Old Hat and the University of Utah Athletics Marketing Department go way back. We're talking almost eight years. It's a special relationship that has grown from designing Football and Basketball tickets to having an On-Campus Designer and creating court projection videos. Grant Robertson, Associate Director of Athletics Marketing, has been the force behind some of the Utes coolest marketing projects, including the Men's Basketball Projection video the last couple of years.
Grant had some issues answering the Spirit Animal question so Hannah and I took a quiz for him. Turns out, Grant's Spirit Animal is The Bear which apparently is emblematic of grounding forces and strength. Do what you will with that information, Grant. Actually, if we're talking Stock Market (see answers to Q.8 and Q.20) we recommend you sell, sell, sell!
1. NAME: Grant Robertson
2. OCCUPATION/TITLE: Associate Director of Athletics Marketing
3. HOMETOWN: Bartlett, IL
4. PREGAME RITUAL: I wouldn’t say I have a ritual as every game/meet/event is unique in its own perspective. More or less, I try to walk our staff through every game day element and promotion we touch. Otherwise, I love gum! It helps me stay talking for an extended period of time.
5. FAVORITE THING TO SNACK: Besides gum, probably nothing. I don’t snack often.
6. FAVORITE THING ABOUT YOUR JOB: The Process! I love the grind of the week and all the little details that get you to the end product, i.e. the game production. Furthermore, when you work in a team environment, the process becomes more enjoyable and you get to share the successes with your team. No better feeling!
7. LEAST FAVORITE THING ABOUT YOUR JOB: Probably the 10-15 emails you get each week from “perceived” fans around the country asking for a schedule card or poster. Most of the time these fans send mass emails to every Athletics Department in the continental US. I don’t mind it at first, but once you’re 6 months in and have sent hundreds, it's not as fun.
8. HIDDEN TALENTS/HOBBIES: Talents - None that I can think of that set me apart from the 99%. Hobbies – Basketball, Snowboarding, Buying & Selling Stocks, Reading.
9. ADVICE TO YOUR YOUNGER SELF: Work hard at every little detail. People do notice, it takes time but your efforts will eventually be rewarded. Also, live in the moment! There’s a reason George Shaw quoted “Youth is wasted on the Young”.
10. YOUR GO-TO KARAOKE SONG: Hotel California
11. FAVORITE MOVIE: Jurassic World
12. FAVORITE TV SHOW: This is tough, it changes every year. I don’t watch a lot of TV but I would say all time favorite is Archer.
13. IF YOU WERE IN A BOY BAND WHAT WOULD IT BE CALLED: I wouldn’t be in a boy band, I literarily have zero musical talent.
14. FAVORITE PLACE TO EAT: Depends on where I am in the country. I live in Park City, Utah so I would say High West Distillery & Saloon
15. WHAT DO YOU ORDER THERE: An Old Fashioned & Salmon.
16. FAVORITE DISNEY PRINCESS: Elsa. Primarily because I have 3 nieces who love her and want to be her when they grow up. Easy choice.
17. WHAT’S YOUR SPIRIT ANIMAL: I’ll be honest, I have no idea what a Spirit Animal is or what it does. I am not the most spiritual guy, so I may have to plead the fifth on this.
18. WHAT’S THE STUPIDEST THING YOU’VE EVER DONE: Drive to St. Louis at 3 am when I was in undergrad with 3 buddies at SIUC. There wasn’t a clear reason to why we did this, but it was an eventful trip, to say the least. I believe spontaneity will drive you to do and try things you never thought were possible. It also humbles you.
19. WHAT’S THE LAST SHOW THAT YOU BINGE-WATCHED: My fiancé binged watched “Elementary.” I was in the room so I guess that counts.
20. IF YOU WEREN’T DOING THIS JOB WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING: Stock Broker. I love analytics and the stock market fascinates me.
Yes, today’s the day. You know, the day you were supposed to do that special thing for that special someone, but it’s very likely you forgot. So instead you’ll go buy a card, a gift or a flower (or maybe lots of flowers) after work and pretend that was the plan all along. It’s okay, we’ve all been there. I’m not here to shame you.
For me, Valentine’s Day has never been a very big deal. Maybe it should be, maybe I’m just not a romantic, or maybe I like to use the excuse that I love my wife as much every day, so Valentine’s Day shouldn’t be any different (that's a copout, I know). And as much as I'd like to express my undying love in the form of a dying bouquet of flowers, my wife agrees that buying her roses is a waste of money.
Being that I work in the sports industry, and because of my cynical attitude toward Valentine's Day, I thought it would behoove me to find some positive collaborations between sports and love. And what better example is there than sports marriage proposals!? There's not one, I looked. After a comprehensive scouring of the internet, I was able to narrow down the top sports marriage proposals, either at a sporting event or by athletes themselves. I've picked the top five, although they're all winners in my book (it's a short book with lots of pictures).
But other than the clearly significant act of celebrating one's love by asking for a significant-other's hand in marriage while being surrounded by fanatic fans, bratwursts and beers, there's also a marketing element that comes into play with each of these marriage proposals. It's an opportunity that every sports team should be taking advantage of because every team has at least a few fans each year that would probably be willing to use a gameday experience to help pressure their significant-other into saying "Yes, I do". And that's the entire point of this blog.
