different, and this year was no exception. Without giving too much of the video away, we shot all of the players in a dark gym using stop motion photography. This will give us the ability to create a really unique look with the footage we captured. The players had a really fun time with the lights, and I was impressed that they were still able to make baskets with lights flashing really fast right in their faces. That's probably why they play D1 basketball and I don't.
Be sure to check back in early November once their intro video is released along with all of the basketball video projects we're currently working on.
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.
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.
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 looksthe 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.
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.
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: