March Madness. It’s kind of an obsession. 

Whether it’s your sport or not, whether your team made it to the top this year or not, you have to admit that you got at least a little into it. Because come on, it’s MARCH MADNESS. 

We all know that even people who have never touched a basketball in their life (except for maybe that awkward middle school gym moment they’d rather forget about) were filling out brackets and talking smack about "their" team.

You know what else people were doing? Looking stuff up on their phones or tablets related to March Madness. How do we know? Besides the fact that we were doing it ourselves, we saw some interesting data from Google about 2016 March Madness mobile usage.

Google’s data shows that mobile searches for predictions and upsets increased more than 45% and 40% respectively over last year. People also searched heavily for scores (79% of all March Madness mobile searches) and standings (70%). No surprise there.

But get this: searches for sneakers ranked second highest at 78% and searches for uniforms (67%) actually edged out the number of mobile searches for upsets.

Besides searching, people did a lot of game-watching on their mobile devices. In the U.S., more than 3 million hours of March Madness videos were watched on YouTube during the first four rounds of the tournament.  

Three. Million. Hours. There are 8,760 hours in a year. So cumulatively, the U.S. watched over 342 years worth of basketball in about two weeks. Don’t all you people have jobs?!?

And they (uh…we) didn’t stop there. Basketball fans also watched thousands of hours of related videos throughout the tournament. Google reports that compared to the average YouTube viewer, March Madness fans were 16 times more likely to watch videos related to sports news and 13 times more likely to watch videos related to sports coaching and training.

You can look at this two ways:

1. “Yeah, great. Thanks. I already know convenience is eroding game attendance and now you’re making me feel even worse about how mobile is taking over the world.” Ok, Sad Chad, feel sorry for yourself. It’s not going to help anything.

2. “Wow. There’s an opportunity here, I just need to figure out how to make it payoff for my program.” That’s right, Joe McSmartybrains. There is an opportunity here. Your program has the type of stuff people are searching for on mobile. 

You’ve got uniforms and shoes – and odds are, you’re going to have new ones in the future. You’ve got sports news. You’ve got coaches and trainers and a whole bunch of athletes. You’ve got inside scoops, moments of glory, memorable personalities, and more. You’ve got reasons to make people wish they were there at the game. Plus you’ve got fans, and everybody knows fans like watching other fans do crazy things on YouTube.

You don’t have to make it all the way to March Madness to capitalize on fan interest in your team. Tools like online video give you an opportunity to be where your fans are and engage with them, no matter what your record looks like or where you are in the season.

You can’t stop people from watching games on their mobile devices, so don’t even try. Instead, understand the types of content your fans are into and give it to them. Keep it exciting. Give people reasons to talk about your program and buy tickets to your games next season. Then build on the momentum and give them reasons to come back again and again.

My father cried on November 16, 1957. He was 12 years old and he wept on my grandfather’s lap as he had just experienced something he had no recollection of ever experiencing before. His beloved Oklahoma Sooners lost a football game for the first time in more than 4 years. When OU began their 47-game winning streak, he was only 8 years old. So there he sat, tears flowing down his cheeks, while his father held him and assured him that everything would be okay. 

On Saturday afternoons in the early 1980s, my father and I would get in the car and leave our farmhouse in Guthrie, Oklahoma for the hour drive to Norman. Going to OU football games was not guaranteed but often I would have begged enough that my dad would give in and take me. Sometimes the whole family. Sometimes just me. We’d stop by the tailgate of James and Maryanna Martin for fried chicken. We’d go watch The Pride of Oklahoma (OU’s marching band) warm up. We’d throw a football around on the South Oval. And I would bring every dollar I had saved so I could buy a new OU jersey at the stadium. But the best part was sitting next to my dad while he explained the finer points of the game of football to me.

I remember where I was when the Denver Broncos won their first Super Bowl. I know who I was with, what I was wearing and most importantly, I remember the emotions I felt. I remember driving to Kansas City to see the Broncos play the Chiefs. I remember night after night at the Lloyd Noble Center with my brother and dad watching Wayman, Mookie, Tim and Stacey play basketball. I remember the flyover at the old Mile High Stadium before the game started and how loud and overwhelming it was. I remember meeting Ozzie Smith in the parking garage outside Busch Stadium and getting him to sign a ball for me before we took in an afternoon Cardinals game. I remember standing next to my best friend in Oklahoma Memorial Stadium as the clock wound down after OU beat #1 Nebraska 31-14 after spending years in that same stadium watching OU lose game after game after game with him.