I'll run down the short list of my top favorite marriage proposals, but I also want to point out why they're significant from a sports marketing point of view. Sure, people are making life-altering decisions, but what can you do as a sports marketer to capitalize on it? I mean, isn't that the very essence of Valentine's Day? Yes. Yes it is.
The first proposal comes from the San Francisco 49ers Levi's Stadium, which was the very first proposal at the new stadium- before the stadium was even completed. As far as stadium proposals go, this one was unique in that sense.
Marketing takeaway: Events like this are great PR, especially for something as impactful as a new stadium. It's not only showcasing more behind-the-scenes construction updates with photos, but the chances are your story will reach demographics beyond your typical fanbase. People everywhere are seeing how the 49ers created a special occasion for two of their biggest fans, and that connection leaves a strawberry-goodness taste in everyone's mouth.
Here's another proposal that likely ended with a "yes", but it's a good example of making your sponsors part of the event.
Marketing takeaway: Sponsors love to see their names associated with positive events. Find ways to make their sponsorship meaningful. In this example, you not only have everyone at the Heat game seeing the logo, but also everyone following on social media. It's a great promotion that couldn't be more fitting with this particular sponsor.
Similar to the proposal above, except this one involved one of the Bulls dancers. It was a nice, positive half-time event that gave fans a glimpse into the personal lives of the Bulls organization.
Marketing takeaway: Let your fans experience moments with people from your organization. Fans love their teams, but they really like to feel they're a part of the team. No better way to do that than to get them involved in something like a marriage proposal for one of your own.
A little back story on this one, the guy is (or was in 2013) an assistant soccer coach at Fresno Pacific University. He set up the proposal plan with the women's soccer coach, as his then girlfriend was a senior on the women's soccer team. The acting wasn't great and the guy seemed to drag this one out a little too long, but kuddos for pulling this stunt off.
Marketing takeaway: In 2013 when this happened, the marketing buzz word was "viral". And this one had "viral" written all over it. With over 3 million views, I'd say it was a success. It shows how the power of the unexpected can spread like wildfire, and this video leaves a positive impression for most of the world that's never heard of FPU.
I'm not gonna lie, this one stings a little. But only because seconds before this proposal (which seemed to be on the top of everyone's sports proposals list), the Broncos had just beat my Sooners. It was an incredible game for anyone but a Sooners fan, and Ian Johnson ended it the right way. If he was uncertain that his cheerleader girlfriend might say yes to his proposal, there was no better time to ask her than right after he scored the game-winning 2-pt conversion. I just have to think for them as a couple, that was the highlight of their relationship together. Gonna be hard to top that during their lifetime together.
Marketing takeaway: This is what you call a freebee. You're riding the gravy train with buttered biscuit wheels. You did absolutely nothing to deserve such a fortuitous situation, but you will surely benefit from it as an organization. Live it up while you can.
So after digging into all this and providing some takeaways, I might not be quite as cynical as I had thought. Or maybe I'm slightly more convinced now that love and sports can work together in a meaningful way! I feel like the Grinch whose heart grew three sizes today!! Thank you, Valentine's Day!
When somebody visits your website, you have to grab their attention right away if you want them to stick around and consume the content you are offering.
In the past, we have always told our clients they have between 30 and 60 seconds to get a site visitor’s attention. If you don’t give somebody a reason to stay before that first minute is up, they’re gone (and they probably aren’t coming back).
That’s a short period of time in which to win somebody over. But guess what? It’s about to get even shorter.
Recent reports indicate that Millennials only have an eight-second attention span. Eight seconds? Really? How does one go through life with only an eight-second attention span?
I am usually classified as a Millennial. I may be at the very top of the age range, but I am a Millennial by most accounts. It has taken me more than eight seconds to write this much, so I am confident in saying my attention span is at least double that of the average Millennial! YES!!!
Jokes and time keeping aside, how do you capture somebody’s attention in such a brief amount of time? For that matter, how do you keep their attention through an entire game?
The NBA is thinking about cutting back the number of timeouts to shorten game length and keep the attention of those eight-second Millennials. If even the NBA struggles keep somebody’s attention, how can you possibly succeed? It is a challenge, but one that can be accomplished.
First, you have to know your audience. The NBA meticulously studies their fans and their games. That helped them identify the issue of attention-loss and provided insights on how to make adjustments that will keep people more engaged.
Data is key, and when it comes to your website, analytics are a great place to start. What content is garnering the most attention on your website? What pages do visitors tend spend the most time on? Studying this information will help you make strategic decisions.
The same goes for game day. You may have won the fight against the couch and the HD TV to get people to the game, but once they’re there you have to make sure you engage them enough that they want to come back. Each fan base is unique, so it’s important to study your fans and understand their habits and preferences. Research will help you take the guesswork out of your decisions.
Second, you have to be open to change. After looking at what’s working for them and what’s not, the NBA might change their rules to shorten games. I am sure basketball purists will cringe at the thought of changing the game, but like other businesses, the NBA has a brand to protect and a bottom line that they want in the black. There are plenty of examples of leagues or businesses that alienate people by trying to change things, and that’s why doing your homework is so important. When you have data to analyze, your decisions will be more informed and the change you make will be more likely to be successful.
