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.

 

 

Old Hat Creative recently launched the website RaiseUpCarolina.com.  It was and is a unique project that had some interesting results. 

First, while this is not always an option for websites, we were able to meet with the clients face to face and discussed the website.  UNC has long been a friend of Old Hat’s, but this was the first website we would be doing with them.  Zac and I went to Chapel Hill once together and then Zac returned with Dustin to shoot some of the footage used on the site.  We were able to go through what they wanted out of the site and get a feel for what they envisioned for their athletic department over the next year.  We do not always get to do this with clients, but when we do, it helps the process go considerably smoother.  Plus, I always enjoy a trip to see our clients.   

Once we have met with the client and received the content we start building out the site.  Dustin is great at what he does and his ability to lay out content in an efficient manner is one of the things that take our sites to another level.  Our process is another one of the reasons we are able to create amazing websites and working closely with a client on a website allows us to refine this process to match the goals of their website.  UNC wanted to push season tickets for football and that is the main goal of the website.  To accommodate this push, Dustin worked hand in hand with the marketing and ticket staff at UNC to make sure the content was laid out in an effective and aesthetically pleasing manner.  

Combining marketing automation with a well laid out website can bring a whole new level of efficiency to your staff and this was one of the primary goals of the Raise Up Carolina website.  We were able to target specific demographics of the fan base with newsletters and content, see how they reacted, and then adjust our focus to fit that specific demographic.  This is something we work closely with UNC on and that is still going on at this time.  When we know and understand the goals of our clients, we will adjust what we do to make sure we help them accomplish those goals.  Ashley and Joel (from our OKC office) have studied the goals of UNC so much that they are starting to see things in shades of Tar Heel Blue, but this is what we mean we say we are here to help.  

Deadlines and seasons change easily in our industry.  Teams that we might think will be sitting at 2-8 end up sitting at 8-2 and looking to get into the playoffs.  Our experience working on campus and in this industry has prepared us for that.  We have our processes in place to handle these changes and are able to deliver for our clients when few other firms could.  Every project will have these challenges, but that’s part of the process and another reason why we make sure we know everything we need to about your goals.  

In the end, major projects like this are about the relationship.  We got in on the ground floor with UNC for this site and it helped throughout the process.  We are still working with them to target their marketing efforts, using analytics to study their fan base, and using marketing automation to make them as efficient as possible.   

We are on the same team on projects like this.  We will help you accomplish your goals. 

Our 2016 New Year’s resolution: share more of what we know.

In the past 12 years, we’ve learned a lot about sports marketing and fundraising. In fact, we’re not going to be shy about saying this: we’re experts. And we’ve realized that our clients, friends, and fans would benefit from our expertise – so we’re going to start sharing more of it.

Over the upcoming year, you can expect to see more articles on our blog about sports marketing best practices, achieving fundraising goals, advice for common sports marketing challenges, marketing trends, and more. If you’ve got a sports marketing question or challenge that’s keeping you up at night, send it to us! We’d be happy to tackle it in our blog and give you some free advice. After all, our staff has a combined 482 years of experience in sports marketing and development. I know what you're thinking. 482 years? Seriously? No, not seriously. But it's a lot. 

But don’t worry, if you like hearing about our antics and personal escapades you’ll still be able to read about them on all our various social media outlets. Robert will still run shirtless through the snow. Zac will still do uncomfortable interviews with the OH staff. And Geoff might write a haiku again sometime. 

So buckle in. Twenty-sixteen is poised to be the greatest year in the history of years. And your best resource for making it the best for you is right here at the Old Hat blog.

 

As a sports marketer, what do you sell? The simple and obvious answer is, of course, tickets. Those game ticket sales in turn fuel other revenue streams: concessions, merchandise, and indirectly other types of program support.

But in reality, you’re selling much more than tickets. You’re selling an experience of your school’s brand and what it means to be a fan of your particular sports program. That experience means different things to different people.

Your entire target audience has one important thing in common: they’re all fans of your program to some degree or another. That means all of them are likely to respond to certain visual cues like your logo, colors, and images of your team, campus, or game venue. However, if you really want to market yourself strategically and effectively, you need to segment your audience further and get to know what drives them.

There are several ways to segment your fans: alumni, donor level, development group member, fan club member, season ticket holder, single game ticket purchaser, whether they’re die-hards or jump-on-a-winning-bandwagon fans, and of course the usual demographic indicators such as age, gender, and geographic location. One of the best ways to segment your current target audience is through market research surveys that enable you to understand their motivations for being a fan and what the game experience means to them.

Here are a few simple examples of what this might look like and how you could use it to drive tailored communication strategies:

·       Students might value the fan experience because it reinforces their connection with the school and contributes to their sense of personal identity at this stage of their lives. What makes the student experience unique at your school? Think about how you can tap into traditions like these.

Alumni might be motivated by the opportunity to relive the fun and excitement of their college days, reconnecting with the brand through a combination of sense of tradition, nostalgia, and present day pride. Why not take advantage of opportunities like social media’s #TBT (Throwback Thursday) to help you reinforce that connection and encourage greater engagement?

