Mark "Hot Rod" Riordan: He has a few nicknames, "Godfather," "White Rhino," and a horribly-awesome rugby nickname that we cannot remember, nor should we probably write for people to read. Mark is an OH OG. Full disclosure, we heart this guy. If we were a celebrity couple we'd be OldMark or MarkHat.
So OldMark goes back all the way to 2005 when he was with the University of Michigan. It would be an understatement to say this relationship helped put Old Hat on the map. Mark is probably 100% the reason why Zac needed to create the position of video project manager and why I'm living in Norman, Oklahoma. Mark is the man. Which makes perfect sense since he's working for the 12th Man Foundation at Texas A&M. Partnering with Mark and his crew on KyleField.com is arguably one of OH Interactive's proudest moments. The site broke the mold for most stadium development sites you see today.
Ladies and gentlemen, buckle up. It's time for 20 Questions with Mark Riordan.
1. NAME: Mark Riordan
2. OCCUPATION/TITLE: Vice President – Marketing & Communications
3. HOMETOWN: Olean, NY
4. PREGAME RITUAL: I used to like to get to the office before everyone else and crank the music up to 11 while I put the finishing touches on the script. Now that I’m in the development world things are a little different. I’m not in the office 6 hours before kick…more like two before kick and visit a few tailgates before starting my responsibilities.
5. FAVORITE THING TO SNACK: Bison French Onion Dip with potato chips. Anyone from Western New York will know what I’m talking about.
6. FAVORITE THING ABOUT YOUR JOB: I like connecting with the donors. Also, I like being part of the process that gives student-athletes a world-class education.
7. LEAST FAVORITE THING ABOUT YOUR JOB: Fan message boards. TexAgs, I’m looking at you!
8. HIDDEN TALENTS/HOBBIES: I have a Harley. I like riding but don’t seem to have the time to ride as much as I would like.
9. ADVICE TO YOUR YOUNGER SELF: Appreciate your education and think more critically.
10. YOUR GO-TO KARAOKE SONG: Not much of a karaoke kind of guy. The last time I did it, I went with Coolio’s Gangsta’s Paradise at Old Hat’s 10-year Anniversary party. Actually, I think I have ever “karaoke’d” in public like three times in my life and two of those were at Old Hat parties. What’s with you guys and karaoke?!?!
11. FAVORITE MOVIE: Dumb & Dumber / Caddyshack
12. FAVORITE TV SHOW: All-time: Seinfeld Current: The Walking Dead
13. IF YOU WERE IN A BOY BAND WHAT WOULD IT BE CALLED: White Rhino (nickname from my lunch league basketball days at Michigan).
14. FAVORITE PLACE TO EAT: Wings ‘n More here in College Station.
15. WHAT DO YOU ORDER THERE: They have the best wings that I’ve found outside of Western New York…and that’s saying a lot. Notice I didn’t call them “Buffalo Wings”? If you are from WNY, they are wings. Also, it’s pop, not soda.
16. FAVORITE DISNEY PRINCESS: First off, I didn’t know there were only eleven princesses. I thought there were many more than that. Gun to my head, Belle.
17. WHAT’S YOUR SPIRIT ANIMAL: I like wolves…let’s go with that.
18. WHAT’S THE STUPIDEST THING YOU’VE EVER DONE: So many things to choose from! I guess one of the big ones is when I worked at a full-service gas station and thought it would be a good idea to start dipping to pass the time. I quit over 16 years ago but I spent almost 9 years rotting my mouth. All out of boredom.
19. WHAT’S THE LAST SHOW THAT YOU BINGE-WATCHED: I have three kids from 10-15 years old. Each one is in multiple sports (school, club, travel and rec leagues). Who has time to binge-watch anything?!?!?
20. IF YOU WEREN’T DOING THIS JOB WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING: Teaching high school and coaching football.
Yes, today’s the day. You know, the day you were supposed to do that special thing for that special someone, but it’s very likely you forgot. So instead you’ll go buy a card, a gift or a flower (or maybe lots of flowers) after work and pretend that was the plan all along. It’s okay, we’ve all been there. I’m not here to shame you.
For me, Valentine’s Day has never been a very big deal. Maybe it should be, maybe I’m just not a romantic, or maybe I like to use the excuse that I love my wife as much every day, so Valentine’s Day shouldn’t be any different (that's a copout, I know). And as much as I'd like to express my undying love in the form of a dying bouquet of flowers, my wife agrees that buying her roses is a waste of money.
