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 and Support 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.

Key Components

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.

Here’s an example of one of hundreds of conversations I’ve had over the past 15 years with people I meet:

Person: What do you do for a living?

Me: Sports Marketing.

Person: What does that mean, exactly?

Me: I own a creative agency that works with athletics organizations.

Person: (looks at me blankly) So you like, print t-shirts or something?

Me: No. We partner with universities to help them with their marketing efforts. 

Person: Huh?

Me: Okay, so you know how when you walk down Main Street in your nearest college town and there’s a poster in the local bar window advertising the State U. volleyball team? We design those!

Person: Ahhhhh! That’s cool.

The conversation usually then turns into all the other stuff we do. But it all begins with the schedule poster. Everyone knows what a schedule poster is. And Old Hat was built on the schedule poster. We don’t know exactly how many we’ve designed over the years but conservative estimates put us at more than 4,000. 

Four. THOUSAND. Schedule posters. 

That’s insane.

 

The Dying Art of the Schedule Poster

Used to be, schedule posters were something people actually looked at in order to find out their favorite team’s schedule.  I remember seeing an OU Sooners Football schedule poster from 1985 hanging in a restaurant in Norman. No photos, no crazy photoshop effects, no cheesy tagline. Just the schedule. And the thing about it is, that poster probably did more to get people to the games than most of what is produced these days. People don’t have to walk over to the poster on the wall anymore to see what the schedule is. In fact, there have been times when I’ve had the OU football poster on my wall behind me and I’ve still pulled out my phone to see when the next game is. Because when I do that, I can then tell Google to put it in my calendar automatically and set it to send me a reminder to buy tickets to the specific away games I want to go to. Last time I checked, the poster on the wall couldn’t do that. 

Schedule posters are going the way of the dodo bird as a promotional tool. They have some value in recruiting but let’s be honest, 18-year-old student-athletes are probably way more interested in the multi-million dollar weight room and the 64-foot wall graphic than the idea that when they’re a senior, they might get to be on a poster. 

Once upon a time, just putting your schedule on a poster was enough to get people to the game. The art of the schedule poster has come a long way since then. Some of the posters we produce here are truly works of art. But these days, they have to be so much more than that if you want them to actually result in a fan taking action.

I’ve talked a lot about how we are fighting for people’s attention unlike ever before. The world has changed more in the past decade than it did in the 50 years preceding it and that has resulted in people having a lot more options in entertainment. And that’s not changing. In fact, it’s going to get worse for those of us whose job it is to get people to the stadium. Stadiums aren’t doing multi-million dollar renovations to create more premium seating areas just for the fun of it. They’re doing it to compete with people’s couches. Because more and more people are finding it hard to convince themselves to go sit on a hard bench crammed in with thousands of other people in the September heat when they can watch from the comfort of their recliner.

Stadiums are upgrading to appeal to fans more. It’s time schedule posters do too.

 

Breathing Life into the Schedule Poster

Your schedule posters can be one of three things: 1) A valuable sales tool. 2) An ancillary recruiting tool. 3) A waste of time. You’re going to have to decide which you want yours to be.

If you want your schedule posters to be a valuable sales tool, what can you do to make them have more of an effect on driving game attendance? For one, you can remove the schedule.

The biggest mistake we can make is assuming that putting the schedule on a schedule poster has any relevance anymore. I’m not saying you have to remove it. I’m just saying that its presence is pretty irrelevant. If you make people want to come to your games, they’ll find the schedule. And probably not by looking at a poster.

So that’s the key, right? Making them want to come? 

What we have to start doing is treating a poster more like an advertisement than a schedule poster. The poster, like an ad, has to be positioned properly. It has to target the right audience. It has to deliver a message. It has to inspire action. 

You have a built-in passionate fan base already. You have fans that wear their school colors every Friday before the game and then watch it from their living room the next day. The passion is there. You just have to reignite it. You have fans that want to be reminded about what they’re missing out on by not being there.

Advertising works. That’s a fact. But it doesn’t work without being based in research and strategy. The most amazing looking schedule poster that delivers the wrong message to the wrong group isn’t as valuable as a very basic poster that delivers the right message to the right group. 

We are currently working with a number of universities to help figure out what that message is and to whom it should be delivered. And the research we’re doing to base our strategy on is truly fascinating. Who are the decision makers in your market? What are their other choices for entertainment? What are they doing instead of coming to your games? Why? What drives them? Dig deep enough and you’ll find the answers. And you’ll find your message. And you’ll find your fans. And they’ll find the stadium.

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?

Apply Here

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.

Spoiled Sports

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.

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):

to the ball game!

Baseball and softball seasons are about to be in full swing. We've been gearing up for opening day in the print department for a couple of months now. We all had our one favorite poster this season-Florida State Softball!

