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.
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 Old Hat completed a Sports180 for SMU. Some of you might be asking, "What is a Sports180"? Well, glad you asked! I'll give you a quick rundown.
The Sports180 Process 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. Ok, so that sounds pretty fancy, what does it mean?
The Sports180 takes place in 3 phases.
Phase One is the Workshop and Research phase. Phase One is a team effort: your team plus our team is where we learn and discover. This phase is how we uncover insights. There’s sharing involved for all of us, but we know you’re up for the challenge. Using quantitative and qualitative research, we dig into your department inside and out: its challenges, opportunities, target audiences, product focus, and compelling story. We will ask for data that you may already have, in addition to asking insightful questions to elicit honest, comprehensive, and solution-focused answers.
Phase Two is the Findings and Recommendations phase. In Phase Two, we analyze the research and develop a playbook to achieve your objectives. This is how we diagnose and prescribe. 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.
Phase Three is where a tangible direction is generated. In Phase Three, 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 will also receive comprehensive reports with our research findings and strategic recommendations plus a detailed brand launch marketing plan.
Phase Three is where I'm going to focus for this blog. Phase Three is where the creative direction takes place and where I spend most of my time.
The Creative Platform
Above is the Schedule Poster and jumping off point for the creative we developed in response to SMU's 180. The imagery, fonts, colors and tone were all generated from feedback and discussion from the 180 process. The message of "Get Here for Gameday" was a specific call to action for fans and is carried out across the campaign platform. An example of this campaign in billboard-form below.
We'll be releasing more pieces to this campaign as we approach football season. The campaign is already getting good feedback from the SMU community and fanbase and we're excited to see where it goes next!
Last week, Old Hat made it's 12th consecutive trip to the NACDA/NACMA Conference in Dallas. We were fortunate enough this year to have been invited to present on the subject of marketing automation. The title of the presentation was, "Increasing Revenue while Decreasing Workload: Using Marketing Automation to Drive Ticket Sales and Fundraising Revenue." The whole idea behind marketing automation is that it increases revenue automatically. We set up a system at the outset of the campaign for segmenting audiences, lead scoring and communication and then let it do its magic. We partnered with the University of North Carolina on their Raise Up Carolina football ticket sales website and used marketing automation with great success. And it was this project that we presented on at NACMA.
At Old Hat, we believe that marketing automation can only be successful if it is utilized with two other components though. Automation is a very powerful tool but like any tool, it can't carry the load by itself. So our presentation focused heavily on the 3 ingredients necessary to make a ticket sales or fundraising effort successful. Before I get into that though, let me review the success we had with RaiseUpCarolina.com.
To date, here are the results:
3,000+ new season tickets sold
UNC had seen a 5-year decline in season ticket sales. With the help of RaiseUpCarolina.com, they have more than 3,000 new season ticket holders. If each of those purchasers only bought the lowest level available, this would equate to more than $300,000 in revenue on season tickets alone. This doesn't include mini-packs or single game tickets which only went on sale recently.
Premium Seating is SOLD OUT
In past years, UNC has always had a surplus of premium seating but for the first time ever, they are sold out for the season.
Increase in Group Ticket Sales Requests
Because of the excitement built by the ticket sales site and ease of finding information about group sales options, UNC has seen a drastic increase in group sales requests throughout the spring and summer.
32,000 Unique Visitors who spent a total of 95,000 minutes on the site
Selling tickets is one thing. But building excitement around a program is another. Not only is RaiseUpCarolina.com selling tickets. Because of the user experience, it's keeping people engaged on the site for far longer than the average website keeps a visitor. We are building excitement for UNC Football which will not just result in selling more tickets but it will increase attendance among current ticket holders as well. Just because a ticket is sold does not mean that person will attend the game.
So what are the three ingredients to ticket sales and fundraising success?
1. Dedicated Web Presence 2. Unique Positioning 3. Marketing Automation
Dedicated Web Presence
Many companies offer marketing automation for ticket sales. In fact, I think they all do. And I've talked to many people in collegiate athletics that are utilizing marketing automation through their ticketing system (Spectra, Paciolan, Ticketmaster, etc.). The problem is that the ticket portal that a fan accesses through the primary athletic website (Click Here for an Example) is boring and unengaging. It doesn't make a person excited to buy a ticket. Using marketing automation on a page like this is like putting a racecar engine in a Yugo. It might go really fast but no one will ever get inside to find out.