Think about your website. Is there a different type of article you have been considering, but never published? Is there more information you can provide so you are positioned as a trusted resource for your visitors? What content do you have access to that no one else does? Those are the items that get people to come back. Your goal should be to be a part of your fans’ daily habit. What content will do that for you?
Making large-scale changes to game day comes with greater risk than making changes to your website, so it’s even more crucial to have a solid understanding of what’s going to resonate best with your fans.
Finally, you have to plan. The NBA isn’t just changing things on the fly. They have collected data, they’ve explored possible changes, and they have a long-term plan that will help them reach their goals. You should, too.
If attention spans are down to eight seconds now, where will they be in five or ten years? The data you gather today not only allows you to make informed decisions for the near-term, it should also help you recognize trends that you can incorporate into your long-term plans. If you spend a month working to engage visitors and become a part of their habit, but run out of content, you will drop out of their daily habits in less than eight seconds. Think about your goals for the year. Think about what has been successful in the past. Analyze your data and come up with a plan for how you can deliver engaging content throughout the season, the year, and the life of your website. Then continue to gather data so you can refine and improve your plan over time.
Bob D'Amelio is a Michigan guy with a Michigan accent as thick as his burly mustache (all credit has to go to Robert with that amazing lead sentence). We've partnered with Bob, Associate Athletic Director for Marketing, Ticketing and Trademark Licensing at Western Michigan, for nearly six years. Robert describes Bob as an easy-going guy who usually gives a little guidance, but allows us to be creative with their projects, especially football. We always look forward to working with Bob and the Broncos (which would've been an excellent choice for the boyband question, Bob). Here is our very first poster for WMU back in 2011.
We're excited for Bob's answers to this week's 20 Questions. The next time we're in Kalamazoo we're definitely stopping by his house for some homemade Italian deliciousness and maybe even some old school Sinatra karaoke.
1. NAME: Bob D'Amelio
2. OCCUPATION/TITLE: Associate Athletic Director for Marketing, Ticketing and Trademark Licensing
3. HOMETOWN: Lansing, Michigan
4. PREGAME RITUAL: Breaking down the upcoming game with our Assistant Athletic Director for Ticket Operations
5. FAVORITE THING TO SNACK: Popcorn
6. FAVORITE THING ABOUT YOUR JOB: I love the variety in my job and the opportunity to mentor young people
7. LEAST FAVORITE THING ABOUT YOUR JOB: The short answer? Politics
8. HIDDEN TALENTS/HOBBIES: I consider myself a pretty good cook. Love to make homemade pasta, meatballs, and sauce.
9. ADVICE TO YOUR YOUNGER SELF: Stop and smell the roses
10. YOUR GO-TO KARAOKE SONG: Fly me to the Moon (Frank Sinatra)
11. FAVORITE MOVIE: The Sting
12. FAVORITE TV SHOW: Breaking Bad
13. IF YOU WERE IN A BOY BAND WHAT WOULD IT BE CALLED: Good Question (Yes, Good Question would be the name of the band)
14. FAVORITE PLACE TO EAT: Mangia Mangia
15. WHAT DO YOU ORDER THERE: Linguine & Clams
16. FAVORITE DISNEY PRINCESS: Princess Jasmine
17. WHAT’S YOUR SPIRIT ANIMAL: A horse
18. WHAT’S THE STUPIDEST THING YOU’VE EVER DONE: When I was 16 and had my driver’s license for only three days, I ran a red light and almost caused an accident. Needless to say, my father wasn’t a happy camper!
19. WHAT’S THE LAST SHOW THAT YOU BINGE-WATCHED: Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives
20. IF YOU WEREN’T DOING THIS JOB WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING: I would be enrolling in culinary school.
I grew up during the Barry Switzer era of Oklahoma Football. We'd travel to Norman from Guthrie, OK and watch the Sooners lay victim to whoever dared enter Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. Winning wasn't just expected, it was a foregone conclusion. We never really entertained the idea that losing was a feasible option. After Switzer left in the late eighties, the Sooners lost a step, but winning was still an expectation. We might not have been competing for a National Championship on an annual basis, but certain things were understood:
1. We'd have a winning record. 2. We'd be nationally-ranked. 3. We'd never get blown out. 4. We'd make a bowl game. 5. Under no circumstances would we ever lose to Oklahoma State.
In 1995, two big things happened: One, it was my freshman year of college. Two, it was Howard Schnellenberger's first year as head coach at OU. The Sooners had made a change at the head coaching spot to restore glory to a waning football program. And Schnelly was the answer. Or so we thought. The season didn't end up seeing the great turnaround we'd hoped for, but it was after all, a rebuilding year. He needed time to right the ship. Our only losses toward the end of the season were to Top-10 teams and we even managed to tie Texas in the Red River Rivalry.
Two games left: We'll beat Oklahoma State, as we had every year of my life since I'd been alive, lose to top-ranked Nebraska, take the off-season to lick our wounds and come back in '96 ready for a championship run.
Only that didn't happen. No, somehow that cool, autumn day in November of 1995, something happened that I'd never witnessed in my life. The Oklahoma State Cowboys beat the Sooners. They didn't just beat us, either. They shut us out. 12-0.
TWELVE to ZERO!
