Growing up in Texas, snow days were rare. Even just a little ice or a little snow typically resulted in everything shutting down. My friends and I would spend the day running, sliding, and eventually falling on the ice. It may have only happened once or twice in my entire childhood, which made it all the more memorable.  

This last week it snowed in South Central Texas. Since I was in Oklahoma (where it did not snow), I received many photos, calls, and texts about the “crazy snow” that was happening in and around Austin: my nephews playing in it and building a snowman; my mom having to get a kitchen spatula to clean off her car windows to go to work; my friends telling me how hard it was to drive through all that snow.   

From what I can tell, there wasn’t more than an inch. Making a snowman was way more work than it should be since snow had to be gathered from four different yards.  Windshield wipers probably would have cleaned off the windows just fine, but that doesn’t matter to any of the people who experienced this event. The “blizzard of 2017” will be marked forever in their memories. I know my brother will be telling stories to his son about how much he hated snow the first time he was in it, that time it snowed in south Texas. Even a quick look at my “trends for you” section on Twitter shows what a big deal that little bit of snow was to the people watching it happen.

Why is this relevant to us as marketers? Events like these are rare, and while they may seem minuscule to some, the people who experience them will keep those memories for the rest of their lives. There’s a natural opportunity for you to connect with people in these moments and to become part of an indelible memory.

Whether the event that happens is a game, a freak weather event, or even just a spur of the moment gathering of people, there will be opportunities that you and your team can capitalize on. Here are a few things to think about if you ever find yourself experiencing a “snow in south Texas” type event.

1. Capture the moment. It seems obvious, but make sure you record it. Document the event as much as you can. Whether it’s snapping a few photos of the snow to use for holiday materials next year or making sure you capture the stories of people who experienced it, capture the moment and look for opportunities to share it again later on down the road.

2. Be timely. Timing can be everything. Just look at the impact Oreo made during the Super Bowl Blackout a few years ago. When unique moments happen, your ability to respond quickly can make or break your ability to connect with people. If you aren’t ready as the event is happening, don’t try to force it. Jumping on the bandwagon too late makes you seem less relevant .

3. Be genuine. This is a phrase that gets repeated in marketing conversations quite often, but with something like this you have to be genuine. A large part of that comes with being true to your brand. If the event does not fit or fall in line with who you are as a brand, let it pass. It is better to sit on the sidelines and watch things unfold than to put something out there simply because you felt it was required. 

4. Tie your brand to the event. During the recent snow, a lot of the Twitter activity I saw related to snow at Kyle Field. Opportunities for photos of an Aggie helmet covered in snow on the 50 yard line are few and far between, but by capturing the moment in that manner, fans will forever remember the time it snowed during Aggie football season. 

5. Embrace the moment. Often this type of event is unexpected and brings out a little bit of craziness. Embrace it. This is not something that is going to happen often and it might not ever happen again. As long as you’re reacting in a way that’s consistent with your brand, don’t be afraid to do something different to take advantage of a unique opportunity. 

Winning streaks. How do they always seem to come around when needed the most? A game in which every call goes your way and every ball on the line is fair instead of foul. A miraculous postseason run. A championship.

When you’re feeling the high that comes with a winning streak, you’ll do almost anything to keep it going. And if you think you’re superstitious, imagine how players react to a winning streak. When somebody on the team has a “hot hand,” they'll eat the same meals, wear the same socks, follow the same routine for as long as they can to keep that streak alive. As soon as it's snapped, they'll never touch those socks again.

But what if I told you the "hot hand" was just a myth?

Apparently, winning a few games in a row doesn’t affect future wins like we think it does. According to Dr. John Eliot, Clinical Associate Professor at Texas A&M, winning streaks don’t define momentum. The factors that truly determine success are elements of a team’s culture. Things like trust between teammates, having a higher rate of physical interaction (high fives, pats on the back), and high levels of confidence in yourself and your teammates are what really make a difference in how well a team performs.

But wait a minute, you’re thinking, don’t those things naturally happen more if a team is winning? For many teams, they do – but teams without a strong cultural foundation will lose their momentum and go back to their old ways as soon as the going gets tough again.

Sustainable winning patterns emerge from teammates who are more invested in each other than individually invested in winning. Almost sounds counterintuitive doesn't it?

Think of it this way. Did you ever have a coach or teacher who pretty much scared you into performing your best? You were motivated by the fear of disappointing Coach or losing your place in the line-up if you weren't producing. That's not the best way to reach the full potential of the team. When players know their spot is at risk, they play with less confidence and are less likely to support each other. It's tough to win a championship when players are focused on competing amongst themselves rather than on competing against another team.

On the other hand, have you ever noticed that the teams that are winning are the ones that look like they’re having the most fun? Some might say they are having fun because they are winning, but based on these recent findings, I'd bet they are winning because they are having fun. They are soaking up every moment, genuinely happy to see their teammates succeed, and everything else just falls into place from there. Every championship speech from the Coach includes how "great the team fit together...like family" and "how much fun" they had that year. Doesn't sound like a coincidence to me...

This mentality should apply to other areas as well. Work. Family. All of it.

According to Dr. Eliot, when you don’t have that same type of strong cultural foundation in your workplace, you’re going to be at a competitive disadvantage. Having the right type of environment isn’t just about what the leaders in an organization do. Like a good coach, the senior people in the organization set the tone but it’s up to the entire team to work together to build momentum. It’s about peer-to-peer support, strong relationships, and genuinely caring about the people you work with. In our office, we have a philosophy of not letting your teammates fail. We are here for each other. We work together, within and between our positions, to find the best possible solutions for our clients, and no doubt, we have fun while doing it.

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.

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