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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
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.