In the summer of 2004, I took my first trip to Chapel Hill, NC. I had just started Old Hat and Rick Hart, then on staff at Oklahoma Athletics but now the AD at SMU did me the favor of calling UNC on my behalf to see if they might have some work for me. Fortunately, they did and we’ve been working with UNC ever since. I made my way out there to discuss the details of what we’d be doing for the Tar Heels and afterward, I went over to the nearest apparel shop to grab a souvenir or two. I picked up a navy blue Nike hoodie that had the word “CAROLINA” embroidered across the front of it and more than a dozen years later I’m still wearing that thing as often as I get the chance.
On a recent trip to Charleston, SC, I happened to be wearing that very sweatshirt as I made my way to get my wife some yogurt from the market down the street from our hotel room. A fella was walking my direction and as we got closer he pointed at me and said in a louder-than-expected voice, “Go Heels!” I’ll be honest. I was a bit startled and it took me a minute to figure out what he said and why he said it to me. I had to remind myself that I was wearing an UNC sweatshirt. Fortunately, I was able to gather my thoughts quickly enough to offer a stuttered, “Yeah! Go Heels!” back at him before my confusion became too obvious. This exchange served as a good precursor to the one I had no more than 2 minutes later when I was actually at the market and another man gave me a hearty, “Go Heels!” when he saw me. I was more prepared this time and was quicker with my response. I walked out of the market fired up ready to shout my support for UNC at the next passer-by but unfortunately, I didn’t pass any more Heels fans between there and the hotel room.
Working in collegiate athletics for as long as I have and with as many different universities as I have, my wardrobe is full of team apparel that has been given to me over the years. It is not unusual for me to be wearing an SMU sweatshirt and Kennesaw State hat one day only to be followed up by a Texas A&M t-shirt and Michigan basketball shorts the next. There have been more than a few times that someone has approached me in a public place and commented about how great “that game” was last night, referencing some sporting event featuring the team I am representing with my wardrobe. Problem is, I rarely recall what I happen to be wearing that day so I have to look down at my shirt or take my hat off to remind myself who they think I’m a fan of. Then, I either express my agreement with their statement or have to admit that I missed that particular event.
Believe it or not, though, the point of this is not to talk about my wardrobe or my interactions at the local grocery store. It’s to talk about the bonds we form as fans. Hunter S. Thompson’s quote references football fans specifically but the idea applies to any fan of sport. We share a universal language that cuts across many cultures and many personality types. We are never alone. We are a legion and sports is often the only thing we have in common.
When was the last time you were wearing your favorite Aerosmith t-shirt and some stranger yelled, “Sweet Emotion!” at you? Or the last time you were wearing that old Incredible Hulk t-shirt and passed a guy that gave you a hearty, “RAAARRRRRRR!!!!!” No, sports fans are in a justice league of their own. And for some reason, though startling, we don’t question it when a random person yells, “Go X!” at us in the restroom at the bar just across from Xavier University’s campus.
Sports creates a bond between people who would otherwise be complete strangers and gives them something to share in common. I recently met a fella on an airplane and we spent the entire flight talking about sports. We didn’t even share the same team in common though. Our bond was formed over the fact that I’m a Sooner fan, Barry Switzer used to coach at OU, Barry Switzer played at Arkansas and that guy on the plane is an Arkansas fan. We connected over a former coach of my team that is a former player from his team. Sports fans are just searching for something to connect over!
The camaraderie that is felt between sports fans is obvious. I’m not uncovering any brilliant revelation here. But I did want to see how many sports fans recognize it themselves. In our fan survey, we asked how many of the participants felt a sense of camaraderie with people at sporting events. We further clarified the question by adding that they should not include people they were attending with. In other words, to what extent do you feel connected with all of the people at those events that you don’t even know. 75% of them said that they feel “a lot” and/or “a great deal” of connection with all those strangers with whom, beyond wearing the same color and cheering for the same team, they have no known commonalities.
Isn’t that kinda nuts? 75% of sports fans feel a connection with people they don’t even know, if for no other reason than that those people are cheering for the same group of people on the field wearing red to score more points than the other group of people on the field wearing blue!