The best comparison I can use is the movie industry. When Avengers, or X-Men Apocalypse or even the Peanuts Movie came out, they built sites specifically to build excitement for those movies. They had movie trailers, games, custom emojis, etc. specific to that movie so people would actually get excited about going to THAT movie. Imagine if every big budget movie that came out just relied on MovieTickets.com to do their promotion for them. If you go to MovieTickets.com, you see information about every movie that's playing. Seems like a ridiculous notion, right? But that's exactly what most collegiate athletic departments are doing with their ticket sales. Fans are expected to go to the primary athletics website where 27 different sports are being represented, dig through to find the ticket page and then they arrive at a boring and unengaging page that is severely lacking information about the program they're interested in.
Do me a quick favor and click this link to see the Captain America website. Now compare that to the page on movietickets.com where you can actually purchase tickets by clicking here. I'd do screenshots but you can't get the full effect that way. One site is about building excitement and one is about a transaction.
Now click on RaiseUpCarolina.com and compare it to the ticket portal on GoHeels.com by clicking here. We're making the mistake in collegiate athletics of assuming that people are already excited so we just have to invite them to the transaction. But they aren't excited. And they aren't buying tickets.
A dedicated website that is focused solely on reminding people what they're missing out on by not coming to the stadium/arena is integral to the process.
Another key piece of the puzzle is making sure you are focusing on the unique positioning of the program you're promoting. We built RaiseUpCarolina.com to appeal to a specific fan base. Our focus there is UNC Alumni and former season ticket holders. People that have an affinity for UNC and Chapel Hill already. However, we're building a ticket sales website for SMU right now that focuses on an entirely different market. Due to a smaller group of existing alumni and fans in the area, we're focusing our efforts on people with no existing ties to SMU football. And to do that, we have to position the messaging on this site differently than did the UNC site.
The comparison to the movie industry holds true here as well. The Avengers website didn't utilize the same template, look and graphic style as the Peanuts Movie website. Why? Because the audience they're appealing to is entirely different. We can't treat all sports fans the same just like we can't treat all movie fans the same. Potential ticket purchasers for Avengers: Age of Ultron aren't the same as potential ticket purchasers for Finding Dory. Potential ticket purchasers for SMU football aren't the same as potential ticket purchasers for Duke basketball.
We have to stop assuming that people already want to come to our games. And we have to stop thinking we can appeal to all fans the same way.
Marketing automation is all about getting the right message to the right person at the right time. It's about communicating with your fans based on their interests and converting fans into ticket purchasers. It's about following up with them after the purchase to drive additional revenue through apparel sales and gameday opportunities. And it's about making all of this happen automatically without having to lift a finger.
The details about how marketing automation works and everything it's capable of are too complex to outline here. But we'd be happy to walk you through an online presentation if you'd like. Just email us at email@example.com and we'll set something up.
Marketing automation will help increase ticket sales. A dedicated website will help increase ticket sales. A uniquely positioned marketing campaign will help increase ticket sales. But none of them are as effective on their own as they are combined. Old Hat takes these three very effective marketing tools and combine them into a revenue producing machine. The results for UNC speak for themselves and we anticipate having similar results on the other ticket sales sites we're currently working on. If you have empty seats, call us. We'll fill them.
Whew! What a whirlwind past five days its been! Zac, Robert, Kevin, Joel, and I adventured alllllll the way down to Dallas for #NACMA16. As much as I love our annual roadtrips to Orlando, I do have to say, it was very nice only having a three hour drive this year. As I recap our trip, I've included some photos and SNAPCHATS! We just got an Old Hat Snapchat account (user: oldhatcreative), so we had some fun with it.
About 20 minutes into the trip, Robert discovered he left his wallet behind in Norman. We could have made him suffer without it, but we were nice and turned around to go get it.
We made it to Texas! We stopped at the rest stop and of course had to take some photos.
We stopped for a quick lunch at Jimmy John's before unloading and setting up our booth. #SNACKchat
Then, we arrived at the hotel and surprisingly quickly set up our booth. It came together very nicely.
