Have you ever been emotionally hijacked? You're confronted with harm, either physical or emotional, and all of a sudden you're in fight or flight mode. Your blood starts pumping and you cease to think clearly. Your mind gets blurry and you lose all ability to make rational decisions. Sound familiar?

We all experience it but how we react differs from person to person. Some people lash out in anger and can't control what they say or do in those moments. Some people shut down completely and flee the scene physically or psychologically (or both). But the one thing that remains true in all cases is that the brain is reacting on emotion and it is scientifically incapable of making completely logical and rational decisions.

There's a science to this, of course, and it all has to do with how humans have evolved to protect themselves from harm. What's happening in our brains when we get hijacked? What causes us to lose the ability to think rationally in times of crisis? Well, I'm no rocket surgeon but according to the internet, it all has to do with the amygdala. That’s the area of the brain that processes emotion. When faced with a threat, or any situation really, the amygdala immediately kicks in to assess the situation. It asks itself, Can this hurt me? Should I fear this? If the answer is yes, it immediately sends a message to the rest of the brain which triggers the hormones that tell us to either flee or fight. When we face potential danger, the amygdala takes over nearly the entire brain, including the part that allows us to make rational decisions. Think of it as human evolution's security system. When danger is present, our brain goes into super-protection mode and it simply turns off all the parts of the brain that normally regulate our emotions.

What does this have to do with sales and marketing? Well, emotions don't just prevent us from making rational decisions when faced with fear. They can also take over in other situations, resulting in us making irrational buying decisions. And don't think for one second that companies don't take advantage of this on a regular basis. Raise your hand if you've never made a buying decision based on emotion. You see product X and you suddenly start thinking about how much pleasure it's going to bring you. You picture yourself wearing it, eating it, or driving it and you can't stop thinking about how badly you want that thing. All logic and rationality leave your brain as the emotional side shuts down your ability to think about things like I can't afford this, or I'm going to feel like crap if I eat this entire cake. So just like when you’re hijacked out of fear, you make decisions that aren’t fully rational. When you eventually start thinking rationally again, regret sinks in. You apologize to your partner for screaming unintelligible expletives at them for 45 minutes straight. Or you return the gold-plated Winnebago you thought you couldn't live without.

Industries all over the planet do their best to take advantage of your emotional buying decisions. From product placement at check-out stands to test-drives at the car dealership, they look for ways to play on your emotions. Have you ever been to a state fair and gone into one of those buildings where there are hundreds of products being sold and each one is being demonstrated by a charistmatic salesperson with a microphone strapped to their face? Believe it or not, those people spend years honing their craft to figure out how to get you to making emotional buying decisions. That's why it's so effective. They demonstrate their product and paint a picture for you of how much your life will improve if you just buy this one product. You visualize yourself with that amazing potato peeler preparing the best spiral cut homemade french fries your neighbors have ever seen. You think about the praise you'll receive for having the most attractive side dish at the church picnic. And you buy whatever it is they’re hawking. On the drive home, of course, you begin thinking rationally again. You get home, put your potato peeler in the drawer and never quite figure out how it works.

As those state fair salespeople will tell you, emotional buying decisions are a short-play. If you don't hook them quickly, they’re gone. If somebody says they're going to think about it, you've lost the sale. Because when they think about it, they start thinking rationally. And these sales strategies aren't based on rationality.

Emotional Buying in Collegiate Athletics

Athletics is an emotional thing for most people. Fans live and die by their sports teams, and there is no better example of irrational decision-making than that of sports fans and the things they do to show their passion for their teams. But here's the problem with playing on emotion when trying to drive fans to purchase tickets to your events: it doesn't work. Yep, I said it. Using emotional messaging to drive attendance to sporting events DOES NOT WORK. But what's worse is that it's the number one strategy employed by almost every athletics organization out there. High-impact photography of student-athletes looking larger than life on posters. Commercials that show your favorite players knocking the snot out of your biggest rival. Don't get me wrong. I love that stuff! I love those posters and I love seeing those commercials. But again, when it comes to motivating people to purchase tickets and attend events, it doesn't work.