To that point, it was the worst day of my life. I couldn't fathom it. I didn't speak for hours after the game. I just went back to my apartment and fell asleep. That may have been the first time I realized the true power of sports. I knew the highs it could provide. I had no idea the pain it could cause, but I sure learned it that day.
My 1995 had to have been a lot like Leon Costello's 1984. Leon is the Director of Athletics at Montana State University and when I interviewed him for the book I'm writing, he talked a lot about the heartbreak of growing up a Chicago Cubs fan. The biggest difference is that he didn't have the years of seeing the Cubs win championships. No, as a Cubs fan there were no peaks. Just valleys. Which is why in 1984 when they were playing for the National League pennant his hopes were so high that he'd finally get to witness a championship and a trip to the World Series.
The Cubs had a two-game lead on the Padres that year in the NLCS and then went on to lose three straight, keeping the curse alive. It was gut-wrenching for Leon and every other Cubs fan out there. They were ascending to the peak and had it in their grasp, only to have the rug pulled out from under them again.
That ended up being Schnellenberger's only year at Oklahoma. He was promptly fired after the season and while I'm sure there were probably plenty of reasons for his forced resignation, I like to believe that he was let go because he lost to OSU and caused me so much personal anguish.
Unfortunately, his replacement John Blake didn't fair much better. Three losing seasons in a row and my entire college years were spent watching my beloved Sooners get embarrassed week-after-week-after-week. I attended nearly every home football game during college. My friends and I joked about how long it would take our Sooners to commit a false-start penalty and the unders usually won. It was a comedy of errors only I saw little comedy in it. This football program was the entire reason I wanted to go to OU. I dreamed of coming to OU and seeing my Sooners win a National Championship while I was a student. Not only were they not living up to that expectation, they couldn't even manage a winning season.
To say that this was the deepest valley of the history of the Oklahoma Football program would be an understatement.
It. Was. Awful.
What could be more painful than that? Well, for Cubs fans it would have to be "The Bartman Game."
"When I think about the Cubs, I think about the Bartman game," Leon says.
In the eighth inning of Game 6 of the National League Championship Series with Chicago ahead 3–0 and holding a three-games-to-two-lead in the best of seven series, Moisés Alou attempted to catch a foul ball off the bat of Marlins' second baseman Luis Castillo. Steve Bartman reached for the ball, deflected it, and disrupted a potential catch by the Cubs outfielder. If Alou had caught the ball, it would have been the second out in the inning and the Cubs would have been just four outs away from winning their first National League pennant since 1945. Instead, the Cubs ended up surrendering eight runs in the inning and losing the game, 8–3. When they were eliminated in the seventh game the next day, the incident was seen as the "first domino" in the turning point of the series.
In the immediate aftermath of the incident, Bartman, a lifelong Cubs fan, had to be escorted from the stadium by security guards and was placed under police protection for a time when his name and address were made public on Major League Baseball message boards.
"I think about the ball going into the stands. Everybody looking at Bartman as the curse. But really it was what transcended after that, with the error by the shortstop and then really just the fever from then because they were on the verge of going to the World Series for the first time since 1945."
Fortunately for me, it took me an extra semester to graduate. Why is that fortunate? Because Bob Stoops was hired after the 1998 season and in 1999 (my second senior year), he launched the Sooners on an ascent that would take us to the highest peak the program may have ever seen. And thanks to my inability to finish school in four years, I can always say that I attended school during the Stoops era.
In 2000, OU fans were riding high after a 7-5 season and a trip to the Independence Bowl, but no one could have expected what was to come.
The Sooners started the season strong, going 4-0 against opponents that just a couple years before could have given us trouble. But not Stoops' Sooners. Then we rolled into Dallas for the first big test of the season: Oklahoma vs. Texas. We were scared to death of that game, but it ended up being one of the most euphoric sports experiences of my life. OU dismantled Texas in a 63-14 rout.
OU then went on to beat the #5, #2 and #1 teams in the country in a single month taking the number 1 ranking for the first time since God was a baby and it sent OU fans into a frenzy. Norman was as exciting a place to be as any town in the country. And then, by some miracle, OU went on to beat Florida State in the National Championship game. OU shocked the world that year and returned Sooner Football to glory.
Nobody Wanted to Leave
Words can't describe what that football season did for OU fans and the state of Oklahoma. As I'm sure that words can't describe what the Cubs winning the World Series last year did for Cubs fans and the city of Chicago.
Leon Costello was in Chicago for Game 5 of the World Series and told me that it was one of the greatest experiences of his life. "Cubs fans finally got to witness a World Series victory in Wrigley Field. Nobody wanted to leave."
Victory does that for us, doesn't it? It makes us want to live in that moment forever and we know that as soon as we leave, the feeling will start to fade. I had that feeling after OU beat Nebraska at Owen Field in 2000. The crowd rushed the field and I just stood there in the stands in awe of what I'd just witnessed. Cubs fans stayed after at Wrigley field for a good half-hour. They sang "Go Cubs, Go." They sang "Sweet Home Chicago." They had reached a peak and as they'd find out a few days later, they'd reach the ultimate peak, making all those years of suffering that much sweeter.