I remember, because those moments are important. I remember, because now that I am older and my brother has moved a thousand miles away, my best friend and I rarely make time for each other and I don’t see my father nearly as much as I should, those moments are what I hold as my most prized possessions. No one can take them from me and I’ll take those memories to my grave. 

These are the moments that sports create. Sports brings people together and creates moments shared by fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, brothers and sisters, and friends. I’ve never met anyone, regardless of how much of a sports fan they are, who doesn’t have at least one great memory surrounding a sporting event. They remember where they were, who they were with and what happened at that event that made it so special. Chances are, they get emotional when they think about these experiences. I get emotional just talking about it. Some people have one. Some people have many. I’m lucky… I have hundreds.

Sports are important, plain and simple. Sporting events provide an avenue for people to have experiences that shape their lives. Sports gives people memories that stay with them til the day they die. More often than not, even when their team lost, the memory is held as a fond one.

Sporting events are in a battle with convenience. And the statistics show that we are losing. Kids are upstairs in their rooms playing Minecraft or texting their friends while dad is downstairs in his man cave binge-watching Netflix. When that child is 80 years old, they aren’t going to be telling their grandchildren about the Saturday afternoon they spent playing video games. But being outside on a Saturday afternoon with thousands of other people screaming for the same cause, a ballpark hot dog in their hands and their hero… their father… sitting next to them? That creates a moment that will live on forever.

Old Hat exists for the sole purpose of helping create those moments for people. Whether through driving attendance to sporting events, improving the gameday experience once inside the stadium or arena, aiding in fundraising efforts for athletic departments and their capital campaigns, or any one of the many other things that a sports organization must do to put teams on the field, Old Hat is here to help.

Old Hat believes that there’s nothing greater than sharing a sports experience with someone you care about. We also believe that the purity of these moments is being lost to technology and convenience. Too often families opt to stay at home, everyone in separate rooms of the house staring at their own devices and not connecting with one another. My son will have no memory of the Saturday afternoon he spent playing Minecraft while I watched Breaking Bad on Netflix. However, he still remembers going to the OU vs. Texas football game when he was only 8 years old. He doesn’t remember it because OU won or lost. He remembers it because he was with his brother and his dad. He will always remember it. Because of the experience.

Every year, one of your key variables for season ticket sales is churn: how many fans repurchase a package and how many defect? Once you know that, you’re faced with another decision: how much do you spend to regain those lost fans? Will it be easier and more cost-efficient to try to win them back, or should you invest more in replacing them with new purchasers?

Business studies have shown that in general it’s more cost effective to retain customers (and employees, for that matter) than to recruit new ones. Yet most businesses tend to write off lost customers pretty quickly. Is that a mistake? In a word: yes. According to a recent Harvard Business Review article companies with high churn rates might be better off trying to win lost customers back than trying to replace them. But that doesn’t mean every lost customer is worth pursuing: “Simply identifying those who are most likely to sign up again, rather than appealing to every defector, can increase win-back rates eightfold.”

Sure, the article was written based on analysis of a telecom company’s customers defection and win-back rather than about sports marketing, but the principles are the same:

·         - People who have purchased something from you before have demonstrated a specific interest in what you offer.

·         - People who are familiar with you are more likely to be responsive than those who have no history with you or no brand awareness.

·         - Not every lost customer is worth winning back, and data analysis can help you understand which lost customers hold the most potential.

·         - Tailoring your win-back offers based on the reason for defection is more likely to help you regain the customers you lost than simply offering everyone the same thing.

·          - Learning from the customers you’ve lost can help you improve retention of current customers.