Die-Hards

Emotion-based sports marketing appeals to two types of fans. The first type is die-hard fans. They're the ones who watch every video you post on social media and share it with their friends. They tailgate before the games and they sit in the same seats their family has had for as long as they can remember. Their kids have your posters on their walls and they get really excited when the commercials come on TV because they get to see that big hit and one-handed TD catch that never get old. But here's the thing. They're coming to the stadium next Saturday no matter what. They'll be there whether they see that commercial or get that poster. They'll be there whether you spend $100,000 on outdoor advertising or $0 on outdoor advertising. Now, I'm not saying that you shouldn't market to them. I'm just saying that if you want to drive attendance, don't spend your time marketing to people that are coming no matter what your poster looks like.

Casual Fans

The other group of fans that emotion-based marketing appeals to is the casual fan. These are people that may have grown up a fan of your program or perhaps even went to school there. They go to a game or two per year, they have some existing affinity for your teams, and if they don't attend the game they're probably going to be watching it on TV. So it makes sense to play to their emotions, right? It makes sense to show them the passion and hard-hitting action and activate that affinity within them, right?

Wrong.

Playing to the emotions of a casual fan works. The problem is, it doesn't work for long enough to convert them into a ticket purchaser. Or even if it does, it doesn't always result in them actually attending once they've purchased. And it doesn't keep them coming back. As I stated before, emotion-based marketing is a short play. You're at the check-out line and see something you want, you buy it right then and you use it right then. You're at the state fair and you picture how much better your life will be when you're finally able to cut your child's hair using this amazing vacuum attachment. So you buy it right then. The state fair salesperson doesn't care if you actually use the thing once you've bought it, they just want you to buy it.

Athletics doesn't work that way. We play on casual fans' emotions with those hard-hitting commercials, billboards featuring taglines that fuel their passion and posters with die-cuts and high-impact photography, all in an attempt to activate their affinity for the alma mater. And it works, temporarily. But we're not selling a bag of M&M's at the check-out counter. We're not selling an impulse buy. What we're selling requires that they "think about it." The exact thing that emotion-based marketers don't want to give their buyers time to do. These casual fans see the commercials and billboards and think, "Oh, man. I gotta go!" Then their amygdala allows them to start thinking with logic and rationality. They start thinking about how comfortable their couch is, how expensive the beer is at games, and how much warmer/cooler it is in their climate controlled home. And home is exactly where they are on Saturday afternoon. Because if they didn't care about all of those things, you wouldn't need to be marketing to them.

New Fans

If you have empty seats, new fans with no existing affinity for your program cannot be ignored. Professional teams fight to win over people that relocate to their market and colleges shouldn't be any different. If you're a sports fan and you move to the Raleigh-Durham area, you're surrounded by 3 major universities with storied athletics programs. Whose events are you going to attend? Whichever one markets to you in the way that's most effective to fans with no existing affinity. And as you can probably surmise, appealing to their emotions won't work.

Okay, so if emotion-based marketing doesn't work for athletics, what does?

Rational and logical messaging.

Athletics makes the mistake of thinking that what we're selling is any different than any other product or service. It's not. We want people to buy a ticket and attend an event. That's what we're selling. We need people to connect with that purchase the same way they connect with buying a pack of gum, a car, or a chicken sandwich. We have to show them why what we're selling is better than whatever else is competing for their time. And how do we do that? The same way Dentyne, Ford and Chick-fil-a do it: by researching their market, developing a strategy to appeal to the most likely buyers in that market, and executing that strategy through creative implementation.

Another great tactic is utilizing ticket sales teams. Ticket salespeople are athletics' version of state fair salespeople. And that's not an insult in any way, shape or form. They're trained to do they exact same thing only they're selling tickets instead of potato peelers. But they use the same tactics. They get you on the phone, play to your emotions, paint the picture of how much better your life will be if you're at the game and they get you to buy. If you say, "I'll think about it," they know they've lost you. For the record, I love ticket sales teams. I think they're great and every athletics program should have one. The problem is, just because a fan is convinced to purchase a ticket does not mean they're going to attend. Just like that potato peeler, there is a high-likelihood that they'll stick those tickets in a drawer and never quite figure out how they work.

For that reason, ticket sales and marketing have to go hand-in-hand. Both work. But both are more effective if they can lean on each other for support. If you market to fans and build affinity, they're more likely to buy when that ticket salesperson calls them. When they buy a ticket, they're more likely to attend if you're marketing to them. But your marketing cannot be based strictly on emotion or you're throwing money away.

So do some research to figure out who your casual and new fans might be. Then create a strategy for reaching them. Figure out what media is most likely to reach that group. Then build a campaign that targets them specifically. You can't be all things to all people. The good news is, you don't need to be.

