Back in the days when I worked on campus, I dreaded the month of November. It's the month when fall and winter sports collide in a cluster of head spinning craziness. I might as well have wedged an air mattress into the office, I spent so much time there. So, if you're feeling this way currently, I sympathize. February was always tough too for similar reasons.
So, during this trying month, remember to take a breath and do your best to stay positive. Keep in the right frame of mind and remember why you're doing what you're doing. When I'm feeling bogged down, I like to look at stories that inspire me. And luckily, the world of sports has no lack of them.
I love sports and got into working in this business for a variety of reasons, including the excitement and what you learn from being a part of it. Sports teach life lessons...learning to be part of a team and treating others with respect. Learning persistence and the value of hard work. Being a gracious winner and maintaining your dignity through a loss. Feeling like you're part of something bigger than yourself. Maybe you got into this business for similar reasons.
So today and every day, if you're having troubles, I encourage you to embrace the positive, look towards the bigger picture and spread goodness all around.
And if you need it, here are a few of my favorite inspirational moments in sports. Let's be positive today!
Want to know what (and how) your peers at other schools are doing when it comes to attendance, game experience, ticket sales, and marketing? Here’s your chance to find out!
You’re invited to participate in our State of Sports Marketing survey. It only takes a few minutes to complete, and individual responses will be kept confidential.
What’s in it for you?
The inside scoop. Participants will have the option to receive a special insiders’ report with full survey results that won’t be shared with the general public.
Gift cards! We’ll be giving away Amazon gift cards with values up to $100 to 15 lucky survey participants. All you have to do is opt in for a chance to win at the end of the survey.
So share your thoughts, score some free stuff, and find out what’s really going on in the industry. And share it with your friends who also work in college athletics.
Why share the survey? The more people who take it, the better you'll be able to see what's going on in the industry in terms of attendance, marketing techniques, game day experience, and more! Anyone who takes the survey is eligible to win one of the gift cards we're giving away (get up to $100 on Amazon!) and receive a copy of the exclusive Insiders' Report.
Take and share the survey now! It’s only open through Oct 21st.
If there was only one thing I could tell a new college graduate looking to get into the sports industry it's that the turnover is constant. Folks are always moving halfway across the country for new opportunities. During my eight busy seasons with Old Hat, the list is short for people who have remained at the same institution for several years. Don't get me wrong, one of the best things about my job is getting to work with so many different teams. However, it's also pretty cool to be able to say we've been creating video board entertainment with North Texas, Utah, and Wisconsin for 5+ years. I know a lot of people will question how much a sports creative agency in Norman, Oklahoma could ever understand about an athletic institution deep in the heart of Texas, the Wasatch Range, or America's Dairyland, but honestly that's our job. It's really so much more than just creating cool-looking posters, videos and websites. It's researching, strategizing, and building relationships with the teams, the marketing department staff, and the fanbase that you might not normally get with one-and-done projects.
The Wisconsin Badgers have a fantastic in-house video department that handles media responsibilities for 23 varsity teams; so the marketing department looks to us to handle their historical videos. And let me tell you, these projects are massive. We're talking more than a century of moments. In 2012, we took on the Men's Basketball Historical video for the very first time.
Here's a quick By the Numbers:
25 Audio Clips
44 Video Clips
Over the years we've updated this video with several new clips thanks to a lot of March success.
This year we'll be updating the design and music as well as adding a few new clips.
We've also had the awesome opportunity to work on Football, Men's Hockey, and Women's Hockey for several years:
U2 and the history of Badger Football are a staple at Camp Randall Stadium each fall.
We're pretty excited about the overhaul to this particular video this year as a few familiar faces return to Madison.
The Number One team in nation will be adding more accolades to this year's update.
Wisconsin Athletics has some seriously storied programs. Is it cool to work on projects featuring Ron Dayne, JJ Watt, Frank Kaminsky, Chris Chelios, and Hilary Knight (just to name a few)?
Do I consider myself one of the most knowledgeable people in the State of Oklahoma when it comes to the History of Wisconsin Badgers Athletics?