To apply these principles to your marketing efforts, follow these 3 steps:

1. Survey. If somebody chooses not to repurchase a season ticket package from you, find out why. Online surveys are a great way to do this efficiently and to aggregate your results, while follow-up phone calls may help you get deeper information. No matter who you approach, understanding why people left is essential to improving both current sales and future retention. You’ll want to make sure your survey tool includes questions related to different aspects of the game and season ticket experience so you can pinpoint what drive their decision to leave and what might win them back.

2. Segment. Divide your lost fans into segments based on their reason for leaving and likelihood to reconsider. Doing this allows you to decide who’s worth pursuing and what your potential recapture volume looks like. Realistically, you’ll have a least 3 segments: one that’s unlikely to return, one that you may be able to convert to periodic ticket sales, and one that you may be able to win back as season ticket holders. Ideally, you’ll want to segment on fairly specific reasons for leaving (i.e. affordability, in-venue experience, number of games attended, etc.). If you have one or more segments that are very unlikely to return, don’t waste time and money trying to sell them another season ticket package. Instead, look at whether you can fix any of their reasons for leaving to improve retention of your current season ticket holders.

3. Strategize. Once you’ve segmented your lost customer base, develop a marketing strategy for each segment you choose to re-engage. Tailor your offers or incentives as much as possible to each segment. If you have a segment that left because they felt season tickets weren’t affordable, consider offering a discount. If you have a segment that left because they were only able to attend half of the games, consider creating a special ticket bundle that serves the needs to those who want to attend multiple games but don’t plan to attend the full season. Similarly, consider how you can convert people into periodic ticket purchasers even if you can’t win them back as season ticket holders. For fans who were dissatisfied with some aspect of the game experience, look for ways to address those needs (VIP packing bundles, meet-the-team experiences, etc.).

If you’re looking for ways to improve season ticket holder retention and regain lost ticket sales, we can help! Ask us about the options we offer for market research, strategy development, and fan engagement.

Yesterday, I took some time to read this article, which gave great insight on how Nike lost Stephen Curry to Under Armour. It's a bit lengthy, but well worth the read. In a nutshell, before Stephen Curry was Stephen Curry, NBA MVP, he wore NIke. And Nike has a chance to keep him under their umbrella, by re-upping his contract. But a meeting in the 2013 off-season, in which Nike didn't recognize the signs of Steph Curry's potential, has led to great things for Under Armour. Their bet on Curry is paying off tremendously: not only did they get a steal considering how Curry has turned out, but his potential value to Under Armour now is $14 billion. AND Under Armour's U.S. basketball shoe sales THIS YEAR are already up more than 350% as compared to last year. 

In this fateful meeting, Stephen Curry likely felt unprioritized (Nike's biggest players were not in attendance), disrespected (they couldn't pronounce his name correctly, a presentation slide with Kevin Durant's name wasn't updated) and undervalued (they offered him less than $2.5 million). To be fair to Nike, at that time, Stephen Curry was dealing with injury issues and NIke already had a lot of big stars in their arsenal (including LeBron James, who is locked into a $500 million lifetime contract with them). At that time, it wasn't necessarily a BAD business decision, but I'm guessing they are kicking themselves now. 

So, what? Why should you care? What can you take from this article which can apply to you and your team?

Don't be afraid to try something new. Look for potential and opportunities everywhere and be willing to take a risk. It may pay off tremendously. Both Under Armour AND Steph Curry took a risk. And it's paying off. Forge your own path, do what the others are NOT doing and see if it pays off. 

Recognize the value of the "everyman". And how they could speak to your fans. You may need to look past the "stars" in your program to find those that may not shine as noticeably bright. Do you have an undersized walk-on point guard from an in-state school who may not get accolades and minutes but is someone who works hard, is well-liked and inspires fans of all-ages? Don't you think most fans may relate to that person? Rethink your promotions and try putting that kid front and center. 

You never know who will be your champion. Kent Bazemore was undrafted rookie who Under Armour signed to a shoe deal....but he turned into Under Armour's greatest pitchman when he pushed Steph Curry their way. Look for your champions and see if they can help you reach your goals. 