When you’re selling tickets, one of the main groups you need to appeal to is the millennial generation: the 18-34(ish) year old group of current students, recent grads, and local sports fanatics.

And guess what?

They’re broke.

Not just college-student-eating-ramen broke or first-job-small-salary broke, but seriously broke.

In 2016, there were more households in poverty headed by a Millennial than by a member of an older generation. Massive student loan is partially to blame: borrowers under the age of 39 are on the hook for 2/3 of the nation’s $1 trillion in student loan debt. Older generations often talk smack about lack of millennial responsibility and how they’re waiting longer to get married, buy a home, etc. but part of the reason this generation is lagging behind is because they simply can’t afford those “grown up” expenses.

Even though this group doesn’t have much money today and probably only makes up 25%-30% of your current revenue base, you shouldn’t write them off. Millennials are the biggest generation this country has ever spawned and they aren’t going to be broke forever. Just about the time Baby Boomers are dying off, Millennials will be hitting more solid financial ground and will represent the majority of your target audience.

So how do you get this strapped-for-cash group to spend money on tickets today?

Focus on the experience.

According to an Eventbrite report, Millennials are more likely to spend money on attending events than on material goods. They’re all about having experiences and creating memories. More than ¾ of Millennials credit an event or live experience with creating their best memories, and they’re eager to make more. When they come to a game, they’re there for more than just the game itself – they view it as an opportunity to hang out with friends or family and feel like they’re part of the action. They’re also driven by FOMO, so if you make your game the place to be they’ll want to be the one showing up and sharing it on social media.

Make it affordable.

Millennials love discounts and getting a good deal. What are you doing to put tickets within reach for this group? Think beyond simply offering discounted tickets for students and get creative. Have you tried a buy-one-get-one promotion to encourage greater attendance? Extended payment options for ticket packages? Geo-targeted digital ads that include a special offer in the days leading up to the game? According to a NACDA report, just over half of Millennials say they’d share their location in return for a relevant coupon or promotional deal, especially if it means better access at events. What about special discounts on game day? TodayTix (think Uber for ticket sales) did some research, and they found that men are 30% more likely than women to take advantage of last-minute sales. That’s an another insight worth keeping in mind as you design day-of-game discount promotions targeted at this group.

Even though the bad news is that Millennials don’t have much money to spend on tickets, the good news is that they’re more likely to spend their limited dough on experiences and events. Your challenge is to make your games both affordable and engaging. While this might not be your core fan base today, the more of a relationship you can form with Millennials, the more likely they’ll be to continue to support your program in the future when they’ve got some money to burn.

Take a second and think about the things you absolutely love to do. Whether it's your job, a hobby, a food...just think about how much you love it.

Could you do or eat that exact same thing starting today and continue until you are 95 years old? For me, that would be 67 years, one month, and 23 days.

I ask these questions because recently, while we were on campus at SMU for our basketball video/photo shoot, Dustin and I had the opportunity to meet someone special.

Meet Brad Bradley - sports photographer and legend. He has been taking photos at SMU and around Dallas for the last 70 years! He is 95 years old and still working. Why? Because he absolutely loves it.

We had a few moments to talk with Brad and his son Jimmy, and the stories of what they've done over the last seven decades are amazing. Doak Walker. Larry Brown. Michael Jordan. Brad took photos of them all. He was the photographer for the Southwest Conference, SEC, and ACC. He would drive around the country and hit every school in those conferences in one trip over the course of a few weeks. As we continued talking, he very humbly told us he pretty much pioneered the sports "action" photo. Instead of having guys posing and hold the ball or helmet, he had them act out some moves/positions from their sport. It hit us that we were talking to the inventor of what we were there doing. He compared our lights/camera set up to how he used to do it, and Dustin and he talked through technology advancements and techniques. It was so cool.

It made me step back and think about how much Brad truly enjoys his work. He could have retired 30 years ago, but he didn't. I hope we all have something in our lives we love so much that we want to do it for 70+ years.

To read more about Brad and his career, take a look at this article from a few years ago.

And of course, here are a few photos with Brad from our shoot:

 

What can we say about the newest addition to the Old Hat design squad? Caitlin Murphy has made QUITE the impression whether it's stories about her giant dog, her office microwaving misadventures or her attempts at playing Spikeball. This former collegiate libero turned stud designer has some serious skills that we think you'll DIG.