Being that I work in the sports industry, and because of my cynical attitude toward Valentine's Day, I thought it would behoove me to find some positive collaborations between sports and love. And what better example is there than sports marriage proposals!? There's not one, I looked. After a comprehensive scouring of the internet, I was able to narrow down the top sports marriage proposals, either at a sporting event or by athletes themselves. I've picked the top five, although they're all winners in my book (it's a short book with lots of pictures).
But other than the clearly significant act of celebrating one's love by asking for a significant-other's hand in marriage while being surrounded by fanatic fans, bratwursts and beers, there's also a marketing element that comes into play with each of these marriage proposals. It's an opportunity that every sports team should be taking advantage of because every team has at least a few fans each year that would probably be willing to use a gameday experience to help pressure their significant-other into saying "Yes, I do". And that's the entire point of this blog.
I'll run down the short list of my top favorite marriage proposals, but I also want to point out why they're significant from a sports marketing point of view. Sure, people are making life-altering decisions, but what can you do as a sports marketer to capitalize on it? I mean, isn't that the very essence of Valentine's Day? Yes. Yes it is.
The first proposal comes from the San Francisco 49ers Levi's Stadium, which was the very first proposal at the new stadium- before the stadium was even completed. As far as stadium proposals go, this one was unique in that sense.
Marketing takeaway: Events like this are great PR, especially for something as impactful as a new stadium. It's not only showcasing more behind-the-scenes construction updates with photos, but the chances are your story will reach demographics beyond your typical fanbase. People everywhere are seeing how the 49ers created a special occasion for two of their biggest fans, and that connection leaves a strawberry-goodness taste in everyone's mouth.
Here's another proposal that likely ended with a "yes", but it's a good example of making your sponsors part of the event.
Marketing takeaway: Sponsors love to see their names associated with positive events. Find ways to make their sponsorship meaningful. In this example, you not only have everyone at the Heat game seeing the logo, but also everyone following on social media. It's a great promotion that couldn't be more fitting with this particular sponsor.
Similar to the proposal above, except this one involved one of the Bulls dancers. It was a nice, positive half-time event that gave fans a glimpse into the personal lives of the Bulls organization.
Marketing takeaway: Let your fans experience moments with people from your organization. Fans love their teams, but they really like to feel they're a part of the team. No better way to do that than to get them involved in something like a marriage proposal for one of your own.
A little back story on this one, the guy is (or was in 2013) an assistant soccer coach at Fresno Pacific University. He set up the proposal plan with the women's soccer coach, as his then girlfriend was a senior on the women's soccer team. The acting wasn't great and the guy seemed to drag this one out a little too long, but kuddos for pulling this stunt off.
Marketing takeaway: In 2013 when this happened, the marketing buzz word was "viral". And this one had "viral" written all over it. With over 3 million views, I'd say it was a success. It shows how the power of the unexpected can spread like wildfire, and this video leaves a positive impression for most of the world that's never heard of FPU.
I'm not gonna lie, this one stings a little. But only because seconds before this proposal (which seemed to be on the top of everyone's sports proposals list), the Broncos had just beat my Sooners. It was an incredible game for anyone but a Sooners fan, and Ian Johnson ended it the right way. If he was uncertain that his cheerleader girlfriend might say yes to his proposal, there was no better time to ask her than right after he scored the game-winning 2-pt conversion. I just have to think for them as a couple, that was the highlight of their relationship together. Gonna be hard to top that during their lifetime together.
Marketing takeaway: This is what you call a freebee. You're riding the gravy train with buttered biscuit wheels. You did absolutely nothing to deserve such a fortuitous situation, but you will surely benefit from it as an organization. Live it up while you can.
So after digging into all this and providing some takeaways, I might not be quite as cynical as I had thought. Or maybe I'm slightly more convinced now that love and sports can work together in a meaningful way! I feel like the Grinch whose heart grew three sizes today!! Thank you, Valentine's Day!
When somebody visits your website, you have to grab their attention right away if you want them to stick around and consume the content you are offering.
In the past, we have always told our clients they have between 30 and 60 seconds to get a site visitor’s attention. If you don’t give somebody a reason to stay before that first minute is up, they’re gone (and they probably aren’t coming back).