Being overlooked can inspire a leap to greatness. Curry had been overlooked most of his life. Denied by larger schools (including the Alma Mater of his NBA player father), only drafted 7th in 2009 (still..pretty respectable), and riddled with injuries early in his NBA career, I'd say all of that has motivated him to be what he is now - already considered by many as the best shooter in NBA history. Think twice before you overlook someone who doesn't seem like a perfect fit on paper. Maybe consider taking a chance on that intern or GA who doesn't have a lot of experience but is straight willing to outwork anyone who comes their way.

Treat everyone like gold. You never know, a $100 donor could turn into a million-dollar donor, a fan in the nose-bleed section may purchase a stadium suite or a fan of one sport only could someday hold season tickets to all of your sporting events.

And make sure to proofread your PowerPoint presentations.

Are you wearing green today? I bet if you're living in Denton, TX your chances of wearing green today are much higher than the general population. Not just today, but any day. 

Why? Because that's the home of one of our fantastic clients - The University of North Texas (aka the Mean Green).

It's pretty likely you've heard about North Texas, or some reference to the Mean Green. Or maybe the only thing you know about them is that "Mean" Joe Greene (yes, the last "e" is silent) gets credited for giving them their Mean Green moniker, which actually isn't quite how it happened.

There's a lot going on at North Texas Athletics right now, and it's an exciting time to be working with the marketing team on their upcoming football season. They recently hired Coach Seth Littrell (I'm already a fan because he played fullback for OU during their 2000 National Championship season) and some other Texas natives like Graham Harrell. It should be a fun season to watch some Mean Green football.

Old Hat will be working with North Texas once again to develop the campaign for football. This year we're bringing to the table a process that's new for us, but has been used and perfected for many years by our newly merged partner.

The process is what we call the Sports180. It's an in-depth discovery we use to unveil the thoughts and attitudes of those inside and outside the department tied to the sports programs, and even some that may have no association with the programs. We take that information to determine where there are gaps and overlaps in the way a program is perceived, and bridge those gaps/reinforce the overlaps through our recommended marketing tactics. It's not rocket science, but it's effective, and I'd venture to say it's something very few athletics programs are doing on their own. It requires time, cooperation and organization throughout the department.

Here's a brief look at the process:

• Step One: Scouting

Any good coach or recruiter has to do some research to determine the true potential of an athlete because there's much more to an athlete than meets the eye. It's the same in any athletics department or sports program. Things can look one way on the outside, but does that line up with what's on the inside? If not, this could eventually hurt the program, usually from the inside out.

• Step Two: The Playbook

After gathering all the notes, research and findings, what happens next? That's where we recommend the playbook- think of it as a prescription from your doctor. The best way to a winning season is to have a playbook in hand well before your first game.

• Step Three: The Game Plan

Based on the playbook, the game plan includes the specific X's and O's for each game. It's great to have a playbook, but some decisions have to be made at gametime. This step involves the shaping of your brand to match the recommended prescription.

• Step Four: Execution

It all comes down to execution, and by this step in the process we're ready to put some legs behind all the strategy. This is where all the hard work pays off and fans get to meet the new you.

I'm looking forward to seeing this process through on a smaller scale with the North Texas football campaign, and many other clients in the future.

Have a great St. Patty's Day!

 

 

 

 

 

Coach Harbaugh has been in the news a lot lately. Whether you agree with his techniques or not, one thing is undeniable: he’s making the off season something worth watching. And from a marketing perspective, that’s powerful stuff.

Sports marketers are challenged to find ways to draw a crowd and keep them coming back. That’s getting harder and harder to do, because there are more alternatives than ever to game day attendance. At a time when collegiate sports programs are struggling with declining attendance, you can’t afford to let your marketing initiatives simmer on the back of the stove in between seasons. You have to find ways to keep fans engaged and maintain your momentum year round.

Even if your program doesn’t have Michigan’s resources, here are a few lessons you can apply in your own way.

Shake things up. Spring break practice in Florida? Friday night games? What?? Breaking away from the status quo draws attention and gives people something to talk about. Whether you go big or go small, do something different. Better yet, do it in a way that offers some sort of advantage for your team or your fans. Don’t just do it as a copycat, because your fans will call you out on it.

Get people excited about your new line-up. Signing day is a big deal, so make it a big deal. You don’t have to make it a circus to make it count. Look for ways to hype up your new recruits and the strength of your upcoming season. Social media (especially YouTube) is an incredible tool for this, and it doesn’t take a massive budget to make a memorable impact.