The Deeper the Valley, the Higher the Peak
No one likes to lose. No one likes to spend a day in the valley, much less 108 years. Spending my college years as the basement dwellers of college football made the 2000 season far more magical than anything I've ever experienced. At the end of that season, a job came open at OU Athletics for a graphic designer. I could not imagine not taking that opportunity. So I jumped at it and now, 16 years later, I've spent my entire career working to drive attendance to sporting events and improve the game experience for fans. My career path might have been entirely different had it not been for that 2000 OU Football season.
Winning just isn't as fun when you don't know how it feels to lose.
Leon Costello agrees: "You look back and you wish you had the Yankees dynasty. But doing that, this year wouldn't have been as special. Sometimes you have to go through the hard times to truly appreciate the great times. That truly epitomizes what sports can do. You see the impact it had on a city, on a nation and even the world... the impact the Cubs winning the World Series had on everything."
If you do a Google search of "Kerri Jennings" you will likely get a lot of links to one of the greatest Olympians of all-time. If you want to learn more about Kerri Jennings, Marketing and Promotions Coordinator at Syracuse University, we recommend you continue to read our 20 Questions below! Do it! Sorry, Kerri, we couldn't help ourselves. The native of Cooperstown, NY is really a Hall of Famer in our books (we are on fire)! Our Syracuse account executive Hannah says that Kerri makes her job really easy because she answers her questions before she even has to ask them. And that can be a lot of questions! They both share an affinity for the shows "This Is Us" and "Friends." There was even talk they could be each other's spirit animals. Kerri is BEYOND organized when it comes to projects. We love that because it gives us more time to create awesomeness for the Orange!
This is one of the first projects we worked on with Kerri back in good old 2014 (those Waldo jerseys are amazing):
1. NAME: Kerri Jennings
2. OCCUPATION/TITLE: Syracuse University Athletics- Marketing & Promotions Coordinator
3. HOMETOWN: Cooperstown, NY
4. PREGAME RITUAL: I would say my biggest ritual is my setup at the scorer’s table. Pregame, I always have to lineup my radio, water, ChapStick, gum, and life savers in a particular order.
5. FAVORITE THING TO SNACK ON: Anything crunchy & salty!! Chips, popcorn, veggies!
6. FAVORITE THING ABOUT YOUR JOB: When I’m working a game and can look around the dome and see 30,000+ people having a good time. That despite whatever they have going on in their lives, in that moment, they are enjoying themselves. It makes it all worth it!
7. LEAST FAVORITE THING ABOUT YOUR JOB: I’m a creature of habit, so a constantly changing work schedule can throw me off a bit sometimes ☺… but you get used it pretty quickly.
8. HIDDEN TALENTS/HOBBIES: I’m not sure this qualifies, but I can curl my tongue into a 3 leaf clover.
9. ADVICE TO YOUR YOUNGER SELF: Don’t get so hung up on little things. Always look at the bigger picture! Also, enjoy those years where you don’t have major responsibilities. Adulting is tough!
10. YOUR GO-TO KARAOKE SONG: John Mellencamp- Jack & Diane, Hall & Oates- You Make My Dreams Come True, or ANY Katy Perry Song (Seriously, any… I know them all).
11. FAVORITE MOVIE: The Wizard of Oz
12. FAVORITE TV SHOW: That’s tough. I’m a TV show junkie (especially cheesy reality shows)… My current favorite is: This Is Us, but my all-time favorite is Friends.
13. IF YOU WERE IN A BOY BAND WHAT WOULD IT BE CALLED: This is a tough one! Can I just join *NSYNC?
14. FAVORITE PLACE TO EAT: A little local place called Saki Bomb--- it’s a Japanese- Hibachi & Sushi place.
15. WHAT DO YOU ORDER THERE: Every Wednesday, Sushi is ½ price, so that’s pretty much all I order. I go at least twice a month.
16. FAVORITE DISNEY PRINCESS: Belle
17. WHAT’S YOUR SPIRIT ANIMAL: Like Brad Wurthman, I also took two quizzes. One said deer and the other a bear. No sure what to make of that ha!
18. WHAT’S THE STUPIDEST THING YOU’VE EVER DONE: I’m sure there’s more than one, ha! When I was in middle school, I tried cutting my own hair. It was bad.
19. WHAT’S THE LAST SHOW THAT YOU BINGE-WATCHED: Stranger Things
20. IF YOU WEREN’T DOING THIS JOB WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING: I love to cook. I’d like to think if I wasn’t doing this I would be a chef or own my own restaurant.
I can't say for certain, but I truly don't think I've ever shaved on the day of a Sooner Football game. It had to have started back in college when I rarely shaved at all and certainly wasn't going to go through the trouble on a Saturday before a football game. Then, when I started my career and had to shave on a regular basis, I took Saturdays off and justified it with a superstitious rule: No Shaving on Gamedays!
It just so happens that the year I started my professional career was also the same year OU won it's first football National Championship since 1985. And without a doubt, my not shaving on gamedays was a big factor in that championship. Sure, we had the Heisman runner-up in the QB position. We had Roy Williams, one of the best defensive backs in history, anchoring our defense. And they deserve some credit, I guess. But let's be honest. A lot of their success was due to my not shaving on the days they had to compete.