My favorite part of NACMA is being able to see Old Hat clients in person. It's so fun getting to catch up and discuss upcoming projects for the next season. I got to see the team from Utah and Brad from Illinois to name a couple during the trade show. I'll be seeing both of them again soon, as we already have on campus video shoots scheduled this summer.
Me with Michael, Ann, and Grant from the U!
Me with Brad and my friend Shawn Johnson (not the gymnast) who I went to grad school with at ISU.
Per tradition, Katie Caliendo (Menlo College) came by the booth for some handstands. #retiredgymnasts
After two days of trade showing, it was time for Kevin and Zac to present on raiseupcarolina.com and marketing automation with the team from North Carolina. They had three sessions, and each time, the room was filled to capacity...actually over capacity! People were standing in the back! I think the presentation was very beneficial in introducing marketing automation to a lot of athletic department staff, and I think we will be talking about it more and more in the future.
Before we knew it, the booth was all packed up, and we were on our way back to Oklahoma. Overall, I would say we had a successful trip. I can't wait to see what new projects we do with current clients this year and what new clients may join our family in 2016. Until next time!
Here's a few more photos from our trip:
And saving the best for last, Zac and I faceswapped on Snapchat. Oh my.
Get ready for some Smart Creative! The Old Hat team is all set up for our trade show and ready for tonight's booth hours (4-8:30 p.m.). Since I'm in Norman, I'm going to fill in my own details about how yesterday's trip to Dallas and booth setup went down.
After a few setbacks (Robert left his wallet?), our team embarked on the short journey to Dallas. Hannah kept everyone up to speed on construction happenings, and also told many stories about her childhood spent in the Dallas metro. Zac shotgunned Diet Dr. Pepper, Robert told dad jokes, Kevin rolled his eyes and shook his head at everyone, and Joel, the newest member of the team, kept everyone's spirits high.
After arriving in Dallas, they immediately began booth setup. They were so relieved that they chose a smaller booth size this year. At first, Zac just supervised.
But then, with cameras all around, he lent a hand.
Look how quickly Robert was moving (above)! Hannah couldn't capture that guy standing still.
Robert was glad that Kevin was in attendance this year and lending a hand. There are few he trusts with NACMA booth construction. With good reason...last year I put those fasteners together all wrong.
Finally, the booth was completed.
So the team went out for dinner and drinks! (No photographic evidence available).
The Old Hat team is overflowing with excitement about our latest offerings: Sports180 and Marketing Automation! Not sure what these are all about? Stop by our booth (#120) and learn all about how we can help you put butts in seats at your stadium. In addition, plan to attend our session on Wednesday morning!
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 andSupport 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.
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.
No, this isn't my home. And there's a pretty good chance this isn't your home either. But for about 80,000 proud USC fans, the LA Coliseum is home on Saturdays in the fall. The Coliseum has been home to so many during its storied history, dating all the way back to 1923. That's why the newly announced Coliseum Renovation is a renovation of such magnitude- not only because of the funding involved ($270 million)- but because of the impact it will have on those that have called it, or will someday call it home.
USC has recently taken over ownership of the Coliseum, and with that came the necessity to bring the Coliseum back to its original glory, but they're doing more than just knocking off the cobwebs and doing some touch-up painting. Better seating for all fans plus the addition of high-end loge, club, suite and lounge areas will ensure that the Coliseum remains the premier game day destination for USC fans and football enthusiasts. The newly renovated Coliseum (scheduled to debut in time for the 2019 home opener) will transform the watching of a great team and a great game into a memory-making experience. And that's at the core of every sport at every level.
Through great collaboration and input from USC, Old Hat designed and developed the Coliseum Renovation website, and I'm proud to have played some part in the eventual renaissance of such an iconic landmark. And that's exactly what the Coliseum is: not only a football stadium but a historic, iconic landmark. If you just browse through the history of the Coliseum you can see how much impact it has had not only for college and professional football, but Olympic sports, politics, entertainment, and most importantly its original purpose as a dedication to veterans of WWI.
I had the chance to visit the Coliseum during our discovery trip to USC, which was set up to talk through all aspects of the website. I admit I didn't have quite the appreciation for the Coliseum that I have now. Being involved with this project has really given me an understanding as to why USC is so intent on bringing back the original grandeur of the Coliseum. Fans should be proud to call this place home.