A few of us went to a digital marketing conference recently, and one of the speakers talked about storytelling. It kind of took us by surprise. A digital conference should be about high-tech stuff, right? And storytelling has been around since before any kind of tech existed.
But here’s the thing. Engaging your fans online is like telling a story. You get people interested in who you are and what you offer with the story you tell through digital and social media. You get them to come back to your website time after time through storytelling. If you do not tell the right story, in the right way, consumers lose interest.
So how do you tell a good story in the digital world? These tips 7 tips for digital storytelling will help you capture attention and build trust.
1. Be genuine.
Marketing can be tough. All marketers are liars, right? That’s what some people think, so it’s your job to convince them otherwise. You have convey your brand’s message in a way that is honest and appeals to people. Spend a minute thinking about the recent stories that have been proven to be false and how that worked out for people (cough, cough…Lochte).
2. Utilize your resources.
Not sure you have a story? There are so many around you that you can tell. Use them! You have access to the locker room, to the players, and to the coaches in one way or another. Tell those stories. Most of your fans or players probably won’t take the initiative to share their stories on Facebook or other social media outlets. Seek their stories out and share them.
3. Seek out stories and write them down.
This one seems simple enough, but most of us forget to do jot things down…which means we forget about them. Keep a running log of things you can use in the future. If you overheard an employee talking to a fan and felt the message was great, write it down, record it, do whatever it takes to get a record of that story so you can retell it down the road. It’s not every day that you get to share how your athletic department helped make someone’s dream come true. But if you look for these stories, you might be surprised at how often they actually do happen. Write them down so you can remember to share your story with the community. That also helps you avoid those social media upkeep panic moments, because you’ll always have a good story to use.
4. Ask others to share their stories.
This one goes with the one above. Sometimes you are not going to be able to tell a story as well as the person who originally experienced it. If that story helps further the community you are growing or helps engage your fan base, ask the individual to come out and tell their story. You can’t get more genuine that that. Plus, everyone else sees a fan who cares enough or had a good enough experience to share their story with the world. That’s powerful!
5. Pick the right moment.
This is probably just a general marketing rule, but even the best stories will fall on deaf ears if they are not told at the right moment. Think about it and plan. You want the right message, in front of the right people, at the right time. There’s nothing wrong with using tools to schedule part of your digital engagement, but if you forget to monitor what’s happening in the world you could accidentally make your brand appear insensitive, self-absorbed, or just tuned out of what’s trending.
6. Be creative.
Again, this is marketing 101. In addition to being creative with how you tell your story, the whole process needs to be creative. You need to look in different places to find the stories. Of course take the obvious ones that come your way, but don’t forget to turn over a few rocks or dig a little deeper so you can deliver something unexpected every once in a while. Then challenge yourself to find new and interesting ways to share those stories instead of doing the same thing every time.
7. Pick the right medium
Some stories can only be told in person, face to face. Others can work well in a video or as a speech. Some have the greatest impact when paired with an image, making them good choices for channels like Instagram or Facebook. Some are easy to tell in a few words, while others take a little more explaining. The point is, you need to find a way to deliver your story that fits the story and your community. Choosing the right medium will help you maximize the impact of each story and get it in front of the most relevant audience.
When it comes down to it, a lot of the work we do is storytelling. One way or another we are trying to help our clients tell their story to the world. Your brand has a story. As a marketer, part of your challenge (and opportunity!) is to find all the different chapters, scenes, and memorable lines that make up that story and share them with the world. If this is done correctly, it will help you grow your community and engage your fan base in a way that improves the relationship.
A wise man once said, "I love it when a plan comes together." That's the best way I could describe how I felt after delivering the University of Illinois Football Intro Video. It started all the way back on April 25th with a simple email, subject line "This might be something in 2016-17" and a link to a song. And the rest they say is "history." Or is it "yada yada yada?" Just kidding, I'm not going to gloss over the numbers.
9 locations total for this shoot. I love touring a pretty college campus on a golf cart. It's an underappreciated video asset right outside your front door: well-manicured lawns, beautiful landscaping, unique architecture and statues for days! We only used the campus beauty shots for about :13, but I think they worked well in setting the scene with the music and the voice over. We photographed the players in the indoor practice facility (gotta love a steamy venue in July) as well as their locker room (thankfully air conditioned).