Here are 20 Questions with Caitlin!

1. NAME: Caitlin Murphy

2. OCCUPATION/TITLE: Art Director

3. HOMETOWN: Amarillo, TX

4. YOUR GO-TO WORK MUSIC: Whatever Spotify recommends to me for that day. Today is Throw-Back-Thursday

5. HOW DID YOU END UP AT OLD HAT: One of my references knows the company so he reached out to me and asked if I would be interested.

6. FAVORITE THING ABOUT YOUR JOB: Getting to play and design on the computer all day.

7. WHAT’S THE HARDEST PART ABOUT YOUR JOB: Sitting down all day.

8. HOW DO YOU SPEND YOUR FREE TIME WHEN YOU’RE NOT AT WORK: Anything that involves with being outside.

9. ADVICE TO YOUR YOUNGER SELF: LISTEN TO MY PARENTS. They’re actually right about everything.

10. EXPLAIN YOUR DESIGN PHILOSOPHY OR HOW YOU FIND INSPIRATION FOR YOUR WORK/OUTSIDE PROJECTS: Most of my designs happen by accident, I’ll be working and accidentally hit a button and sometimes it looks great so I go with it.

11. IF YOU COULD ONLY WATCH ONE MOVIE FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE WHAT WOULD IT BE: Pretty Woman. Hands down. No question.

12. FAVORITE TV SHOW: Drunk History

13. WHAT’S BEEN YOUR FAVORITE MOMENT AT OLD HAT: Getting hired was a great moment.

14. IF YOU COULD TRADE LIVES WITH ONE OF YOUR COWORKERS WHO WOULD IT BE AND WHY: James, so I could play instruments without hurting peoples ears.

15. WHAT’S YOUR GO-TO WORK DISTRACTION: Coloring, I have a box of sharpies and colored pencils at my desk that I doodle when I need to.

16. FAVORITE SUPERHERO: Iron Man, only because I’d like to marry him.

17. IF YOU WERE AN SNL CHARACTER WHO WOULD YOU BE: the Kristen Wiig character where she gets so excited about literally everything.

18. WHAT’S THE STUPIDEST THING YOU’VE EVER DONE: Superglued my shoe to the floor.. horrible idea.

19. WHAT’S THE LAST SHOW THAT YOU BINGE-WATCHED: The Crown

20. IF YOU WEREN’T DOING THIS JOB WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING: trying to figure out how I can be a history storyteller on Drunk History.

Collegiate athletics marketing is all about activating fan affinity. We pour painstaking effort into producing visually dynamic schedule posters with die-cuts, custom photography, stellar taglines and whatever the latest printing technique is so we can slap our fans in the face and get them excited about the upcoming season. We post social media graphics to let all of our followers know there's a game coming up or tell them about the game we just won. I could sit here and list out the hundreds of things we do, as an industry, that are aimed at activating the affinity that exists within our fans so they'll want to attend our events.

But that's where the problem lies. Read that statement again: ...activating the affinity that exists within our fans... If you think about it, most of what we do is focused on existing affinity. And we're just trying to activate it.

But what happens when there is no affinity to activate? What happens when you've run out of fans to activate affinity within? 

During the course of a recent research engagement, we discovered something very important about a particular university's market: the alumni base in that area is extremely small. Additionally, the alumni from this school are quite wealthy and their attention isn't just being pulled by other local entertainment options, it's being pulled by far-off, exotic weekend getaways. Even if we overcame the things that were pulling fans away and activated fan affinity in every member of the university's core local audience, we still wouldn't be able to fill the football stadium because the pool of people with an existing affinity is so small. 

The other mistake many programs make is assuming that alumni and/or fans that used to have affinity for their athletic programs still have affinity to be activated. We all like to think that because someone went to our university or used to come to our games, all we have to do is figure out how to activate that thing inside of them that will make them want to come back. But for a multitude of reasons, sometimes that's just not the case. Sometimes alumni don't care. Sometimes with former fans, it's too late.

Whether you're reaching out to people who have no ties to your athletic programs, alumni with little existing affinity for your programs or former fans that have grown apathetic, we must change the conversation from one of trying to activate fan affinity to one of creating fan affinity. It can be done, trust me. You see brands all over the world that go from non-existent to having extremely loyal "fans." They do this by creating affinity for their brands. 

Okay, great. Stop activating. Start creating. Where do we start? 

Research.