Parents of students might see the experience as a way to strengthen their connection with their child and may feel a sense of ownership and pride based on their financial contributions to the school. Consider how you can encourage mom or dad’s commitment to the team.

Parents of younger children (whether they’re alumni or not) may value the fan experience as a means of creating memories, passing down a love the game, or teaching kids about teamwork. How is the game experience different for them, and what can you do to showcase the family-friendly side of your brand?

Locals who aren’t alumni and don’t have children attending your school may relate more to a sense of local pride or deep-rooted geographic rivalries. Think about what you can do or say that will recognize and encourage their continued support as honorary members of your organization.

When you understand what motivates your different fan groups to be part of the game experience, it’s easier to identify the right marketing themes. Some motivations or feelings will span segmented groups and resonate with the majority of your fans. Those are the themes you should consider for your overall marketing message. Other motivations will be specific to certain segments, and you should use those to tailor your engagement with each group.

Every ticket or season tickets package you sell represents a wide range of emotions and motivations that are felt by your fans as part of the game experience. So don’t just sell tickets: sell can’t-hold-us-down commitment. Sell remember-when-we nostalgia. Sell ours-is-better-than-yours rivalry. Sell this-is-our-house pride. Your fans will love you for it.

Recently we launched this awesome little website http://raiseupcarolina.com/ 

You should probably check it out.  It was one of the more fun projects to work on and we were able to do some really cool things with the client.  

Remember this guy?

  

 
 



 

 

 

Have you ever seen him do stuff like this before  

and enjoyed it?  

Well, if you answered yes to the first part of that last question, but then no to the second, then you are probably a reasonable person with well rounded hobbies for entertainment.  If you answered yes to ANY part of that question or just think that site I mentioned above is really cool, then you are in luck because on February 11th, Old Hat will combine those two amazing categories into a rock block of fun.  And by “rock block of fun”, I mean a webinar that goes through the process of helping you sell tickets with an amazing Old Hat website.  

Stay tuned for more info as we get closer to the date, but as with all things Old Hat does, it will involve a little bit of random, a little bit of awesome, and a lotta bit expertise. 

Football season is winding to a close and basketball season is heating up. No matter which sport you work with, these four tips will help you take your marketing efforts from having an average season to dominating your goals.

1. Talk smack.

As a sports marketer, you basically get paid to talk smack. How glorious is that? It’s a beautiful thing – as long as you get it right. Good smack-talk galvanizes your fans and increases ticket sales. Just remember that when you talk smack for your program, there are two groups who have to deliver on it: the team (of course) and the operations guys whose efforts ensure a good game-day experience for fans. Make sure you’re working closely with both. The other thing about talking smack is that in order for it to resonate, you have to talk the right smack to the right group. That can be tough if you’re new to a particular program, because every school and every sport is unique. When your messages are on point, you’re near the eye of the hurricane helping chart its path. If your messages aren’t on point, you’re going to be the guy getting crushed by the hurricane. To make sure you’re not that guy, follow the lead of your coaches and players: watch some tape.

2. Watch tape (a.k.a. do your research).

Do you know any college or professional football team that doesn’t watch tape? Yeah, us neither. There’s a reason for that. Watching game film gives players and teams insight into what went well (or didn’t go well) and what to expect from their next opponent. That type of research and analysis provides an important edge. Why not do the same thing with your marketing? Just like reviewing game film, there are two key areas you need to analyze: your brand and your target audience. When was the last time you thoroughly reviewed what your brand stands for, where it can improve on delivering the customer experience, and how strong your marketing strategy is? You also periodically analyze your customers: who they are, what they value most about the game day experience, how well their needs are being met, and what their satisfaction level is. The good news is that you can get away with investing in this type of in-depth analysis periodically (once per season) instead of having to do it for every game.  

3. Develop your plays.

On the field or off, analysis is useless if it doesn’t translate into strategy. Use your brand and market research to develop your overall marketing strategy for the year, select the themes and media that are most likely to help you achieve your goals, prioritize your budget, and develop campaigns. Your marketing year can probably be divided pretty easily into its own set of seasons, and you need to have a solid campaign plan for each. Once you find something that works, there’s no shame in recycling it for the next year as long as you don’t get complacent. Complacency kills. You don’t want fans to be able to predict your next poster, email, etc. any more than your team wants the opposing players to predict their next move. So figure out what worked last season, make some adjustments to keep it interesting, and take the next year on like you own it.

4. Monitor the stats. 

Ticket sales, game attendance, season ticket renewals, alumni contributions – these are all statistics you should be benchmarking and comparing to prior data. But don’t stop there: there’s more to measure if you really want to know how effective your marketing efforts are. While it can be difficult to measure the success rate of traditional marketing tactics (posters, print ads, billboards, radio, etc.), digital marketing offers a goldmine of statistics.  Go beyond looking at basics like number of new and returning website visitors, and start measuring responses to calls to action and actual conversion. Incorporate a marketing automation tool so you can target your messages to different groups, move them along the conversion path, and measure the response you get to each email you send. Make your emails more personal and more interactive with videos that are customizable to each recipient – it’s more affordable than you think, and it helps seriously drive engagement and ultimately ticket sales.

 

 

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