1concept from the get-go. Dustin and I have been wanting to do some type of stop-motion photography in a practical sports setting with the athletes for several years now. In the past we've shot the photographs with a black background. I like the stop-motion look because it gives the athletes a really cool stop-and-start look that worked quite well with the music.
3617photographs shot. That's a lot of strobe lights going off in about three hours. Thankfully, there were no light-induced seizures that afternoon. It was quite bright. Without getting TOO technical, for most of our videos there are 30 frames of video per second. So if we're shooting photographs we'll need a lot to fill about 60% of the one minute video.
120 photos actually scripted and used in the final edit Yeah, that's not a very big percentage. Sorry, Dustin. We used the best stills or series of stills and then had to make room for campus shots, graphics, and of course highlights. WE'VE ONLY GOT ONE MINUTE!!
16 Illini football student athletes. Listen, shoots are cool, but they're hard work, they take time, and you're often waiting your turn...in the steamy indoor football facility. I've worked with hundreds of players over the last eight years and these guys were absolutely great to work with. They followed directions, brought enthusiasm and intensity, and were very patient. We had them in full pads and gear and I didn't hear one complaint. Coach Smith has a great group this year. We got awesome photographs and the guys got done an hour early. Win-win.
He was actually growling at Dustin. It was fantastic.
5,000 the number of times I listened to "The House of the Rising Sun" at my computer, driving home, mowing the lawn. I'm a big fan of covers done well.
8 Illini Athletic Marketing staff members holding lights, carrying boxes, bringing us 5lb bags of Swedish Fish, driving us around campus. Amazing group of awesomeness led by the Canadian King of Awesomeness Brad Wurthman.
3 Old Hatters just doing what they love to do.
48,644 fans in attendance at Memorial Stadium for the 52-3 victory over Murray State.
The article I posted earlier in the week has caused some negative, yet understandable feedback. It comes as no surprise to me that some feathers were ruffled by the solution I proposed to the new Federal Labor Standards Act. Below is an expanded version of a response I posted to a comment on the original blog post.
I would like to reiterate what I stated in the article which is that, "If you love your current creative staff or freelancer, don’t fire them just because you can’t afford to pay them enough to meet all your needs." The idea that we are advocating widespread layoffs leaves me wondering if people actually read the article or just the headline. I clearly stated that I do not feel changes should be made if an athletic department has a good creative staff in place.
What some people may not realize is that I was once on an internal creative staff myself. And if I felt that someone were advocating that I get fired, I'd be quite upset. However, the FLSA rules are estimated to have a $1.5 million impact to the average mid-major athletic department. While some can absorb that, others will have to make cuts. That's just the reality of the situation. I would love to think that rather than cutting anyone, departments would increase everyone's wage to the new threshold. I just don't believe that's realistic. Departments will have a greater need than ever to get fans in seats to increase revenue and honestly, I've never seen a situation in which using Old Hat wouldn't save an athletic department vast sums of money over having in-house creative. I've run the numbers many times and the fact of the matter is, a department could save themselves thousands of dollars annually by using Old Hat for their high level creative rather than an in-house crew.
We can't forget that the mission of an athletic department is anything other than educating the student-athlete and giving the opportunity to as many young people as possible to compete and get an education. The FLSA rules are going to have a major impact whether we like it or not. We are simply recommending an option that will help contribute to a department's ability to continue that mission.
Big changes to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) will take effect on December 1, 2016. That means you have the first half of the school year to: (a) get as much overtime out of your current employees as possible while you still can, and (b) figure out how the heck you’re going to make things work when the new rules go into effect.
Here’s the issue in a nutshell: you won’t be able to afford to keep doing things the way you do them today.
We all know that there’s no such thing as a 40 hour workweek for employees in collegiate athletics. Especially not for employees at the lower end of the pay scale. Right now, you don’t have to pay overtime rates to professional, administrative or executive employees whose salaries are $23,660 per year or more. But come December, that threshold jumps to $47,476 per year. So here’s the question: can you survive without all the overtime hours your lower-paid employees currently work, or can you afford to pay them a lot more in the future?