A coach wouldn't develop a strategy to win a game without first scouting the opponent. In the same way, you must scout your opponent. Your opponent is apathy toward your program.

1. Who are THEY?

First things first: figure out who is in your market and speak their language. Time and time again, I've seen athletic organizations invest in a marketing plan targeted at individuals that may not even exist. The prospect group you envision is probably out there, but you have to make sure there are enough of those people in your market to move the revenue needle if you reach them and convert them. For instance, if you think the people most likely to attend your events are single men and you target your message to them, you're going to have a problem if your market is actually full of 35-year-old mothers of two. If you know your market is full of PhDs, your message will be different than if you think it's full of factory workers. 

2. Who are YOU?

Now that you know who you're trying to reach, you have to figure out a way to position yourselves in a way that is appealing to those most likely to come to your events. What makes what you have to offer better than what is competing for your potential fans' time? Remember, we're creating affinity here. We're trying to appeal to potential fans that have no feelings one way or another toward our programs. Is your gameday experience family-friendly? Are you priced well? Are you a Power 5 school with big name opponents coming in? There's no right or wrong answer. You just have to figure out why what you're offering is better than whatever you're competing with.

3. Find Compatibility

Now that you know who your potential fans are and you've done a deep dive into figuring out who you are, you have to find common ground. If 35-year-old mothers are making decisions about what to do with their young children on Saturday afternoons, the hard-hitting action of top name opponents probably isn't what is going to appeal to them the most. At the same time, if big hairy men are your target, talking up the hard-hitting action may be the way to go. We may be perpetuating stereotypes here, but marketing is based largely on understanding the typical characteristics and preferences of big groups of people and tapping into those likes and needs in order to make a connection and influence a decision. It works for every other industry in the world. It will work for you. Think of it like having a conversation with your father-in-law... if he's a mechanic and you're in marketing, you're not going to insist on talking about marketing or he'll check out. You do some research and figure out that he's really into competitive duck-herding. OMG, you're into competitive duck-herding! Now you have something to talk about at Thanksgiving. Find out what you and your fan base have in common. Then connect over it.

 The reality is this: die-hard fans are coming to your games no matter how amazing your poster and social media graphics are. So marketing to them is like paying for the free mints at the end of a meal. And that's exactly who you're marketing to with the die-cut, 3D, pop-up, scratch-n-sniff schedule posters and animated gifs of Jimmy hitting that three-pointer. Don't get us wrong: there's a place for that when it comes to maintaining your fan base. But if you want to actually grow your fan base, you need to create affinity for your athletic programs. Do some research or engage someone to help you do some research. If you figure out who your potential fans are and then figure out who you are, you have what you need to drive attendance.

 

If you have worked in any industry that has physical locations, you have probably at least heard of ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliance. When most people think of ADA compliance, they think of things like wheelchair accessibility and other facilities requirements. It’s natural to include ADA considerations in your $100 million stadium project, but have you ever thought about ADA compliance when it comes to your website? 

ADA compliance for websites is a convoluted and sometimes difficult thing to understand, but let's take a look at what you need to know.  

There a few groups of businesses that must adhere to ADA compliance law:  

  • Businesses with 15 or more employees
  • State and local agencies
  • Businesses with public accommodations and commercial facilities

The last one is where most organizations are covered, which is Title III of ADA law. 

“...the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, or accommodations of any place of "public accommodation" by any person who owns, leases, or operates a place of public accommodation. Public accommodations include most places of lodging (such as inns and hotels), recreation, transportation, education, and dining, along with stores, care providers, and places of public displays.”

Although ADA law was written for physical facilities, recent court cases show that it is now being applied to the digital world. For example, supermarket chain Winn-Dixie was recently ruled to have violated a blind man's rights because the coupons presented on their site were only images and could not be read by a screen reader. As a result of this case, Winn-Dixie was required to update their site to make all of their content screen reader friendly.

The ADA standards for websites are still in development (with a tentative release date in 2018), so the judge in this case made his ruling based on WCAG 2.0 (WCAG stands for Web Content Accessibility Guidelines). These guidelines were created by the World Wide Web Consortium and updated in 2008. They’re currently the standard by which sites are measured for accessibility.  

The WCAG 2.0 guidelines have four basic principles:

Principle 1 – Perceivable. Information and user interface components must be presentable to users in ways they can perceive.

Principle 2 – Operable. User interface components and navigation must be operable.