Like I said, the connection between sports fans isn’t breaking news. Every sports fan has experienced it. What you may not have realized, however, is the positive effect sports fans can have on an athletics program. The ever-important home field advantage is because of fans. The scholarships student-athletes receive through the athletic scholarship funds wouldn’t exist without the fans. A department's primary source of revenue (ticket sales) would obviously disappear without fans. Apparel sales, sponsorship dollars, local economy boosts, etc... All because of fans. 80% of those polled think that fans can either “probably” or “definitely” affect the outcome of the game. There’s no doubt in my mind that fans affect outcomes and could do so even more if we focused more on developing relationships with fans.
If you take one thing away from this article, let it be this: Sports does not happen without every member of the team working toward achieving success. It does not happen without the athletes. It does not happen without the coaches. And it sure as hell doesn’t happen without the fans. If you are a sports fan, take pride in what you give to the game. If you are an athlete, thank the fans for wanting to watch you play. If you are a coach, try to tune out the criticism of those people that think you should have gone for it on 4th-and-27 from your own 12-yard-line instead of punting and relish the opportunity you have to affect the lives of young people through your job. All thanks to these crazy fans.
Simon Whitaker. What can we say about the guy? Amazing attitude. Great sense of humor. Easy going dude. Associate AD for Sports Information/Game Operations at Presbyterian College. We love working with Simon. We've partnered with Simon and Presby (as it's affectionately referred to at OH HQ) since 2013. We're big fans of the Blue Hose and love how this small school in Clinton, S.C. is such a close community.
Simon had some buyer's remorse after sending us his answers: "As I am sitting here in the office about to watch "The Goonies" on AMC, I feel the need to change one of my answers. My favorite movie would have to be "The Goonies." If you can't change it, my other choice is still solid. OK, last time I'm going to second-guess my answers though, I should be second-guessing the pictures I sent."
I have so many questions after that exchange, but I guess the main one would be "why are you watching The Goonies at the office, Simon??" We'll have to wait for a response to that one. In the meantime, here's 20 answers to 20 Questions.
1. NAME: Simon Whitaker
2. OCCUPATION/TITLE: Presbyterian College Associate AD for Sports Information/Game Operations (and Video Services and a little Marketing and Promotions)
3. HOMETOWN: Charleston, S.C.
4. PREGAME RITUAL: Before football games, the first song I play at the stadium is “Beautiful Day” by U2. I typically play it before anyone is there and usually as the sun is rising.
5. FAVORITE THING TO SNACK: I keep a desk drawer full of Quaker Chewy Granola Bars (chocolate chip and peanut butter chocolate chip, otherwise anything with sugar.
6. FAVORITE THING ABOUT YOUR JOB: The challenge of figuring out how to do something that we haven’t done before, especially since we don’t always have the resources to do it.
7. LEAST FAVORITE THING ABOUT YOUR JOB: The challenge of figuring out how to do something that we haven’t done before, especially since we don’t always have the resources to do it.
8. HIDDEN TALENTS/HOBBIES: Most people I work with, and even several friends, don’t know that I hunt. I actually bagged a nice-sized doe this past December, and I have deer antlers from a hunt in 2010, hanging on my office wall. It surprises people, though I think that is more of a surprise that I am handy with firearms.
9. ADVICE TO YOUR YOUNGER SELF: Don’t take the red pill. Seriously though, don’t over-analyze and don’t be afraid to make necessary changes.
10. YOUR GO-TO KARAOKE SONG: “Your Love” by Outfield
11. FAVORITE MOVIE: “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly”
12. FAVORITE TV SHOW: The Office
13. IF YOU WERE IN A BOY BAND WHAT WOULD IT BE CALLED: Uncoordinated Rattle & Hum
14. FAVORITE PLACE TO EAT: Kickin’ Chicken in Charleston, S.C.
15. WHAT DO YOU ORDER THERE: Chicken Fingers, small, with honey mustard and fries.
16. FAVORITE DISNEY PRINCESS: Ariel. Up on the shore they work all day, Out in the sun they slave away, While we devotin', Full time to floatin', Under the sea.
17. WHAT’S YOUR SPIRIT ANIMAL: According to three on-line quizzes I completed it is either a snake or a coyote or a wolf.
18. WHAT’S THE STUPIDEST THING YOU’VE EVER DONE: I left a $300 Columbus Blue Jackets hockey jersey in a closet hotel in Columbus, Ohio. By the time I realized it the jersey was no longer there. Stupid for someone who travels a lot and ALWAYS checks the closet before they leave.