Decide what you want to be. Then be it. A football program is a football program is a football program…except that it’s not. It’s a lot more. It’s a collective identity and a shared consciousness. Own it. Does your team have a reputation you’re proud of? Find ways to amp it up. Want to have a different reputation than you currently do? Come up with a plan for how to reposition yourselves, then go after it full force.

Controversy = conversation. Being controversial isn’t for everybody, and you certainly don’t want to be on the hot seat in terms of violating rules. But it’s a proven way to generate media attention, and it can be a mobilizing force for your fan base. Just choose your controversies wisely, if you’re going to go there. And make sure you have the right people on board.

Sure, it helps to have a big budget and powerful connections when you want to stand out. But you don’t need those things to do more in the off season. All you really need is a thorough understanding of your target audience, strong collaboration within your program, a few creative ideas, and the will to win.

It always surprises me to see a development office pigeonholed to the back pages of an athletics website.  It happens all the time.  Development is an after thought on the website.  It sends such a confusing message.  Our development raises money for facilities and to serve our student athletes. It is incredibly important to what we do as an athletic department, yet we do not care enough to make them a focal point on our largest touch point with our fan base.  

I work in web and have for most of my career.  It will not come as a surprise for anyone to hear me talk about how important a good website is or your website will be the most frequent interaction you have with your fan base or donor group.  More people interested in your group, that are looking for information, and would be willing to donate, will interact with your brand online than anywhere else.  You may have 100,000 people at your football game, but they are not looking to learn about your brand or see what they can do to help on Saturdays, they are looking for a good time and a win. When they are online, they are evaluating what you do, learning about what they can do, and are inching their way to helping your brand.  This is where you need to be interacting with them, or at a minimum, have a presence.  

There is an argument to be made that separate development websites will not get the traffic of the main athletic site and that is true.  The games and athletes are still the most important things to fans, this is not going to change.  BUT, having worked on campus and handled websites for many major athletic brands, I know the developer or webmaster or intern (or whatever you want to call the person who holds the keys to the site) feels the same way and will focus on making sure those areas of the site rise to the top.   This is what I mean about being pigeonholed.  Development offices are shunted to two or three sub nav pages that are never updated and have little interaction with the visitors on the site.  More importantly, there is no engagement of those evaluators surfing the web.  You need a website you can update, edit, and change to keep your office in the forefront of their minds.  

We recently launched ACU Wildcat Club’s new website.  It is a site dedicated to helping the development team push their message.  They control the content through an easy to use content management system.  They make the decisions on what the website will focus on and what promotions they want to push.  The development office is in control.  On top of all of that, they are still part of the main athletics site.  They are in the navigation; it links off to their standalone site.  They are a part of the promotions; several ads on the home page link to specific sections of the development website. They can control their presence online while still being able to piggyback on the traffic the main athletics site gets.

Development offices are integral to the modern colliegiate athletics department. They raise funds for scholarships, student athletes, and new facilities.  With a stand alone website and a good CMS your development office can control the message it is sending and engage your fanbase, without being at the whims of a website responsible for promoting 17 sports, teams, and coaches.  

 

For the first time in our 12 years of existence, Old Hat entered a few things in the 2016 Oklahoma Addy Awards. I was under a tight deadline to get things entered and ended up failing our print division by not entering anything that required a hard copy (i.e. anything print related). I only entered 5 videos and our SMU environmental graphics project and they all won awards.

So on Saturday night, we got all dolled up and went downtown to the awards banquet. Here's a pic of me and my wife looking all perty before the show:

 

And now, without further ado... The projects for which we won Addy Awards:

 

Bronze

American Athletic Conference Commercial

Silver

SMU Environmental Project

 

Kennesaw State Football Intro Video

Wisconsin Historical Football Video

 

University of Illinois Football Intro Video

GOLD

University of Utah Men's Basketball Floor Projection Video

That's all. Here's a pic of Holli and me AT the awards show (with Hannah, Whitney and Kelby photobombing us):

On Jan 26th, the Norman print crew got to spend a day out of the office judging a competition at a local school. The graphic design program at Moore Norman Technology Center teaches high school and adult students the principals of design, along with how to use the Adobe Creative Suite. 

