Big changes to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) will take effect on December 1, 2016. That means you have the first half of the school year to: (a) get as much overtime out of your current employees as possible while you still can, and (b) figure out how the heck you’re going to make things work when the new rules go into effect.
Here’s the issue in a nutshell: you won’t be able to afford to keep doing things the way you do them today.
We all know that there’s no such thing as a 40 hour workweek for employees in collegiate athletics. Especially not for employees at the lower end of the pay scale. Right now, you don’t have to pay overtime rates to professional, administrative or executive employees whose salaries are $23,660 per year or more. But come December, that threshold jumps to $47,476 per year. So here’s the question: can you survive without all the overtime hours your lower-paid employees currently work, or can you afford to pay them a lot more in the future?
It’s not like you have a bunch of extra money laying around. And if you’re a Division I school, you may already in a budget crunch thanks to recent changes related to food service and scholarship rules.
Unfortunately, your practices, games, and related activities are not going to magically start fitting into a tidy little 40 hour workweek…no matter how many of you write letters to Santa.
Something’s gotta give.
Here’s our advice: cut your creative staff.
Yep. You heard that right.
Drastic times call for drastic measures.
So yeah. Your graphic designer. Your video production specialist. Send’em packing.
We’re not saying you don’t need marketing support. Of course you do! It’s just that you don’t need to keep those individuals on your staff as yet another piece of your salary and overtime puzzle. And even if your marketing team isn’t working overtime, we all know they’re still a likely target when budget cuts come around.
The way we see it, you’ve got 3 alternatives to consider.
#1 – Hire Freelancers
If you’ve never tried it before, this might sound like a good idea. But most of you who have been around the block once or twice are cringing right now. Most athletic departments haven’t had a lot of luck with freelancers providing consistently high-quality work that’s on time and on target. Unless you have a freelancer who has worked with you before or who came from the collegiate athletics marketing industry, you’ll probably find they lack the expertise and insight you’re looking for. On the other hand, if you’re lucky enough to have found a really great freelancer, that person is probably working a lot more than 40 hours for you at an annual salary that’s lower than the new FLSA threshold…which means in December, you’ll have the same problem with your freelance rock star as you would with your own in-house staff.
#2 – Two Words: Student Internship
Hey, look around. In your neighborhood, there’s no shortage of young soon-to-be-professionals eager to build their resumes and score some real-world experience. And most of them don’t want to work anywhere close to 40 hours a week anyway. Assembling a low-cost creative staff will be like shooting fish in a barrel! What could possibly go wrong? Well, other than lack of experience, inconsistency, the need for a lot of oversight, not having any of the aforementioned industry expertise, some pesky rules or limitations… Reality check: you get what you pay for. There’s a reason you haven’t relied on this type of manpower to serve as your creative staff before. Sure, you may have some top-notch students who help you out from time to time, and that’s great. But as a year-over-year strategy, trying to rely on them to fill the gap FLSA is about to create won’t earn you a barrel of Gatorade over the head.
#3 – Outsource It
If only you knew somebody with a wealth of industry experience, mad design skills, a deep bench of talent, and serious strategic chops that you could hire and rely on without having to even think about overtime or paying a higher salary. Oh, wait. You do. All joking aside, Old Hat can provide everything you need from a creative standpoint. From design to video production, project management, strategic planning and copywriting, we offer a full range of creative services. We’re good enough, we’re smart enough, and doggone it, people like us. If you don’t have your dream team in place right now, take them off your payroll and let us be your creative staff instead. Want to have a designer right there on campus with you? No problem – we can be the one to hire them, pay them, and worry about their hours, plus we’ve got the capacity to absorb any excess work.
Or don’t cut your creative staff. Augment them the smart way.
If you love your current creative staff or freelancer, don’t fire them just because you can’t afford to pay them enough to meet all your needs. I mean, really. Do we come across as that callous or short-sighted? (For the record, we’re neither.) Instead, let us augment your team and handle all those extra hours you can’t afford to pay them for. Old Hat can provide you subscription-style creative support that will cost you a lot less in the long run than paying overtime rates or higher salaries, while delivering the highest quality results. We’ll work with you to come up with a plan that gives you all services you need, when you need them. We’ll even dedicate somebody to becoming your brand expert. Everybody wins! Want to talk it over? Give us a call.
Your brand is the story. Your logo is the cover of the book. That's how I would best describe the brand/logo relationship.
And unfortunately as often as we're told not to judge a book by its cover, that's exactly what we do because that's all we can do. What else do we have to judge it on, and who wants to read the book if the cover isn't enticing in some way?
We recently worked with the Amateur Softball Association/USA Softball on their logo rebrand. It was more than just a visual rebrand, they also decided to consolidate their name into USA Softball. They are the National Governing Body of Softball after all, so it made sense to make the name change on the heels of an Olympic year and with the buzz of softball being reinstated into the 2020 Olympic games (which was just finalized yesterday!).
Let's take a look at the new USA Softball and I'll also share some key points during the rebranding process.
Before it goes beyond your walls, there are things that need to be discussed internally by those closest to your brand. If you're scrapping your current logo and starting over, a lot of questions need to be answered to ensure you stay on track and in line with your company's core values. There's no doubt your brand has gained equity over time (probably more than you realize), so you need to be willing to give some of this up to start fresh. Here are some questions and thoughts to consider:
• Rebrand or refresh?