A few years ago, an acquaintance of mine decided he was going to start a sports apparel company. Like most new businesses, he was starting with nothing. He had no facility, he had no customers, he had no product. He just had an idea.
Oh, and he had one more thing. He applied to a program through the SBA that provided him with a steady stream of potential customers with built in brand loyalty to his new company. He didn't have to do a single thing to create that brand loyalty. This program was revolutionary. The government would take large groups of young people and spend four years slowly building an affinity within them for this guy's brand. They'd give these kids free product, they'd surround them with this company's logo and they'd teach these impressionable young minds songs that furthered a love for this guy's company. And every year, after spending four years instilling passion within these potential customers, the program would release thousands of them into the world where they would make more money than nearly half of the population.
Needless to say, my friend's company was set up to be a smashing success. Every year from the start of his company until the end of time, he had 5,000+ people who automatically loved his brand. All he had to do was supply them with a good product. Some of these people were more passionate than others, of course. And he couldn't retain them all. But what he found was that for the rest of these people's lives, they had at least some affinity for his product. On top of that, their ability to afford his product was better than average. So of course he was incredibly successful…how could he not be?
What was the name of this company? It doesn't matter because I made it all up. That is, I made up the idea that this was someone's company that couldn’t help but succeed. The rest of it happens every year at hundreds of organizations.
On average, about 1.8 million people receive bachelor's degrees from colleges and universities in the United States. The vast majority spent about four years being surrounded by that university's brand every single day. They walked past hundreds of signs, pole banners and trash cans all bearing that institution's logo. They sat next to thousands of other students wearing t-shirts with that university's brand across the front. They were taught the history of their school, songs they will never forget, and traditions that reinforced their love for their school. And then, after four years of this indoctrination, they are released into the world with the ability to earn an average of $18,000 more per year than those who did not attend college.
Can you imagine what Nike would do for that kind of exposure? What do you think Nike would pay to have their logo on every banner, trash can, building and sign on a college campus? The value of that level of exposure to a brand is incalculable. As a business owner I can tell you that I would have killed to have been able to start my business with a group of customers that already loved my company.
Those of us who work in collegiate athletics are spoiled. We’re playing with a stacked deck and we’re still losing. We have something Nike would pay millions of dollars for and that businesses everywhere dream about. I've used the number 5,000 in talking about the number of graduates that come out of a university each year. Some are less, obviously. But some have double or triple that number. The point is that collegiate athletics departments have four years of free marketing opportunities handed to them on a silver platter, and there are thousands of people graduating from universities every year who have will have some level of affinity for their alma mater for the rest of their lives.
No other industry in the world has this advantage. No one ever says, "Well, I wear Adidas because my grandpa wore Adidas and my dad wore Adidas." Even professional sports teams have less of an automatic fan base and less built-in loyalty than collegiate athletics.
If you have empty seats at your stadium or arena, you have no excuse. Or at least you don't have nearly the excuse that organizations in every other industry has if they're failing to bring in customers. If alumni aren’t coming back to support your athletic program, it’s because the product you’re asking them to support isn't good enough.
Winning Isn't Everything
The argument can be made that fans would come if the team would win and that as marketers, we can't control the product on the field. But the decrease in attendance among collegiate athletics isn't isolated to losing programs. Winning teams are losing fans too. The product on the field is great but fans are still choosing to stay home.
At home, the beer is cheaper, the couch is more comfy and the temperature is always a nice 72 degrees. That’s hard to compete with, but not impossible. Because we do have an advantage: they already love us. They spent four years seeing our logo, wearing our clothes and singing our songs.
We might not be able to control the product on the field, but there’s a lot more to the home-or-stadium decision than that. We can control ticket prices. We can control advertising. We can control strategically targeting the fans most likely to attend and understanding what makes them tick. And we can control the gameday experience.
So what about my theoretical friend and his theoretical business? Was success really that easy for him? Of course not. He had to work at it. He had to realize that he couldn’t rely on the same old tricks to get fans to the stadium. He had to stop taking his steady stream of brand loyalists and their disposable income for granted, and start doing more to give them a product that is better than staying home. That was when he started succeeding. And if he didn’t do those things and ended up failing even when the deck was stacked in his favor, then he had nobody to blame but himself.