Principle 3 – Understandable. Information and the operation of user interface must be understandable.

Principle 4 – Robust. Content must be robust enough that it can be interpreted reliably by a wide variety of user agents, including assistive technologies.

See the full breakdown here

The bottom line is that people need to be able to consume your content and take advantage of what you offer online, regardless of their disability.  

WCAG 2.0 is also broken down to different levels of conformance. 

A. This is the lowest level of conformity. The goal here is to make the site accessible (readable) to most browser and screen readers. While this is an improvement to a lot of websites, it is not at a level that would that provide a lot of benefit for impaired users and is not at a level that the court cases have mandated sites (in those cases) achieve.  

AA. This makes a site considerably more accessible. It will not change the look of a site completely, but will put it in a much safer place in terms of compliance. It includes guidance on errors and even some on color contrast. Most businesses will be fine achieving this level of compliance and it seems this is the level the courts are pushing on the sites. AA is also recommended by the WCAG themselves. 

AAA. This level is considerably more robust and typically requires significant changes on most sites. It does make the site accessible to the widest range of disabilities. Site design would be heavily impacted by this level.  

Each of these guidelines is broken down in more detail on the WCAG website, but for most people the AA guidelines should be the aim.  

So how does this affect you? It depends on your website. There are a lot of tools out there that can check your site for compliance. There are also several firms that will offer you services to do the same. 

Here are a few key things to keep in mind. First, ADA compliance starts with programming. Make sure the people who are building your site know what they are doing and are following WCAG protocols. They should be educated about ADA compliance and be able to answer your questions. Second, think about the purpose of your site. Is it an extension of a physical location? If so, what services are offered at the physical location and can those be offered on the website? ADA compliance is all about accessibility and equal access. Having a phone number or a live chat option on your site can go a long way toward enhancing accessibility, especially if those resources are available 24/7.   

While a lack of web-specific ADA law makes compliance a little challenging, following the WCAG guidelines and keeping accessibility in mind will help you offer people an online experience that is as accessible to them as an in-person experience at your physical location.

Cody Moore is a very welcome addition to Old Hat HQ. You might say Cody is the Oklahoma State version of Zac. They have similar er, features and they both wear very fashionable pants. Zac wears patchwork and argyle. Cody wears orange. Here's hoping he gets brave enough to wear orange shorts around the office someday (Q14). Help us welcome Cody Moore with 20 Questions!

1. NAME: Cody Moore

2. OCCUPATION/TITLE: Accounting Manager

3. HOMETOWN: McLoud, OK

4. YOUR GO-TO WORK MUSIC: Post Malone, Kenny Chesney, Turnpike Troubadours

5. HOW DID YOU END UP AT OLD HAT: Magic, we were both looking a long time for each other

6. FAVORITE THING ABOUT YOUR JOB: The atmosphere of the office

7. WHAT’S THE HARDEST PART ABOUT YOUR JOB: Learning the accounting for a new industry and the different aspects

8. HOW DO YOU SPEND YOUR FREE TIME WHEN YOU’RE NOT AT WORK: Spending time with my wife and 2 kids, traveling

9. ADVICE TO YOUR YOUNGER SELF: My wife and I had a chance to move to Cozumel Mexico at one point and never did….. I think about it often…. DO IT

10. IF YOU WERE STRANDED ON A DESERT ISLAND WHAT'S THE ONE ITEM YOU WOULD BRING: A Boat of course, always been the easiest question to answer  

11. IF YOU COULD ONLY WATCH ONE MOVIE FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE WHAT WOULD IT BE: Fools Gold with Matthew McConaughey and Kate Hudson…. It has an 11% on rotten tomatoes

12. FAVORITE TV SHOW: Friends

13. WHAT’S BEEN YOUR FAVORITE MOMENT AT OLD HAT: My first few weeks were pretty epic, there were birthdays, anniversary’s etc.. We had lunch or a happy hour 5 times in like 12 days

14. IF YOU COULD TRADE LIVES WITH ONE OF YOUR COWORKERS WHO WOULD IT BE AND WHY: Dustin, he seems to travel a lot and gets to see some cool things, plus he is brave enough to wear shorts and I'm not there yet