That’s a short period of time in which to win somebody over. But guess what? It’s about to get even shorter.
Recent reports indicate that Millennials only have an eight-second attention span. Eight seconds? Really? How does one go through life with only an eight-second attention span?
I am usually classified as a Millennial. I may be at the very top of the age range, but I am a Millennial by most accounts. It has taken me more than eight seconds to write this much, so I am confident in saying my attention span is at least double that of the average Millennial! YES!!!
Jokes and time keeping aside, how do you capture somebody’s attention in such a brief amount of time? For that matter, how do you keep their attention through an entire game?
The NBA is thinking about cutting back the number of timeouts to shorten game length and keep the attention of those eight-second Millennials. If even the NBA struggles keep somebody’s attention, how can you possibly succeed? It is a challenge, but one that can be accomplished.
First, you have to know your audience. The NBA meticulously studies their fans and their games. That helped them identify the issue of attention-loss and provided insights on how to make adjustments that will keep people more engaged.
Data is key, and when it comes to your website, analytics are a great place to start. What content is garnering the most attention on your website? What pages do visitors tend spend the most time on? Studying this information will help you make strategic decisions.
The same goes for game day. You may have won the fight against the couch and the HD TV to get people to the game, but once they’re there you have to make sure you engage them enough that they want to come back. Each fan base is unique, so it’s important to study your fans and understand their habits and preferences. Research will help you take the guesswork out of your decisions.
Second, you have to be open to change. After looking at what’s working for them and what’s not, the NBA might change their rules to shorten games. I am sure basketball purists will cringe at the thought of changing the game, but like other businesses, the NBA has a brand to protect and a bottom line that they want in the black. There are plenty of examples of leagues or businesses that alienate people by trying to change things, and that’s why doing your homework is so important. When you have data to analyze, your decisions will be more informed and the change you make will be more likely to be successful.
Think about your website. Is there a different type of article you have been considering, but never published? Is there more information you can provide so you are positioned as a trusted resource for your visitors? What content do you have access to that no one else does? Those are the items that get people to come back. Your goal should be to be a part of your fans’ daily habit. What content will do that for you?
Making large-scale changes to game day comes with greater risk than making changes to your website, so it’s even more crucial to have a solid understanding of what’s going to resonate best with your fans.
Finally, you have to plan. The NBA isn’t just changing things on the fly. They have collected data, they’ve explored possible changes, and they have a long-term plan that will help them reach their goals. You should, too.
If attention spans are down to eight seconds now, where will they be in five or ten years? The data you gather today not only allows you to make informed decisions for the near-term, it should also help you recognize trends that you can incorporate into your long-term plans. If you spend a month working to engage visitors and become a part of their habit, but run out of content, you will drop out of their daily habits in less than eight seconds. Think about your goals for the year. Think about what has been successful in the past. Analyze your data and come up with a plan for how you can deliver engaging content throughout the season, the year, and the life of your website. Then continue to gather data so you can refine and improve your plan over time.
At the 2016 NACMA Conference, Old Hat lead a presentation on marketing automation. We highlighted the success of RaiseUpCarolina.com, a ticket sales website built for UNC that has helped increase ticket sales revenue by more than $500,000 and aided in selling out their premium seating areas for the first time ever. Marketing automation is one of the tools we used as a part of that project. We took a uniquely positioned website with a great user experience that built excitement for a specific program and turned it into a ridiculously effective sales tool.
A lot of people think of marketing automation as a ticket sales tool, in and of itself. I disagree. I don't think of marketing automation as a tool any more than I think of the handle of a hammer as a tool. The handle of a hammer is only effective if it has the head and/or claw of the hammer. Without one or both of those, it's completely ineffective in achieving its goal. Marketing automation is no different. Without combining marketing automation with other elements to drive results, you're stuck with something as ineffective as the handle of a hammer would be in driving nails.
Some ticketing companies are starting to offer marketing automation as a part of their platform. First, fans visit a school's primary athletic website, navigate to the ticket portal and then their activity is logged and put into the automation system. That information is segmented into audiences and communicated based on their interest on the site. However, there's one major problem with this approach: It's predicated on the idea that people are already interested in coming to those events. If they already want to come, attendance wouldn't be an issue in the first place.