It’s not like you have a bunch of extra money laying around. And if you’re a Division I school, you may already in a budget crunch thanks to recent changes related to food service and scholarship rules.
Unfortunately, your practices, games, and related activities are not going to magically start fitting into a tidy little 40 hour workweek…no matter how many of you write letters to Santa.
Something’s gotta give.
Here’s our advice: cut your creative staff.
Yep. You heard that right.
Drastic times call for drastic measures.
So yeah. Your graphic designer. Your video production specialist. Send’em packing.
We’re not saying you don’t need marketing support. Of course you do! It’s just that you don’t need to keep those individuals on your staff as yet another piece of your salary and overtime puzzle. And even if your marketing team isn’t working overtime, we all know they’re still a likely target when budget cuts come around.
The way we see it, you’ve got 3 alternatives to consider.
#1 – Hire Freelancers
If you’ve never tried it before, this might sound like a good idea. But most of you who have been around the block once or twice are cringing right now. Most athletic departments haven’t had a lot of luck with freelancers providing consistently high-quality work that’s on time and on target. Unless you have a freelancer who has worked with you before or who came from the collegiate athletics marketing industry, you’ll probably find they lack the expertise and insight you’re looking for. On the other hand, if you’re lucky enough to have found a really great freelancer, that person is probably working a lot more than 40 hours for you at an annual salary that’s lower than the new FLSA threshold…which means in December, you’ll have the same problem with your freelance rock star as you would with your own in-house staff.
#2 – Two Words: Student Internship
Hey, look around. In your neighborhood, there’s no shortage of young soon-to-be-professionals eager to build their resumes and score some real-world experience. And most of them don’t want to work anywhere close to 40 hours a week anyway. Assembling a low-cost creative staff will be like shooting fish in a barrel! What could possibly go wrong? Well, other than lack of experience, inconsistency, the need for a lot of oversight, not having any of the aforementioned industry expertise, some pesky rules or limitations… Reality check: you get what you pay for. There’s a reason you haven’t relied on this type of manpower to serve as your creative staff before. Sure, you may have some top-notch students who help you out from time to time, and that’s great. But as a year-over-year strategy, trying to rely on them to fill the gap FLSA is about to create won’t earn you a barrel of Gatorade over the head.
#3 – Outsource It
If only you knew somebody with a wealth of industry experience, mad design skills, a deep bench of talent, and serious strategic chops that you could hire and rely on without having to even think about overtime or paying a higher salary. Oh, wait. You do. All joking aside, Old Hat can provide everything you need from a creative standpoint. From design to video production, project management, strategic planning and copywriting, we offer a full range of creative services. We’re good enough, we’re smart enough, and doggone it, people like us. If you don’t have your dream team in place right now, take them off your payroll and let us be your creative staff instead. Want to have a designer right there on campus with you? No problem – we can be the one to hire them, pay them, and worry about their hours, plus we’ve got the capacity to absorb any excess work.
Or don’t cut your creative staff. Augment them the smart way.
If you love your current creative staff or freelancer, don’t fire them just because you can’t afford to pay them enough to meet all your needs. I mean, really. Do we come across as that callous or short-sighted? (For the record, we’re neither.) Instead, let us augment your team and handle all those extra hours you can’t afford to pay them for. Old Hat can provide you subscription-style creative support that will cost you a lot less in the long run than paying overtime rates or higher salaries, while delivering the highest quality results. We’ll work with you to come up with a plan that gives you all services you need, when you need them. We’ll even dedicate somebody to becoming your brand expert. Everybody wins! Want to talk it over? Give us a call.
College football season is only days away and the thought of adding another project to your list probably makes you want to bury your head in the turf. But with all of the success we've had with ticket sales websites and marketing automation, I frequently get asked when the best time to launch a site is. And unfortunately for those of you who might not see the light of day, much less your families, until the end of November, my answer is: Football season.