15. WHAT’S YOUR GO-TO WORK DISTRACTION: Running listening to Loud Music

16. FAVORITE SUPER HERO: Daredevil hands down

17. IF YOU WERE AN SNL CHARACTER WHO WOULD YOU BE: Jimmy Fallon or JT as one of the Gibb Brothers

18. WHAT’S THE STUPIDEST THING YOU’VE EVER DONE: Jumped on a moving train in flip flops with an ice cold “Cola” in one hand

19. WHAT’S THE LAST SHOW THAT YOU BINGE-WATCHED: True Blood

20. IF YOU WEREN’T DOING THIS JOB WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING: Anything in the tourism industry, tour guide, cabana boy, the sky’s the limit

For as long as I've been working in athletics, this industry has always focused heavily on project work. Meaning, it is rare that you find an athletic department that engages a firm or a designer to be a strategic partner. Most of the time, it's more about finding a designer or firm that can quickly churn out random projects. While that type of partner may meet your short-term needs from an efficiency (time-to-market) standpoint when you need last minute help, it’s not a partnership that’s going to help you move the needle in a meaningful way.

Here’s why treating the external designer or creative agency you work with as a strategic partner helps you get the most bang out of your marketing buck.

1. They’re able to think strategically on your behalf. When your partner understands your strategic plan, they’re going to be a lot more successful in designing projects that help you achieve your goals. That’s because they’ll be more likely to ask critical questions (like why you’re doing the project, why a certain message is your priority, and why certain media channels have been selected) or already know the answers to those types of questions. This knowledge translates into work that delivers meaningful impact.

2. They’re more likely to get it right the first time. When you hand a designer or creative agency a random project, they often won’t be aware of what has worked for you in the past or the nuances of your brand. That makes it a lot harder for them to come back to you with something that really resonates with you and your fans or donors. When a designer or firm is familiar with your brand and your strategy, they’re better able to deliver something that meets or exceeds your expectations without needing a lot of edits.

3. Your brand will be more consistent. Even if you’ve used a particular individual or firm before, there will be a gap in their brand familiarity if you only rely on them in a pinch. That increases the risk that they’ll design something that isn’t entirely on brand. Inconsistent messaging disrupts brand momentum and degrades the trust of both your staff and your fans. When your firm or designer is regularly part of conversations about your brand and its evolution, they’re able to help you deliver the right message to the right people through the right channels.

Treating your external designer or creative agency as a strategic partner enables us to do what we do best: discover how to connect the department’s objectives to fans’ needs. It means marketing decisions are made based on the strategic plan and with attention to brand values and positioning, not just on a “how quickly can we get this out there” basis. These practices help to create a stable, trusted brand in the minds of staff, fans and the community.

It's safe to say that fans attend the same sporting event for many different reasons. Some go strictly for the game itself. They grab a program upon entry to the stadium and intensely keep stats throughout. Some go for a more social experience. They may have no idea who's even playing that day, but it's a great environment to hang out with some buddies. If you're like me, you may go for a mix of reasons. I love the overall experience, while still paying attention to the game itself, but my absolute favorite part is everything in between. 

While growing up, my dad would take us to games, but he would make us get there TWO hours early. I don't know if he was worried about Dallas traffic or what, but sometimes we were there before the gates opened. As a young child, it seemed like we would have to wait FOR-EV-ER for anything to start happening...you know...players warming up, people filling the stands, seeing anything at all on the jumbotron. But, because of his compulsion to be early to absolutely everything, I learned to love what we call the "fan experience" parts of the game.

Nowadays, I find myself wanting to arrive to a game early enough to be sure I don't miss the pre-game activities. I love when it's lights out and the intro video plays. #goosebumps everytime. I love timeouts/in between plays to see what fun things will happen. Who will they show on the video board? What race can I "bet" against my friends and possibly win something (even if just pride)? Whose life will instantly change when they make that million dollar half court shot? 

My absolute favorite part of Texas Rangers games growing up was watching The Dot Race. What's so special about a red, green, and blue dot running in circles around a pixely baseball diamond on screen? No idea, but I loved it. The race takes place in the 6th inning or so, and around the 4th, they would hand out the coupons. Sitting through those two innings seemed to go in slow motion for me...gosh, I couldn't wait. And what was the winning prize? A bottle of OZARKA WATER! You'd think I could win a new car with how excited I was. 