Think about it this way: using marketing automation on a ticket portal through a primary athletic website (goheels.com, for instance) is like putting a ticket sales phone number on a blank, white piece of paper and posting it on a telephone pole on a street corner. It's boring, uninviting, really hard to find and once you do find it, it does nothing to actually make you want to attend the event.
Marketing automation is an amazing way to help increase ticket sales and attendance, but tracking fans' activity on a ticket portal that no one is coming to doesn't take advantage of the power of marketing automation. If no one is coming to your ticket purchasing pages, you're not going to have anyone to track.
Marketing automation is simply a piece of a ticket sales tool. And here are the three things that render it completely ineffective.
1. Dedicated Ticket Sales Site
Again, the problem isn't that people don't know when/where the games are. The problem is that they don't want to come. Simply providing information is not enough. You have to create an interface that builds excitement. Look at your primary website real quick, select any sport, click to purchase tickets and determine if there's anything about that page that actually makes you excited about that sport. If the answer is yes, you're a step ahead, but you're still faced with the issue of forcing people to have to navigate through information about 25 other sports before they find the one they want to buy tickets for. There's a reason the producers of The Avengers built a website just to build excitement about that movie rather than just making it one of many options to look at on the production company's website. And there's a reason that every other major movie does the same thing. Using your primary athletic site to drive ticket sales is a mistake.
2. Off-Season Marketing Campaign
Most of the time, the marketing that takes place for a specific sport happens in the weeks leading up to the start of the season. It will typically continue through the season, but once the season ends, the marketing ends. Sure we send out ticket renewal letters and other information, but most of the time we cease to continue to make them excited about that sport. What we should be doing is actually ramping up our marketing efforts as the season comes to a close and keeping those marketing efforts going the entire off-season. One of the reasons RaiseUpCarolina.com was so successful is because it launched right at the end of the football season. Then, throughout the winter and spring, we were consistently pushing people to that site through a comprehensive marketing campaign. Because we were continually driving traffic to the site, marketing automation was able to do what marketing automation does. If you're not continually driving traffic to your site, you're not getting the most bang for your buck in what you're spending on marketing automation.
3. Digital Marketing Strategy
As discussed, marketing automation is only one part of a much larger puzzle. It is a force multiplier, much like the handle of a hammer. A hammer's head will drive a nail if you hit it hard enough. Add a handle to that head and it amplifies the force exponentially and makes driving that nail a lot easier. Marketing automation is the piece of the tool that makes your efforts exponentially more effective in driving ticket sales. What can make marketing automation even more effective? Other digital strategies that augment marketing automation. One example is geofencing. We can identify an area where you have a potential base of ticket purchasers and target them by geofencing that area and serving them digital advertising through whatever site or app they spend most of their time on. For instance, let's say you have a loyal and passionate fanbase at your basketball games, but those fans aren't coming to your football games. We geofence your basketball arena and all your fans have to do is use their phone to access the web in any way during that event. Once they do, we can then serve them ads on Facebook, Google, etc. to drive them to purchase. These ads will push them to your website where they then enter your marketing automation platform and now you're hitting them from all angles.
There's no question that marketing automation is powerful. A $500,000 increase in ticket sales at UNC is enough to prove that point, but it took a lot more than marketing automation to make that happen: A good program, a great marketing staff, a ticket sales team, a dedicated ticket sales website, an off-season marketing campaign and marketing automation. This season we'll be implementing a comprehensive digital marketing strategy including geofencing and hope to add yet another force multiplier to the ticket sales effort.
Want to know what (and how) your peers at other schools are doing when it comes to attendance, game experience, ticket sales, and marketing? Here’s your chance to find out!
You’re invited to participate in our State of Sports Marketing survey. It only takes a few minutes to complete, and individual responses will be kept confidential.
What’s in it for you?
The inside scoop. Participants will have the option to receive a special insiders’ report with full survey results that won’t be shared with the general public.
Gift cards! We’ll be giving away Amazon gift cards with values up to $100 to 15 lucky survey participants. All you have to do is opt in for a chance to win at the end of the survey.
So share your thoughts, score some free stuff, and find out what’s really going on in the industry. And share it with your friends who also work in college athletics.