19. WHAT’S THE LAST SHOW THAT YOU BINGE-WATCHED: House of Cards
20. IF YOU WEREN’T DOING THIS JOB WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING: Secret Service or working for a politician
Think about the question above for a minute or two. When a fan arrives on campus or enters your arena, what is the first thing they hear? Is there a specific script or instructions for your staff? Do you rely only on the friendliness of the staff to welcome fans or have you also set up your facilities in a manner that is inviting?
The venues we visit always seem to be friendly, welcoming, and buzzing with excitement. Usually you feel the power and sense of community within a few minutes of being there. These elements help paint the picture of how truly unique your school is when compared to others.
Now, let’s think about the first thing fans hear or see on your website. Did you put as much thought into that greeting? Did you even think about that as a way to greet and excite your fans? The contrast between a website’s greeting and a greeting at a venue can be startling. And yet, the website for your venue or team is most likely the number one way fans interact with your brand.
You can no longer think of your website as just another billboard, brochure, or piece of marketing collateral. Your website is your biggest venue. It has the most information and will see the most interaction of any touch point. With that in mind, what is the greeting fans are receiving on the website? Are you yelling at them about all of your ticket offerings? Has the development team forced you to put five donate buttons on the home page?
When deciding what will be the focus of your home page, think back to the greeting your staff gives people at your venue or even on the phone. Most likely they do not open the conversation by running through every ticket option you have to offer.
Traffic on a website is diverse. Not everyone is coming to the website because they are ready to buy season tickets or put their name on a building. Some are coming just to figure out what options are available or to see what the school is doing. Your website has to be a resource for all different types of visitors. When a fan comes into your venue or calls about tickets, most likely your staff takes the time to figure out what they are looking for and tries to educate them on what is available that could suit their needs. A website is no different, you have to position yourself as that reliable resource. Once a fan views you as a resource, it is much easier for them to decide to buy season tickets or make that financial commitment to your program.
Look at your site. How are you greeting the visitors who show up at your virtual venue? If it doesn’t match how you greet visitors in person or on the phone, it is time to rethink your approach.
See that image up there? That's the header image for ZacLogsdon.com. What is ZacLogsdon.com all about? I'm glad you asked.
I'm Writing a Book
Not sure if you've heard, but I'm writing a book. And it's going to be amazing. See, what I've discovered in my nearly two decades of working in athletics is that sports is really, really important to people. And I believe that sports has a more positive impact on humanity than any other form of entertainment. The effects of what sports can do in the life of an athlete, a coach and even a fan are unbelievable and I thought it would be great to tell that story.
So, I set out to interview as many athletics directors and senior staff members from universities all over the country to get stories from them that back this theory. What I found was that I initally had no idea how important sports is. After interviewing more than 60 top athletics administrators, including the likes of Joe Castiglione, Barry Alvarez and Tom Osborne, I realized just how huge the impact of sports can be.
The book is in progress and I hope to have it released sometime in Summer, 2017. And I needed a place to promote that book. So I decided to do that on a website with the author's name as the URL. And that's me. Zac Logsdon.
Brad Sutton, Southern Methodist University Senior Associate A.D./External Affairs, is a man of big ideas and few words. He tells us what he needs, we execute the plan, and he says "looks good." It's a partnership that works well for an incredibly busy guy like Brad. He was one of our go-to guys with SMU's Sports 180 initiative nearly a year ago as well as the guy behind the massive Football Environmental Graphics undertaking. It was a beast of a project!
Do you know the #1 need on projects like that? Protein. We know that Brad has really gotten into working out and only eating protein. As in his pre-game meals will only consist of meat. He's a steak-loving guy after our own hearts...which are also chock-full of steak. Brad, we hope you get to load up often during the Mustangs march through the NCAA Tournament these next few weeks. It's time to Pony Up! It's 20 Questions with Brad Sutton.
It is always interesting to learn how other brands are delivering content. At Old Hat, we get to work with many brands and each one is unique. Each organization knows their fanbase and has ideas on how to get that emotional reaction from them.
I was also able to attend a few different sessions at the conference. One I found particularly interesting was about personalizing the web experience. NBA teams are doing some innovative things with geographically based content. The speaker was from the Trailblazers and he went through their process of serving different ads and content based on the zip code where the user is located. This allows them to not waste fans’ time. If a user on the site is from North Carolina, the chances they will be able to purchase season tickets is very slim. With the website, the Trailblazers are able to serve up content that might be more relevant to a fan in North Carolina while simultaneously serving up different content to fans who live closer to the team. Each fan is seeing the content they prefer, which makes it considerably more likely that the website will become a part of their regular habits. This is a great example of efficient use of a website and how to effectively develop a digital community.