So, why did I bring up the Dots? Because, while some sponsor elements or "fan experience" things may seem silly, people love them! And they want to interact. They want to dance crazy on the dance cam and become an internet sensation. They want to flex their muscles and lift their kid up like Simba in the Lion King. They want to brag to their friends that they picked the right hotdog or president to win the race. It's all part of the game. Live sports and fan entertainment have become so much more intertwined that it is more expected than an "extra" benefit to attending the game. Remember when the New York Knicks went silent? No one knew how to handle that. 

We want to help you first and foremost drive attendance to your events, but also give your fans the best experience possible. Sponsors are looking for more than a PA announcement and static logo these days. They want people to be talking about them long after they leave the game. Luckily, we have some ideas.

People love bobbleheads. Or, at least my mom does. She times her Rangers game attendance for the bobblehead giveaways. So, why not give away a bobblehead and also feature that on the video board for a shuffle game? Have you seen this?

We can shuffle other things as well. Recently, for the New Orleans Babycakes, we shuffled King Cakes behind their logo.

Speaking of races, we have something for that too. Design a Derby with your most beloved players/coaches, or even fans to get the crowd going wild. One of our all time favorites is this one we did for North Texas a few years ago. It featured the football coach at the time, and he even provided audio clips for us to use. We also had the play-by-play announcer, who just so happens to be a prominent sports radio guy in Dallas, provide some voice overs as well.  

 Okay, so what if you want to get people up and dancing? Who wouldn't want to dance after seeing something like this?

There's plenty more where that came from. Give us a shout if you have the next crazy "cam" idea or obscure object you want to see racing on your screen. Let's make it happen.

Everyone seems to be talking about Snapchat as the hot new social media platform. Actually, it really isn’t that new. Snapchat first made an appearance in 2011. Let’s put some perspective around that. Remember the hit song “Friday” by Rebecca Black? What about the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton? The final installment of Harry Potter was released. Yeah, Snapchat has been out that long! 

The platform has made some major strides the past year that have contributed to its growth. Here’s what you need to know about how Snapchat is growing up. 

1. Millennials and Gen Z have gotten on board.

If you want to connect with younger generations, Snapchat is where it’s at. The platform is basically a glorified emoji creator, so it really resonates with consumers who have embraced the emoji trend.

 

Millennials and Gen Z use the platform to communicate with their friends in fun creative photos. If your brand wants to reach users via Snapchat, keep that in mind. Snapchatters want to be entertained, not sold to. If you decide to add Snapchat to your marketing mix, do it with content that leans into the fun, quirky aspect of the platform.

2. It’s not permanent.

Snapchat deletes all content after a 24 hour period. With social media being so prominent, a lot of users try to keep their channels clean and concise. The fact that Snapchat does the work for them has contributed to the platform’s popularity.

As a marketer this can be confusing. How do you maintain a channel that doesn’t have content on it? They key with Snapchat is maintaining a consistent presence and voice. NASCAR is a brand that currently does this well. They have a staff member who controls their Snapchat and is constantly adding new content.

3. Geofilters.

Snapchat users love a fun, interactive geofilter because it’s a way of being in the moment in a particular location.

As a marketer you can log into the backend of Snapchat and draw a geofence around the area you want the geofilter to be placed. This gives marketers full control of the area in which the filter will be seen. You have to pay for geofilters, but they’re relatively inexpensive. Snapchat has adjusted its pricing to offer an annual plan that allows you to maintain a geofenced area and swap out your creative filter as often as you like.

4. Snapmap

If you have been hiding under a rock the past couple of weeks you might have missed Snapchats biggest update, the Snap Map. This new feature allows users to share their location on an interactive map.

Think of it as a way for users to find their friends and join in on their activities. Well, that is how Snapchat is selling it. With the initial launch there has been a lot of fear in “strangers” finding users. This is is not 100% verified because the map will only show your friends. So a random user will not be able to find you.

As a marketer this new feature doesn’t lend itself to you. There is no advertising you can do in this and we don’t see that happening anytime soon. What you as a marketer can do with this feature is see what hot events are happening around you. If you want to do some event marketing and be where a lot of users are, check the map and see the live hot spots. If a sporting event is happening you will see a red spot on the map, and if you click on that red spot you will start seeing snapstories. Don’t worry it doesn’t share Snapchat usernames, just the content you are sharing. This is your time to send staff to these locations to do some guerilla marketing.

Overall the platform is still focusing on the user and not marketers. That could change in the near future because Snapchat is now open to investors and with dropping numbers the platform will need to start pulling in more dollars. For now, enjoy the platform and don’t stress about being perfect with it.

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