Why share the survey? The more people who take it, the better you'll be able to see what's going on in the industry in terms of attendance, marketing techniques, game day experience, and more! Anyone who takes the survey is eligible to win one of the gift cards we're giving away (get up to $100 on Amazon!) and receive a copy of the exclusive Insiders' Report.
Take and share the survey now! It’s only open through Oct 21st.
A few of us went to a digital marketing conference recently, and one of the speakers talked about storytelling. It kind of took us by surprise. A digital conference should be about high-tech stuff, right? And storytelling has been around since before any kind of tech existed.
But here’s the thing. Engaging your fans online is like telling a story. You get people interested in who you are and what you offer with the story you tell through digital and social media. You get them to come back to your website time after time through storytelling. If you do not tell the right story, in the right way, consumers lose interest.
So how do you tell a good story in the digital world? These tips 7 tips for digital storytelling will help you capture attention and build trust.
1. Be genuine.
Marketing can be tough. All marketers are liars, right? That’s what some people think, so it’s your job to convince them otherwise. You have convey your brand’s message in a way that is honest and appeals to people. Spend a minute thinking about the recent stories that have been proven to be false and how that worked out for people (cough, cough…Lochte).
2. Utilize your resources.
Not sure you have a story? There are so many around you that you can tell. Use them! You have access to the locker room, to the players, and to the coaches in one way or another. Tell those stories. Most of your fans or players probably won’t take the initiative to share their stories on Facebook or other social media outlets. Seek their stories out and share them.
3. Seek out stories and write them down.
This one seems simple enough, but most of us forget to do jot things down…which means we forget about them. Keep a running log of things you can use in the future. If you overheard an employee talking to a fan and felt the message was great, write it down, record it, do whatever it takes to get a record of that story so you can retell it down the road. It’s not every day that you get to share how your athletic department helped make someone’s dream come true. But if you look for these stories, you might be surprised at how often they actually do happen. Write them down so you can remember to share your story with the community. That also helps you avoid those social media upkeep panic moments, because you’ll always have a good story to use.
4. Ask others to share their stories.
This one goes with the one above. Sometimes you are not going to be able to tell a story as well as the person who originally experienced it. If that story helps further the community you are growing or helps engage your fan base, ask the individual to come out and tell their story. You can’t get more genuine that that. Plus, everyone else sees a fan who cares enough or had a good enough experience to share their story with the world. That’s powerful!
5. Pick the right moment.
This is probably just a general marketing rule, but even the best stories will fall on deaf ears if they are not told at the right moment. Think about it and plan. You want the right message, in front of the right people, at the right time. There’s nothing wrong with using tools to schedule part of your digital engagement, but if you forget to monitor what’s happening in the world you could accidentally make your brand appear insensitive, self-absorbed, or just tuned out of what’s trending.
6. Be creative.
Again, this is marketing 101. In addition to being creative with how you tell your story, the whole process needs to be creative. You need to look in different places to find the stories. Of course take the obvious ones that come your way, but don’t forget to turn over a few rocks or dig a little deeper so you can deliver something unexpected every once in a while. Then challenge yourself to find new and interesting ways to share those stories instead of doing the same thing every time.
7. Pick the right medium
Some stories can only be told in person, face to face. Others can work well in a video or as a speech. Some have the greatest impact when paired with an image, making them good choices for channels like Instagram or Facebook. Some are easy to tell in a few words, while others take a little more explaining. The point is, you need to find a way to deliver your story that fits the story and your community. Choosing the right medium will help you maximize the impact of each story and get it in front of the most relevant audience.
When it comes down to it, a lot of the work we do is storytelling. One way or another we are trying to help our clients tell their story to the world. Your brand has a story. As a marketer, part of your challenge (and opportunity!) is to find all the different chapters, scenes, and memorable lines that make up that story and share them with the world. If this is done correctly, it will help you grow your community and engage your fan base in a way that improves the relationship.
EUGENE, OR - University of Oregon Athletic Department officials announced Wednesday that they have ended their long-standing relationship with Nike and have signed with Walmart's Avia brand to provide all athletic apparel and shoes.
"We appreciate everything Nike and Phil Knight have done for the University of Oregon and respect the organization immensely. However, we feel that it is time for a new era in Oregon Athletics and we are confident that Walmart is the right organization to represent the Oregon brand," one official stated.
Okay, did anyone believe that for one second? Did anyone truly believe that Oregon, a major collegiate athletic program, would drop Nike in favor of Walmart? Of course not.