 

We were sent a photo of the team walking through a field, and some action shots to put all together to make one awesome poster. 

Here are some of the comments from our design team!

 • An easy pick of my favorite softball or baseball poster is the Florida State softball poster. I'm a longtime FSU fan and this screams Florida State and softball. I love the color and look of it. It's a great example of giving the client what they asked for plus a whole lot more. 

• This is my favorite poster from the baseball/softball season this year. Not because it’s a great client or cool design, but because I always wanted a siege of seminoles running in slow motion through a field to meet me half way for a dogpile and plenty of aggressive yet encouraging butt taps as if I just hit a Women’s College World Series walk off grand slam. This may be the closest I’ll ever get. Only in my dreams. My wonderful field of dreams. I just keep whispering to myself, “If you design it, they will come.” And this year it happened to be in the form of the 2016 Florida State Softball poster.

• I really liked how the action shots of the players look like they are in a fence, much like the softball dugout that I remember growing up. 

 Another one of our fav's was the Charlotte Baseball Poster. 

Be looking out for more of our softball and baseball posters as we release them in the next couple of weeks!

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.

 

 

2015 was busy! It was filled with lots of projects for a wide variety of clients. When I was asked to share a few of my favorite projects from 2015, I knew it was going to be challenging. Every project is fun and unique in its own way. A few of the projects from 2015 that stick out to me are:

1. Towson Women's Basketball Intro Video

I enjoyed this project because the Towson Women's Basketball coaching staff had a clear vision of what they wanted this video to be. We traveled to Towson to shoot footage of the women's basketball team and Baltimore to bring their vision to life. It was the first video shoot I'd been a part of where we captured footage off campus. My favorite part of the video is how our video crew was able to show the movement of the team and basketball through the iconic locations in Baltimore.

2. Army Football Videos, Graphics and Animations

We had the opportunity to do 6 different videoboard projects for Army football. I really enjoyed these projects because each one was so unique. We had the opportunity to do a high end 3D logo animation, a Make Some Noise crowd prompt animation, a Shuffle game, a Derby game, a hype video and an intro animation for Army to use prior to their own video features. Stay tuned for some awesome new projects for the Army / Navy basketball game on January 23 at Madison Square Garden.

3. Delaware Custom Font and Wordmarks

This project was great because we had the opportunity to create a custom font for the University of Delaware and then used that font to design wordmarks for Delaware and all of their sports. Since Delaware was getting a new uniform supplier, all of these marks were then used on their 2015 team uniforms. It was really cool to see our work being worn by all of the Blue Hen athletes.

4. Duke Social Media Graphics

I enjoyed this project because we were able to work with Duke to create a consistent brand across all of their sports. This included creating profile pictures and cover photos as well as a wide variety of templates and holiday graphics for each sport to use. We based the social media profile and cover images off of the Olympic sport poster template design to create an even more cohesive look.

 

  

2016 is already off to a flying start with some exciting projects underway. I'm looking forward to another year of memorable projects!

So it's 2016 which you've probably already heard, and you know what that means... it actually means a lot of things- like a presidential election year and the Summer Olympics in Rio and Leap Year and yes... Groundhog Day! Actually I think that occurs every year. Either way, none of these things bring me to the point of my blog.

The rollover into 2016 means I get to blog about my favorite projects from 2015 (hence the reason for the large 2015 graphic up top)! We like to do recaps and favorite projects lists around here, and sometimes we may even overdo it. But that's what we're all about (why do it when you can overdo it?).

With that, let's see how we did in 2015.

You may have seen in our latest newsletter how many new clients we were fortunate to work with this past year. Even I was surprised at all the new business from 2015. One of these new clients, the American Athletic Conference, just held their first-ever football championship. I'm proud to say Old Hat was able to work with the client on multiple projects to market the event and enhance the in-game experience for fans. It all comes down to One was the tagline for the championship, and that theme was used throughout the year in print, interactive and video work leading up to the big game. Here are a few of the pieces from the American Football Championship.

 

 

 

Another group of projects that turned out exceptional and unique are the Notre Dame template posters that have been used for their olympic sports. Notre Dame has been more conscious and deliberate about keeping their brand consistent (which I applaud), so the template posters this year came with a more stringent set of guidelines to ensure we were staying within the brand. Our designers did a great job not only staying within the guidelines, but the template poster could be seen as a **big word spoiler alert** microcosm of the style guide itself. 

 

I would eventually include every project as one of my favorites if I had more time, because our designers across all media (interactive, video and print) are truly experts at what they do. We're very fortunate to get to work with the clients that we have, and our clients are also very fortunate to get to have our designers put together incredible projects day in and day out. I'll leave you with a few more of my favorites from the year. Here's to a great 2016 for Old Hat and our clients!

 

 

 

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.

 

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