Honestly, no matter what time of year it is, I think it's a good time to launch a ticket sales site. However, if I were to get to choose any time of the year to launch with the goal of having the most potential success, I'd launch midway through the football season every time. There are just too many opportunities to take advantage of during the season that don't exist any other time of the year and if your goal is to sell more tickets, which I think it might be, the time to launch is in the Fall... which means the time to start the project is now.
Here are the top 5 reasons to launch a ticket sales site during the football season:
1. Excitement is high. There's no better time to take advantage of the excitement than during the season. Even if they aren't necessarily making a purchase, a fan is much more likely to go to the website during the football season because football is top-of-mind. The whole goal of marketing automation is to get them to the site at least once so we can start targeting them with communication tailored to their interests. It's easier to drive traffic to a football ticket sales website during football season than any other time.
2. Renewals. The best way to drive traffic to your newly launched website is by making it the preferred avenue to renew season tickets. If that's where fans have to go to renew their tickets, that's a great way to drive them to the site initially. You also want them to see all of the options to upgrade their seating rather than just renewing what they already have. You want to start promoting renewals toward the end of the season so you need to have the site up and running in advance of that.
3. Videoboard and a Captive Audience. So you have a message you want to send to your most passionate fan base. And it just so happens that you have all of those people in one place on a Saturday afternoon. Add to that the fact that you have a monstrocity of a videoboard they'll all be staring at during breaks in action and you have a perfect opportunity to tell them about the new site. Launch it a week after the season ends, and you just missed the chance to put that URL in front of 50,000 of your most die-hard fans.
4. Converting Single to Season. There's a good chance that a good number of those fans in the stands aren't currently season ticket holders. Maybe they bought a single game ticket. Or maybe they came with a friend that has season tickets. Point is, here's a perfect opportunity to turn them into season ticket holders by 1) collecting info on them (we can help with that too) 2) promoting the site to them and 3) following up with communication after the game to drive them to purchase. There could be thousands of potential season ticket holders at those games that are having a blast and thinking about how they'd like to come more often. Strike while the iron is hot and get them to the site before their excitement dwindles.
5. There's So Much You Can't Control. Let's say you're one of the fortunate ones and you're trying to sell tickets for a program that's having a lot of success. You have to take advantage of that immediately while your fans are excited and there's a buzz about town. You never know what could happen a week after the season ends. If that successful coach takes another job, you lose people. And what if your program isn't successful? Well, you need all the time you can get to drive ticket sales. And there's no better way to learn about your fans, their buying habits and what is going to convert them into purchasers than using the data you can get through marketing automation.
Launching a uniquely positioned, dedicated ticket sales website with marketing automation is a great idea no matter what time of year it is. But if you truly want to put yourself in a position to have the greatest opportunity for success, start gathering information now and launch mid-season. You'll be glad you did.
Check out our recently launched gameday and ticket sales website, complete with marketing automation: gethereforgameday.com
When someone asks me to look at a website, there is almost always a disclaimer. Usually, a “don’t be too harsh” or “don’t spend too much time, just give me some quick thoughts.” For the most part, I assume this means they do not want detailed review of their site - just some top line things I notice, without an explanation. While this seems simple, it is something I have spent years trying to get better at doing.
Here’s the challenge. I have spent a lot of time studying websites, how they function, and how users interact with them. Every website I look over, I approach from the perspective of someone who has been there and built something similar; someone who has had to deal with users not having a clear path or call to actions. That’s because when Old Hat is working through a web project, I pick apart every detail during the initial phases of the project.
Once we get to final quality assurance, however, I have to switch roles. I have to step into the mindset of someone who has not viewed the website every day for the last six months. Why? Because the person asking the question needs me to simulate someone who is interacting with the brand for the first time, not someone who has gone to over 5,000 websites in the last five years. This stage of the web development process calls for a fresh set of eyes.
Why am I telling you this? Because as a marketer who has been closely involved in a web project (or any project for that matter), you need to be able to do the same thing in order to see what you’re working on the same way an everyday fan would see it.
Here is my guide on how not to be an expert.
1. Forget everything you know. Seriously, you have to take yourself out of the daily grind that is a long-term project and pretend you are viewing it for the first time.