A lot of reasons, most likely. For one, Nike and Phil Knight have given so much support to the University of Oregon, they'd never dream of going with any other apparel company, much less Walmart's Avia brand. But let's swap out Oregon, and let's say Michigan instead. Or Bowling Green. Or UConn. Or East Popcorn State University. Would you have believed the headline then?
East Popcorn State drops Adidas; Walmart's Avia to provide Colonels Team Apparel
Would that headline be any more believable? Probably not.
Avia makes fine apparel. I have a pair of running shorts from Walmart, and I don't run any slower when I wear them than when I wear my Nike shorts. In fact, I can't tell the difference. My favorite pair of running shorts are BCG brand, not Nike. Avia could provide athletic team apparel to the Ducks that feels pretty similar to what Nike provides. The Ducks could take the field in apparel provided by Walmart and they wouldn't run any slower, throw the ball any less accurately, shoot with any lower percentage or hit with any lower of an average.
So if Walmart were to come to the table and commit to providing everything Nike provides and a financial incentive far greater than Nike, would any major university be willing to announce that they've dropped Nike or Adidas or Under Armour in favor of a Walmart brand?
Not a chance. But why?
The answer, of course: Perception. Pride. Respect. Quality.
There's no coach or athletic director in the country that is going to send their team on the field wearing Avia or BCG or C9. And even if they were, how tough would it be to recruit kids to come play for a school if they know they'll be trading in the swoosh for the... uh, "I" with a little arrow thingy on top? The coaches, the department personnel and the kids would be embarrassed to compete in anything but a top name brand. And why? Because they'd look ridiculous. It's the same reason NBA players don't shoot free throws granny-style, despite the scientific data that shows they'd make way more shots that way. They'd get laughed at. And no one wants to be laughed at.
I'm not arguing that this is a bad thing. I jog in cheap jogging shorts. But rest assured that if I were going to be on national television, I'd go buy some brand new Nike shorts. I'd also probably try to drop a few pounds. Because on the national stage, we all want to look good. And no disrespect to Walmart, but running out of the tunnel wearing the Avia logo on your chest is not an idea that gets anyone excited. It all makes complete and total sense. I get it.
But there's something I don't get.
There's something I don't understand at all.
This philosophy of looking good and only being willing to wear what looks the best or shoot the way that looksthe best... the philosophy that we all think makes complete and total sense... why does that not apply to everything that represents our collegiate sports teams?
Why are we willing to let our team run out of the tunnel after an intro/hype video that doesn't actually build any hype? Why do we show videoboard prompts that are cheap, canned reproductions that don't match our brand? Why do we promote the sport that has the highest potential and greatest need for ticket sales revenue with marketing collateral that is just "good enough," has no research behind it and isn't positioned to actually drive attendance? Why do we not even consider for one second letting our teams wear something that isn't absolutely first-class, but when it comes to promoting those sports, driving attendance and building a game experience, we often settle for what is least expensive? This isn't the case everywhere, of course, but there are so many times at so many major universities that an athletic department will choose the Walmart version of a creative service over the Nike equivalent.
A glaring example of this is most universities' online ticket buying portals. Every school in the country wants to sell more tickets. Every school in the country wants to drive attendance. Yet if you look at the online ticket purchasing experience at those schools, the user interface is terrible, it's impossible to find the information you need, it takes way too many clicks to purchase and the pages are bland and boring and do nothing to actually make a fan want to come to the event. Everything about these portals depend on a fan already wanting to come to the event so badly that they're willing to jump through hoops to buy a ticket. And not even cool, exciting, flaming-hoops-of-fire. Boring, bland, unexciting hoops.
Promoting our teams with poor quality marketing isn't just as bad as sending them onto the court in Walmart brand shoes. It's like sending them onto the court with no shoes at all. We wouldn't be giving them the tools to succeed and by relying on the least expensive option for marketing, we're not giving ourselves the tools to succeed in driving attendance.
So all that said, I'm not ignorant to the idea that sometimes the least expensive option is the only option. Budgets are tight in collegiate athletics and sometimes you can control the amount you're given to promote your sports. So here are some practical tips that you can employ to help drive attendance at your events.