Each year, the school holds a Red Carpet Film Festival where the students in the video program create short films, and then the graphic design students produce the movie posters, DVD cases, and other marketing materials for the film festival. I recently was put in contact with the director of the Graphic Design Program and she mentioned that they needed judges to help critique and pick the movie posters for each movie. I volunteered our staff because it’s always good to have a day out of the office helping the young kids in the world, right? Right.

We started off the day by watching the rough cuts of the films so we were familiar with what the movies were about. Then, the students presented their posters and DVD cases. The four of us got to sit at the front of the room, at the judges table. We felt like we were the judges for The Voice or American Idol or something (at least I did).

After each student explained their concept and design, we were able to ask questions, critique and provide feedback. The designers were mostly juniors and seniors in high school, with very limited experience. Some of them have only used photoshop for one week!  There were four designs for each movie, and we picked the top two. From there, the director of the film will pick the winner. 

It was really cool to see the creativity and skills the students had. They took elements of the movie and incorporated into the posters. Even with the limited experience, the posters looked well put together and professional. The students were very receptive to our feedback and encouraged by our comments. The four of us were very impressed at the whole process and enjoyed being able to help the students make their designs even better. 

It was a really fun day helping show the students a little bit of what goes on in the design industry and answering questions about what we do day-to-day. We look forward to seeing how the students took our feedback and tweaked their posters before presenting them to the directors. 

Well, it's official. Today marks the date that the merger we've been talking about for the past few months finally takes effect. Truth be told, Old Hat Creative and Third Degree Advertising have been working together for many months now in preparation for combining into a single company. But today is the day that we no longer exist as separate entities. Old Hat and Third Degree are one.

What does that mean, exactly? Well, on one hand, not much. And on the other hand, it means a lot.

What is NOT changing?

Primarily, Old Hat will continue to be the company you know and love...

1. You'll still get birthday cards every year with a coupon for free Fightin' Gnomes gear from the Old Hat University Team Shop.

 

2. You'll continue to be the life of the party by being able to quote random facts that you found by viewing our email signatures. 

• When hippos are upset, their sweat turns red.

• Banging your head against the wall burns 150 calories per hour.

• Billy goats urinate on their own heads to smell more attractive to females (female goats, I assume).

 

3. You'll continue getting the most amazing creative to help you engage your fans, improve the gameday experience, sell tickets and increase fundraising.

 

4. Our dedication to ridiculously good customer service will never fade. We'll continue to always be available, always be responsive and never miss deadlines.

 

What IS changing?

Well, we're getting bigger...

1. Old Hat is currently headquartered in Norman, Oklahoma with remote employees in North Carolina and Utah. Starting today, we will have talented employees working from offices in Oklahoma City; Durham, NC; Greensboro, NC; Salt Lake City, UT; Charlottesville, VA and Frederick, MD.

This is me outside the OKC office with the downtown skyline in the background:

 

And, we're getting better...

2. Old Hat has a long history of producing amazingly awesome creative. This merger puts us in the position to make that creative even more awesome by adding research, media planning/buying, digital strategy and implementation, content creation, repositioning, media audits, copywriting, marketing automation and much more. We're taking our creative and making it smarter.

The UNC Ticket Sales site is a perfect example of taking our current offerings (web design and development, video production, on-site video shoots) and combining that with the expertise of our new partners (research, strategy and marketing automation).

 

So to summarize, nothing that you like is going away. We're just going from ridiculously-awesome to far-more-ridiculously-awesome. And just for fun, here's a photo tour of our OKC office.

 

This is a map with doorknobs showing all of the locations of Third Degree's clients from all over the United States. It's rad.

 

This is a cool yellow couch. The wall behind me says, "Elevate." 

 

This is a really big pencil we use write all of our really big ideas down with. It's bolted to the wall so no one will steal it.

 

This is the room where we keep a guy named Richard.

 

Just kidding. The men's room says, "Dick" and the ladies' room says, "Jane." How clever is that?

 

This is a cool red refrigerator where I get to keep my Diet Dr Pepper.

 

 

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