2. Forget everything you know, round two. It takes a lot to put your experience and knowledge to the side, but when reviewing a website, you have to take this unbiased approach.
3. Change your habits. You may not realize it, but you have developed habits in your day to day interaction with the project. This might be things like how you first view the page or which navigation you check first. Make a conscious effort to recognize these habits and then do something completely different.
4. Make yourself uncomfortable Along the lines of those habits, you have a certain level of comfort. You have found the way you find easiest to get from point A to point B, but other users are going to find ten more ways to maneuver through the site. You need to find those ways and make sure they are a pleasant experience. It will be uncomfortable at first, but that means you are approaching it the right way and reviewing your new site properly.
5. Think like your parents or grandparents. You have to be able to approach the site like it’s the first time you have ever seen it. For me, this involves sitting back and thinking about how I have seen my 92 year old grandfather use his iPad. He seems to be trying to put his finger straight through the screen or like he is trying to punish the buttons he is clicking. He only notices the things that have movement and will follow instructions on the screen to a T.
6. Think like your little brother or child. I have watched my younger cousin fly through an entire site in with one flick of his wrist, missing everything but the footer and the header. He missed calls to action and the meat of the site, but that was how he wanted to consume the content. The best thing you can do here is watch how others consume that content, then imitate it the best you can when you go through the site.
7. Click the first thing you see. As you go through a project, you will start to notice more detail on the pages. You will see things that were not there on first glance. New users will often click the first thing they see that is remotely relevant. You, on the other hand, have a bit of site blindness because you have been to it so often. Try going through the site by clicking the first thing you see.
Once every four years, the world turns its attention to the Summer Olympic Games. The hype begins even before the start of competition...have you had your fill of incomplete construction updates, been scared by the Zika virus, and are waiting to hear more news on the Russian doping scandal? And in more positive news, are you following any of your favorite athletes on their road to Rio and looking forward to seeing Team USA's final medal count?
Beginning on August 5, and for the next 16 days, our attention is placed on a variety of sports. So many people get first-time exposure to competitions they've never seen.Many of us will become USA swimming, wrestling, track & field, beach volleyball and gymnastics superfans, as these events and athletes enter our world through primetime television and are all over social media. But why let our fandom remain just temporary? Can you use the piqued interest during the 2016 Olympic Games to build a bigger fan base for your sports OTHER than football and basketball? Can you take advantage of the attention the Olympics brings to get fans to more of your volleyball, field hockey and soccer games? Here are some ideas that may help get you started. We know all programs are different, but perhaps one or more of these would work for you or spark another thought.
If you have a 2016 Olympian on your campus, make sure you're promoting them heavily on social media and your athletics website. Not only now, before the games begin, but after, as they can offer a recap and inside look at experiences that so few get the chance to have.
Consider hosting Olympic watch parties and give fans a chance to get to know your facilities and mingle with your athletes. Develop relationships with potential fans now so they'll support you during your competition season.
As childhood inactivity/obesity continues to pose a great concern, why not host offseason youth sports clinics and camps to increase youth interest in your sport and promote activity and good health at the same time? Face time with athletes they can look up to could lead to increased interest in your sport and attendance at your events. Believe me, you want those kids begging their parents to take them to one of your tennis matches or swim meets.
Do you have any former or current Olympians in your program? Or even that live in your area? If so, can you schedule them for an appearance and autograph session at one of your games? Consider honoring or retiring their number and making a promotional night that could bring in new and different fans.
Make sure to cross-promote your events. Take advantage of full houses at football and basketball to give your other sports a chance to shine - maybe gymnastics could perform at halftime or your field hockey team could be introduced between quarters to promote next week's game?
Consider offering and promoting season ticket packages for your Olympic sports earlier than usual to take advantage of peak fan interest at Olympic time.
Could you offer an Olympic-sports mini plan for people who wish to attend several events each across multiple sports? Maybe with two general admission tickets each to a volleyball game, soccer game, tennis match, a track meet and more? A plan like this may entice fans to attend more games in the future if they enjoy their experience.
Enjoy the Olympics and good luck promoting all of your teams this year!