Ticket Sales Portal
Count the Clicks - How many clicks does it take to buy a ticket on your website? On the high end, we sometimes see that it can take up to 7-8 clicks to make a purchase. Some have streamlined it down to as few as 3. Obviously, the lower the number, the more likely people are to purchase. And most of the time, you can make changes to your site to bring that number down. Count the number of clicks it takes to make a purchase and see if you can cut that number in half.
Spruce Up the Joint - Unfortunately, most ticketing companies provide a portal that is boring and unengaging. They don't do much to actually make a fan want to purchase. But there are typically at least a couple of things you can to do customize that page. Take advantage of those opportunities by bringing your marketing campaign for that sport into the headers and other graphics on that page. In a perfect world, add some video content to those pages, even if it's just your stadium intro/hype video. Fans love to watch those things and if the only place to watch it is by going to your ticket sales page, that could go a long way toward driving ticket sales. Best way to sell a ticket to someone is to give them the opportunity to buy when they're most excited about it.
Forget Your Die-Hard Fans - I wrote an article a few weeks ago about how we need to start looking at schedule posters as advertisements rather than promotional tools. Because most of the time, they don't do much to drive attendance. But every advertising campaign starts with research to determine who your audience is. Maybe you don't have a budget for research. That's fine. You know your area and you know who has the most potential to become new ticket purchasers. Spend some time thinking about who those people are and develop a campaign that targets those people. The die-hard fans are going to come regardless of what the poster looks like or the tagline that's on it. So think about a way to appeal (both through messaging and through the visuals) to a different group. You'll probably find that putting all the seniors on the poster with a generic tagline isn't the best way to appeal to those people. Be bold and put something unique out there. Because like I said, the die-hards are coming anyway. And by trying something unique you just might appeal to a totally new group.
Take Advantage of Your Friends & Family - The best thing I can advise for improving your game experience is to identify where things are lacking. And the best way to do that is to engage a firm to do a comprehensive gameday audit. But if your budget doesn't allow for that, make your friends and family work for those tickets they begged you for! Give them a checklist and have them rate every experience on a scale of 1 to 5. Ticket takers, concessionaires, ushers, intro video, band, cheer, etc. You may not get a comprehensive report from industry experts, but you'll have more information than you started with. And sometimes it's good to have input from people who aren't immersed in collegiate athletics 24/7. At the very least, you'll have a unique perspective outside your own.
We might have mentioned it once or twice before, but last spring, we conducted a Sports180 with SMU Athletics. We met with SMU's staff, did the research, and decided how to strategically and visually approach this year and drive attendance at SMU events on campus.
Last weekend, SMU hosted Liberty University for the first Mustang home football game of the year. I #GotThere and watched the game in person! I love being able to see the work our designers created in real life. Usually I only get to see it on my computer screen. Thanks again to the SMU staff for having me!
As a part of the Sports180, we've created many many pieces for SMU sports all following a consistent brand. For football specifically, those include:
The article I posted earlier in the week has caused some negative, yet understandable feedback. It comes as no surprise to me that some feathers were ruffled by the solution I proposed to the new Federal Labor Standards Act. Below is an expanded version of a response I posted to a comment on the original blog post.
I would like to reiterate what I stated in the article which is that, "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." The idea that we are advocating widespread layoffs leaves me wondering if people actually read the article or just the headline. I clearly stated that I do not feel changes should be made if an athletic department has a good creative staff in place.
What some people may not realize is that I was once on an internal creative staff myself. And if I felt that someone were advocating that I get fired, I'd be quite upset. However, the FLSA rules are estimated to have a $1.5 million impact to the average mid-major athletic department. While some can absorb that, others will have to make cuts. That's just the reality of the situation. I would love to think that rather than cutting anyone, departments would increase everyone's wage to the new threshold. I just don't believe that's realistic. Departments will have a greater need than ever to get fans in seats to increase revenue and honestly, I've never seen a situation in which using Old Hat wouldn't save an athletic department vast sums of money over having in-house creative. I've run the numbers many times and the fact of the matter is, a department could save themselves thousands of dollars annually by using Old Hat for their high level creative rather than an in-house crew.
We can't forget that the mission of an athletic department is anything other than educating the student-athlete and giving the opportunity to as many young people as possible to compete and get an education. The FLSA rules are going to have a major impact whether we like it or not. We are simply recommending an option that will help contribute to a department's ability to continue that mission.
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.