Another session I attended was about Atlanta United, a new team in Major League Soccer. They are in a unique position since they are a completely new team in a city that did not previously have a soccer club. They have been able to create unique content as they have started the team, created their kits, and added players to the roster.
With the conference being located in downtown Atlanta, we were also able to tour the College Football Hall of Fame. It was a cool venue and had some interesting technology. Upon entering, you are given a badge with a RFID chip inside. This identifies your name and favorite team at all of the exhibits. Digital exhibits change to display your favorite team’s content. It creates a unique experience for each visitor and allows all schools to be represented in some way.
We all remember that iconic scene from She's All That - only one of the best Freddie Prinze Jr rom-coms of 1999. Okay, so maybe only if you were a teenage girl around that time.
The New York Knicks went the "be silent, be still" route recently by executing pre-game festivities and the first half of the game WITHOUT any background music or entertainment. Prior to the game, they posted a message on their video board: The first half of today's game will be presented without music, video, or in-game entertainment so you can experience the game in its purest form. Enjoy the sounds of the game.
So what did that mean?
Player intros were done with lights on and no background music
No team intro/hype video
No clap-along music beats during possessions
No filler music or video board segments during timeouts
No video board sponsor animations/promotions (NO KISS CAM??) (Or this awesome mom??)
As expected, there were many opinions and viewpoints on this little experiment.
Old School Fans - appreciated experiencing the sport in its purest form. #Classic, if you will. Fans could focus on the intricacies and strategies of the game without distraction. These are the fans who think the game is enough and the music is too loud. However, these basketball purists probably are not the demographic the NBA is hoping to target. The Knicks aren't trying to convince these fans to come to the game. They're going after those casual fans, who might be perfectly content watching the game at home on their big tv. The fans that have a lot of other options for entertainment in the greatest city in the world.
Players - You would think the players would also appreciate the game without "distractions," but players from both teams shared their concerns and said it was weird and different than normal. It was Golden State's Draymond Green, who said, "That was pathetic. It was ridiculous. It changed the flow of the game. It changed everything. You get used to playing a certain way. It completely changed it. To me, I think it was completely disrespectful to everyone from [NBA senior VP of entertainment and player marketing] Michael Levine to [Warriors president and COO] Rick Welts and all these people who've done these things to change the game from an entertainment perspective."
Who knew what happens off the court has so much impact on the court? Personally, as a competitive gymnast, I learned to block out the noise while I was up there balancing on that beam. Sure, people were cheering for me, or more likely the three other gymnasts simultaneously competing on the vault, bars, and floor complete with loud floor music, but I didn't hear any of that.
Team Employees - You would assume those responsible for in-game production were thinking how nice the first half was having nothing to worry about. However, the Knicks organization, like the first half in Madison Square Garden, have been silent on the matter.
Here's a video of one of the timeouts during the game. It is eerily silent.
MSG is going old school and playing no music, video or in-game entertainment for the first half. This is what it sounds and looks like: pic.twitter.com/PxYJp1CpIt
Since starting these 20 Questions posts we've had some quality go-to karaoke song answers, but we believe that Abilene Christian University's Dave Kinard would really put on quite a show. Seriously, who picks David Allen Coe's "You Never Even Call Me By My Name"? A seasoned karaoke man, that's who. It's all about crowd involvement, folks.
Do we primarily work with seasoned karaoke-rers? No. Maybe? Well, I know we really enjoy working with them! And that's likely one of the reasons why we work so well with Dave! Also, he has an incredibly adorable baby. So, karaoke and cute babies. Those are the secret Old Hat ingredients.
Old Hat has a partnered with ACU since 2013 and with Dave the last two years. Hannah says Dave brings a lot of energy to each new project and if you know Hannah that's really saying something.
Below is one of our latest projects with the fine people at ACU.
It's only a four-hour drive to Abilene and they've got that 72oz steak challenge at The Big Texan. We'll see you soon, Dave!
1. NAME: Dave Kinard
2. OCCUPATION/TITLE: Senior Associate Director of Athletics
3. HOMETOWN: Tulare, CA
4. PREGAME RITUAL: It’s a long day, so I start it off with some hype songs in the truck on the way with a Dr. Pepper or Mountain Dew in hand.
5. FAVORITE THING TO SNACK: See previous answer…
6. FAVORITE THING ABOUT YOUR JOB: It’s fun! We get paid to go to games people pay to go to. More importantly, we get to have an impact on the people and students around us while we do it.