I am not a superstitious person. I'll walk under a ladder, scoff at breaking a mirror (I did that a couple months ago) and even invite a black cat to cross my path. I think supersition is downright silly. But when it comes to sport, I'll embrace anything that might help my team to victory. If we seem to be doing better when I watch from the kitchen, I stay in the kitchen. If we score when I leave the room, I will try that again when we need another score. Hat on backwards, sideways or on the floor... Sitting on the couch, the ottoman or standing up... Cheering your team to victory includes finding that balance of exactly what one must do to please the gods of sports so they will bless your team with a win.
Believe it or not, the company I founded 13 years ago was even named after a sports superstition. My freshman year of college in 1995, I purchased a brand new OU ballcap. From that point on, I wore that hat to every HOME game I attended in Norman from then until we lost to Oklahoma State in 2001. I took that hat off that day (the luck had run out of it) and never wore it to a game again. In fact, I wouldn't put it back on my head until we beat Oklahoma State again. But the hat sat on a shelf in my home office for years. It was tattered and torn, dirty and faded. It has never been washed. So when I was trying to come up with a name for the company I was starting, it just made sense to call it Old Hat. It seems like all sports fans have that "old hat" they wear to all the games. The hat contains luck and without it, the team won't have the edge they need to win.
Superstition is in the Fabric of Sports
Superstition is an integral part of sports. Most of us know it doesn't affect the outcome of the game, but it just makes it more fun. As an industry, we should be embracing superstition. Encouraging it.
Matt Roberts, Director of Athletics at the College of Charleston, says, "Superstition is in the fabric of sports. It's just a part of it. And even though it's proven over a long time that what you wear, what you eat, the routines and everything that you do on the day of a game or day before the game have been as much ineffective as they have been effective, I still do it."
And it's not just Matt. I conducted a quick-and-dirty survey recently and asked people if they are superstitious when it comes to sports. Most of the respondents were staff with athletic organizations (so, not the typical fan) and yet the response was overwhelmingly weighted toward superstition. 62% of people stated that they are superstitious when it comes to sports.
Here are a few examples that were sent to me:
@AdamSchemm: yes. Need the same type of pen, same folder of scripts, same driving route to the game & same clothes every game for football.
@MsDesireeAnne My friend Tommy will even change shirts midway through a game if her team is losing to change their luck
@MekaleJackson If I spill food on my red tie before the game, and St. John's wins, I wear the same dirty red tie every game until we lose
@TUSportsIS Not superstitious unless someone says: overtime, extra innings, perfect game, rain delay... so yes, superstitious lol
What can we do to embrace superstition more?
I've worked in collegiate athletics for 16 years. I've seen universities play the same song at every 3rd quarter break, do the same pregame rituals and incite the same chants. Until recently, it never really occurred to me fully embrace the idea of superstition, but I think we're missing out on a golden opportunity to engage with fans on a more personal level.
We work in an irrational industry. Fans pay absurd sums of money for 6 days (or 20 or 62 or whatever) of entertainment per year. They donate money to the athletic department just for the right to buy those tickets. They dress in a single color, sit in the rain and scream chants at the top of their lungs. Their moods for days, weeks, and months can be affected by the actions of a bunch of 20-year-old kids. On top of all of that, these people (often adult, professional men and women) do things like making sure they wear the same unwashed socks to every game.
As an industry, we embrace so much of that irrationality and we benefit from it to a large degree. Why not take it a step farther and embrace the superstition as well? Athletic events are about the experience and about having fun! What would be more fun than being at an event where the team took part in the superstition of their fans?
Here are a few ideas of ways we can do that, though I'm confident that with some thought, there are a lot more things that could be done along these lines:
1. Superstitions Video: A simple video showing various fans and players talking about what they do each week to make sure they contribute to their team's chance at victory. Fans love being included with student-athletes and appearing on videoboards!
2.The Superstition of the Game: Feature a fan each game and talk about their superstition during a break. Pick something that everyone else in the crowd can take part in as well. For instance, if they always have to wear their rally hat sideways in the ninth inning, try to get the rest of the fans to do so as well.
3. Victory Lunch: If one of your athletes always eats a certain meal the day before the game, publicize it and get your fans to participate as well and share it on social media.
4. No Shaving on Gamedays: I've heard of athletes that don't shave because of their own superstition about it. Hockey beards are one of the best things about hockey. Publicize it and tell your fans that anyone that shows up with facial hair (or leg hair) gets a discount at the concession stand. You could even give away stick-on mustaches to the kids.
5. Superstitions on Twitter: Encourage fans to submit photos or videos of their game day superstitions. They can hashtag the post so that the university can track the posts. The team can then share their favorite posts. Have a game day prize for the winner.
6. Superstitions on Facebook: Have fans submit the photos and videos to the Facebook admin. Then post the photos/videos to the team account have your followers vote on their favorite. The top 10 fans can share the best and encourage their friends to like the page and like the post. This will garner more followers.
7. Superstition Giveaways: Find out if anyone on the team or coaching staff has game day superstitions like wearing red socks on gameday. Then purchase branded red socks and give them out at the game for fans to wear. This can get pricey but you can then control a number of fans participating in the superstition. Bigger scale.
The possibilities are endless with what you could do to embrace superstition because the possibilities of superstitions are endless. There are so many opportunities to bring in sponsors, philanthropies, etc. with this idea and not only increase attendance and fan engagement but also to use our events to create a positive impact on the community.