Sometimes a total overhaul isn't needed, but you should assess whether making changes to your current logo will suffice or if it's time to start new. Consider how much brand equity you have, what your current mark represents to your customers and raving fans, and whether slight modifications to your existing logo can get you through the next 10 years.
• Why are we doing it?
If you can't figure out why you're wanting to refresh or rebrand, it's probably not the right time. Your reasoning could be based on some event that has you moving a slightly different direction, or you're wanting to use a rebrand as a jumpstart to offer something different or enter a new market. Or perhaps your current logo/brand is stale and you want to rejuvenate your fanbase and customers by creating something new and exciting. Whatever the reason, make sure you know why you're doing it, because you will have to explain it at some point.
• Get buy-in early
Everyone doesn't have to be on board for a rebrand, but your key stakeholders and decision makers should be. Not only do you need buy-in from them early, you also need to know how involved they want to be and get any input on the direction in the beginning stages. Nothing will frustrate you more than developing a new brand that doesn't make it past the head guy's office.
Deciding to do a rebrand is tough, but actually getting to a logo that everyone can live with is the real challenge. Here are some points to consider during the logo creation stage:
• Tell your story
As I mentioned, your brand is the story. And although your logo won't tell the full story of your brand, you should be able to easily explain how your logo is a good representation of your brand and your overall company culture. Remember, this is all people will judge you by until they get to know the full story.
• Get input early
It's important to get any preconceived ideas out on the table before starting on those first sketches. Get examples from others about what they like and why they like it. Just keep in mind any ideas should be easily tied to your brand.
Keep it simple, stupid. This is easier said than done, but the best logos are the simple ones. Don't add things to the mix to accommodate everyone. Strip away what you can without removing the essence of your brand.
• Don't stray too far
After you've nailed down the primary logo, you'll likely want to create variations of this logo for other applications. Try not to stray too far with secondary and tertiary logo marks, and know when and how to effectively use them. You don't want to cause confusion about your brand by releasing 18 versions of your new logo.
• Celebrate it!
Soft rollouts are for wimps. You just created a new logo, now show the world! You've got to take that logo by the horns and ride it where it takes you.
• Timing is everything
Choose your timing. Consider what's going on in your industry and what events you have coming up within your own company that will naturally get more exposure. And if there's nothing noteworthy going on around you, use your logo unveil to stir up some excitement.
• You won't please everyone
There will inevitably be people that don't like your logo. Know that going into a rebrand. You'll hear more about the negatives than the positives, which is why it's important that you've considered all the things mentioned previously. This is your creation and careful consideration was given at every step, so don't take every uneducated and flippant comment to heart. If you can justify why you're doing what you're doing, you'll eventually get buy-in from those that matter.
Have you ever had that moment where you look at another program’s website, schedule poster, or other promotional materials and say to yourself: “Man! That’s so cool. I want exactly the same thing – except in my school’s colors.”
Of course you have. We’ve all been there. That moment of marketing envy happens all the time. And that’s ok, because last time I checked there wasn’t a commandment that said “Thou shalt not covet they neighbor’s marketing.”
And besides, you know what they say: imitation is the highest form of flattery. I don’t know who “they” are, but that’s what my mother always told me when I whined about my big brother mimicking me. (Side note: I’m 99.99% sure he wasn’t doing it to flatter me, and hearing mom’s explanation always made me want to kick “they” in the shins. My brother usually got it in the shins instead.)
Most of the time, if you try to copy what somebody else is doing, they’ll take it as a sign they’re doing something right.
But here’s the rub: sometimes other people’s stuff just doesn’t fit you.
It’s like that time in middle school where you went out and bought something the most popular kid had, only to find that it looked kind of ridiculous on you.
Or that time when you really admired somebody else’s style (maybe their leadership style, their lifestyle, their hairstyle, their style of speaking… you get the idea), but when you tried to do things exactly the way they did, something wasn’t quite right.
Here’s another way to think of it. Wind back the clock to when you were in school. You had to write a paper about something. You found some really good information, copied it exactly, and turned it in. That’s called plagiarism. You got an F. You wrote another paper, but this time you kind of reworded things instead of copying them directly. You got a C, because it was pretty solid work but not very original. Then you wrote a paper where you used great information as a springboard for your own ideas instead. You crushed it and brought home the A. Yay, you! (Even if your actual experience didn’t quite happen that way, you get the point.)
When you copy somebody else, you’re not being your most genuine self. Even if others don’t see through it (which – trust me – they will sooner or later), whatever you’re doing won’t be nearly as effective as if you had done things your own way.
The same goes for marketing.
Sure, you can copy what somebody else is doing and just make it look like your own. And it might work out pretty well for you, at least for a little while. But it will never work as well as taking the time to create something that’s based on a deep understanding of who you are, what you offer, who you’re trying to engage, and the compelling reasons for your target audience to do what you’re asking them to do.
So the next time you see somebody else doing something cool, admire it. Get inspired by it. Then ask yourself why it works so well for that other brand. Think about the unique attributes, challenges, and opportunities of your own program and how you can use that understanding to come up with something that’s even better – for you.
Because once you start thinking that way, you’re moving from a marketing plan based on “I think” to a strategic approach based on “I know.” That’s when results happen.
Besides, wouldn’t you rather be the one who’s getting copied instead of the copycat?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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:
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!