7. LEAST FAVORITE THING ABOUT YOUR JOB: Meetings about solving an issue that shouldn’t have happened in the first place.
8. HIDDEN TALENTS/HOBBIES: My wife and I love live music and always are up for anything from a concert or listening to a guitar player around a campfire. I have also been called a “human jukebox,” being able to name an artist and know lyrics to just about anything on the radio.
9. ADVICE TO YOUR YOUNGER SELF: Enjoy the process and invest yourself in the people, not the results.
10. YOUR GO-TO KARAOKE SONG: Have to get crowd involvement so I go with “Livin’ on a Prayer” by Bon Jovi, or from my Kentucky days “You Never Even Called Me By My Name” by David Allen Coe.
11. FAVORITE MOVIE: This is hard, don’t know if I can just pick one… Top Gun, Airplane, Old School… pretty much anything you can hear me quoting from throughout the day.
12. FAVORITE TV SHOW: If I can’t say Sports Center, I will go with Fixer Upper.
13. IF YOU WERE IN A BOY BAND WHAT WOULD IT BE CALLED: Why are you laughing at us?
14. FAVORITE PLACE TO EAT: Firestone Grill, San Luis Obispo, CA
15. WHAT DO YOU ORDER THERE: Tri-tip Steak Sandwich with fries
16. FAVORITE DISNEY PRINCESS: Have to go with the original, Snow White.
17. WHAT’S YOUR SPIRIT ANIMAL: My nickname in little league was Gorilla, so there is probably some truth to that. Big and bad on the outside, but a kid at heart on the inside.
18. WHAT’S THE STUPIDEST THING YOU’VE EVER DONE: I found out that my zipper was unzipped during a job interview (wardrobe malfunction). Needless to say, I didn’t get that job. Checking for any malfunctions has since been part of my routine prior to any interview.
19. WHAT’S THE LAST SHOW THAT YOU BINGE-WATCHED: How I Met Your Mother
20. IF YOU WEREN’T DOING THIS JOB WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING: Many would probably say Pediatrician, since it was my 4th grade dream, but I think I would be best as an A&R Director for a music label.
For more than 13 years, Old Hat has been an industry leader in design for athletics organizations. There is no firm in the country over that same period of time that has worked with more athletic programs and produced more creative for sports organizations than Old Hat. The majority of what we've done, however, has been small format projects. We've done thousands of posters and schedule cards, websites and tv spots. And while the hundreds of intro videos we've produced play in very large formats, our focus has always been on the attendance and game experience aspect of athletics. Pure and simple, Old Hat helps universities and professional sports organizations fill their seats and improve the fan experience once they're in those seats.
But along the way, we've been called upon to put our design skills to use on large format offerings. A wall wrap here, a pole banner there. And over the course of time, we ended up producing hundreds of environmental graphics pieces for our clients. Mall banners for Michigan Basketball. A building wrap for the Oklahoma City Thunder. Window clings for the University of Utah. We designed it and sent it off for production and installation.
Then one day, I got a call from SMU. They had received estimates from a number of vendors to redo all of the environmental graphics for their football offices. The costs were astronomical. So they came to us and asked us to handle all of the design, production, and installation of the entire project. They did that because there is an established level of trust. They knew that Old Hat would do top-notch design and that we would seek out the most cost-effective ways to print and install it. And that's exactly what we did. Three floors of wall wraps, 3-dimensional lettering, a digital wall display, a back-lit SMU logo, fabric wraps and more.
Because of the success of that project and because the environmental graphics business is growing and growing... and growing, we decided to launch a new company with its own mission, separate from Old Hat. We didn't want environmental projects to be just one more thing that Old Hat does.
Powerhouse's mission: To help athletic organizations build their powerhouses.
To build a powerhouse athletic program, one key element is attracting the talent necessary to win championships. And these days, doing that means having first-class facilities that are covered floor-to-ceiling with your organization's brand.
That's exactly what Powerhouse does.
Using our nearly two decades of experience in athletics design, our production facility, and our nationwide network of professional installers, Powerhouse has the ability to deliver the absolute best in creative without breaking the bank on production and installation. And you can count on the same level of customer service you've grown to expect out of us. Because even though Powerhouse is its own company with its own staff and mission, it's still an Old Hat company, and therefore, you can expect us to always be on time, always be available, and always be on target.