Old Hat and Jason Dennard, Florida State Associate AD for Marketing and New Revenue, have been in a pretty, pretty, pretty serious relationship for nearly 13 years. During that time we've had the tremendous opportunity to work with Jason and his crew on some very cool work. Jason is an easy-going, trusting guy who gives us a creative license on a lot of important projects. Designing a poster for the Noles is sort of a rite of passage here at OH. When Jason asks us to come up with something cool he means it. It's a quality we really value. Now, we don't have the very first OH-Noles basketball poster designed by ZAC, yes Zac, but he remembers the shiny UV coating on it fondly.
Here's the latest basketball poster we designed for Florida State:
Not everybody at OH has met Jason in real life, but after reading his answers to our 20 Questions several folks here are confident they'd be best friends with the pride of Perry, Georgia: Jason Dennard.
1. NAME: Jason Dennard
2. OCCUPATION/TITLE: Associate AD for Marketing and New Revenue
3. HOMETOWN: Perry, Georgia
4. PREGAME RITUAL: I always go to the gym and workout the morning of football games. It sets the tone for the day (pun intended).
5. FAVORITE THING TO SNACK ON: Big fan of yogurt and granola but my weakness is chocolate in all forms.
6. FAVORITE THING ABOUT YOUR JOB: Breaking barriers and accomplishing things when critics say it can’t be done.
7. LEAST FAVORITE THING ABOUT YOUR JOB: Too many meetings too little time. If I could clone myself that would be great!
8. HIDDEN TALENTS/HOBBIES: I have a slight obsession with grilling and being a weekend pit master in my spare time.
9. ADVICE TO YOUR YOUNGER SELF: Life is a marathon, not a sprint. Stop along the way and make sure to enjoy the journey.
10. YOUR GO-TO KARAOKE SONG: I’ve got two……The Humpty Dance by Digital Underground and being from the south you have to sing some Skynyrd, Sweet Home Alabama.
11. FAVORITE MOVIE: Planes, Trains & Automobiles.
12. FAVORITE TV SHOW: Seinfeld.
13. IF YOU WERE IN A BOY BAND WHAT WOULD IT BE CALLED: The Dad Bods.
14. FAVORITE PLACE TO EAT: I am a serial visitor at Newks a couple of times per week.
15. WHAT DO YOU ORDER THERE: Cobb Salad no tomatoes and Splenda Sweet Tea.
16. FAVORITE DISNEY PRINCESS: Princess Leia *RIP (Disney owns Star Wars right?)
17. WHAT’S YOUR SPIRIT ANIMAL: I’d say my dog Molly (King Charles Cavalier). That dog has never had a bad day!
18. WHAT’S THE STUPIDEST THING YOU’VE EVER DONE: Entered a bodybuilding contest on a dare and actually went through with it to the shock of my parents, friends…..pretty much anyone that ever knew me. Turned out to be one of the best things I have ever done and eliminated "fear" from my vocabulary.
19. WHAT’S THE LAST SHOW THAT YOU BINGE-WATCHED: Hmm….I would say Curb Your Enthusiasm. Larry David is awesome.
20. IF YOU WEREN’T DOING THIS JOB WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING: I love music and have discovered a passion for putting on concerts. This is something I do on the side currently.
There are a handful of people who make your job never feel like a job. They challenge you to do your best work and they trust you to accomplish that feat. It is truly a pleasure working with them. I can say without a doubt that Brad Wurthman, Associate Director of Athletics, Marketing/Fan Development at the University of Illinois, is one of those people. He started working with Old Hat in 2011 while at the University of Cincinnati. Brad's very first project was this Bearcats Football Black Out game poster.
Everybody loved The Dark Knight theme in 2011!
His first video with us happened in 2012 and we've been fortunate to work with "America's Favorite Canadian Ginger" ever since. Some of my absolute favorite projects have been Wurthman's.
So what's the real story with this guy? We asked him 20 Questions to find out. Feel free to add your own Canadian accent when reading this.
1. NAME: Brad Wurthman
2. OCCUPATION/TITLE: Associate Director of Athletics, Marketing/Fan Development
3. HOMETOWN: Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
4. PREGAME RITUAL: Gum. Lots of gum. Specifically bubble gum. Plus trash talking. Other than that, I normally try to find about a 2 minute window where I’m completely on my own to just take a look at all of the work that has gone into preparing for our game and the people who worked on it to enjoy that feeling of accomplishment.
5. FAVORITE THING TO SNACK ON: Cookies. Is that a snack? If not, it would still win. I’d still pick cookies even if I wasn’t allowed to.
6. FAVORITE THING ABOUT YOUR JOB: Having the opportunity to be part of a team that can make an immediate impact on something that people are emotionally invested in. There’s a reason I want to sell sports and not something else.
7. LEAST FAVORITE THING ABOUT YOUR JOB: Since everyone can be involved in everything at times, progress can be slowed for certain projects – just have to keep your wits about you and commit to finding the best solution possible.
9. ADVICE TO YOUR YOUNGER SELF: Breathe. Take a moment to do the things that are important to you for personal reasons and not just for professional reasons. Set boundaries and stick to them – without compromising your ambition. Focus on learning, not only on progressing. Most importantly, always leave the blackjack table when you have more money than you arrived with.
10. YOUR GO-TO KARAOKE SONG: I think everyone has to have a three song rotation, unless you’re talented enough to audition for The Voice. Karaoke is not about my voice – it’s about crowd interaction. So, in very specific order…Don’t Stop Believing by Journey, Friends in Low Places by Garth Brooks, Hero by Enrique Iglesias.
11. FAVORITE MOVIE: Jurassic Park
12. FAVORITE TV SHOW: House of Cards
13. IF YOU WERE IN A BOY BAND WHAT WOULD IT BE CALLED: Who says I wasn’t? The Eh Team.
14. FAVORITE PLACE TO EAT: Smoke’s Poutinerie
15. WHAT DO YOU ORDER THERE: Montreal style smoked meat poutine
16. FAVORITE DISNEY PRINCESS: No contest. Ariel. Gingers have to stick together.
17. WHAT’S YOUR SPIRIT ANIMAL: I took two quizzes to answer this question. One said lion, one said llama. So, take that for what it’s worth.
18. WHAT’S THE STUPIDEST THING YOU’VE EVER DONE: All in a matter of about 2 weeks, I committed to go on a 3 week trip to China after graduating college. Though it turned out to be one of the best experiences of my life, I had no actual idea what I was signing up for at the time and it didn’t actually hit me until I was staring down at the center of the Pacific Ocean. Sometimes, not thinking about the end result leads to you to make the best decisions!
19. WHAT’S THE LAST SHOW THAT YOU BINGE-WATCHED: Narcos.
20. IF YOU WEREN’T DOING THIS JOB WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING: I grew up in a family of teachers and really believe in the power of education – but was not blessed with the same patience gene for rooms of 30 children so that was never going to work. However, I’d love to teach snowboarding and live in Western Canada at one of the resorts – it’s so much fun to watch someone experience their first linked turn because it’s a very individual sport – either you commit to it and fight through it or you don’t. I’m a sucker for a good story about overcoming challenges.
You're going to learn about the greatest emotion that can be used in marketing. Now stop for a minute. No really, stop reading for just a second.
Do you feel that?
Even if you don't read the rest of this blog, it's likely you've read at least this far (if you haven't, you can ignore this). The reason is that you're expecting a payoff. I implied some sort of promise to you in my opening sentence, and now I must deliver. It was the anticipation that kept you reading. Sure, this isn't an earth-shattering revelation, and you probably didn't expect it to be, but there was just enough build-up that you decided to read on.
The point is that anticipation is such a powerful emotion for marketers to utilize, but there are very few people or organizations using it.
I had a conversation with Zac a few weeks ago, discussing how people and companies have lost their mystique, and it fits hand-in-hand with creating anticipation. Companies and celebrities are so accessible via multiple media channels and means, that it's nearly impossible to develop anticipation for a new product, a sporting event or a music performance. The days of Elvis, Sinatra and Beatlemania are long gone. One reason behind the pandemonium surrounding these celebrities was the fact that they weren't easily accessible. Even press coverage was limited to a few photos and the written word, so there wasn't a lot of information floating around for fans to latch on to.
But the greatest attribute of anticipation is that it's forward-looking. A customer or fan of a highly anticipated product has already imagined in their own mind how and what the product (or person, event, team, etc.) will be, regardless of how it might actually turn out. Generally, that's a good thing for an organization, if they're doing a good job of building it up.
The challenge comes in navigating our digital age, where all the world's information is available in the palm of your hand. If you're not constantly talking about something, anything, then you're forgotten. Yesterday's news was replaced, well, yesterday. And today's news just got updated, again. So as marketers, we're struggling to continually provide relevant information and make sure fans are up-to-the-second on everything going on. Is this really the best method?
Keep the Mystique
As I mentioned, keeping an air of mystery surrounding a big event, new product release, or the next blockbuster is the main ingredient to forming anticipation. Look at any good movie trailer, and even for movies that don't turn out so great, the trailer still has you saying "I've gotta go see that!". The key is not over-informing your fans. Sell the sizzle, not the steak, and leave your fans wanting more.
I can think of two excellent examples that are keeping the mystique, despite the constant attention they receive from mainstream media.
The first is Bill Murray. The guy is a cult icon and shrouded in mystery. Bill Murray sightings show up in the twittersphere much like sightings of the Loch Ness monster or Bigfoot. Yet, it seems paradoxical because he's also a huge celebrity. There should be a Bill Murray course taught as part of the marketing curriculum in universities everywhere (I'd call it Murrketing 101, just for the record). Murray, who's never had an agent, has become an expert marketer of himself by simply being himself. Shying away from mainstream media and making the occasional random appearance for wedding photos or a surprise appearance at the White House is Murray's grassroot marketing tactic of choice, and it keeps people wanting more.
Apple is another perfect example of a company that is able to keep their mystique and create anticipation for their next product. I think if you put truth syrum in diehard Apple lovers, most would tell you that Apple products are not significantly better than their competitors' products. It may be that Apple creates the feeling of having an exclusive membership to a luxury product, but unlike a luxury product, they create products that the general public can afford - and for most Apple fans, products that their fans can't afford not to have. Every couple of months, Apple builds up their product releases with their keynote presentations that have fans worldwide waiting in anticipation.
So how does this translate to the everyday marketer who has a product or event to promote? Or for college sports, with multiple events going on throughout the year?