Coach Harbaugh has been in the news a lot lately. Whether you agree with his techniques or not, one thing is undeniable: he’s making the off season something worth watching. And from a marketing perspective, that’s powerful stuff.
Sports marketers are challenged to find ways to draw a crowd and keep them coming back. That’s getting harder and harder to do, because there are more alternatives than ever to game day attendance. At a time when collegiate sports programs are struggling with declining attendance, you can’t afford to let your marketing initiatives simmer on the back of the stove in between seasons. You have to find ways to keep fans engaged and maintain your momentum year round.
Even if your program doesn’t have Michigan’s resources, here are a few lessons you can apply in your own way.
Shake things up. Spring break practice in Florida? Friday night games? What?? Breaking away from the status quo draws attention and gives people something to talk about. Whether you go big or go small, do something different. Better yet, do it in a way that offers some sort of advantage for your team or your fans. Don’t just do it as a copycat, because your fans will call you out on it.
Get people excited about your new line-up. Signing day is a big deal, so make it a big deal. You don’t have to make it a circus to make it count. Look for ways to hype up your new recruits and the strength of your upcoming season. Social media (especially YouTube) is an incredible tool for this, and it doesn’t take a massive budget to make a memorable impact.
Decide what you want to be. Then be it. A football program is a football program is a football program…except that it’s not. It’s a lot more. It’s a collective identity and a shared consciousness. Own it. Does your team have a reputation you’re proud of? Find ways to amp it up. Want to have a different reputation than you currently do? Come up with a plan for how to reposition yourselves, then go after it full force.
Controversy = conversation. Being controversial isn’t for everybody, and you certainly don’t want to be on the hot seat in terms of violating rules. But it’s a proven way to generate media attention, and it can be a mobilizing force for your fan base. Just choose your controversies wisely, if you’re going to go there. And make sure you have the right people on board.
Sure, it helps to have a big budget and powerful connections when you want to stand out. But you don’t need those things to do more in the off season. All you really need is a thorough understanding of your target audience, strong collaboration within your program, a few creative ideas, and the will to win.
It always surprises me to see a development office pigeonholed to the back pages of an athletics website. It happens all the time. Development is an after thought on the website. It sends such a confusing message. Our development raises money for facilities and to serve our student athletes. It is incredibly important to what we do as an athletic department, yet we do not care enough to make them a focal point on our largest touch point with our fan base.
I work in web and have for most of my career. It will not come as a surprise for anyone to hear me talk about how important a good website is or your website will be the most frequent interaction you have with your fan base or donor group. More people interested in your group, that are looking for information, and would be willing to donate, will interact with your brand online than anywhere else. You may have 100,000 people at your football game, but they are not looking to learn about your brand or see what they can do to help on Saturdays, they are looking for a good time and a win. When they are online, they are evaluating what you do, learning about what they can do, and are inching their way to helping your brand. This is where you need to be interacting with them, or at a minimum, have a presence.
There is an argument to be made that separate development websites will not get the traffic of the main athletic site and that is true. The games and athletes are still the most important things to fans, this is not going to change. BUT, having worked on campus and handled websites for many major athletic brands, I know the developer or webmaster or intern (or whatever you want to call the person who holds the keys to the site) feels the same way and will focus on making sure those areas of the site rise to the top. This is what I mean about being pigeonholed. Development offices are shunted to two or three sub nav pages that are never updated and have little interaction with the visitors on the site. More importantly, there is no engagement of those evaluators surfing the web. You need a website you can update, edit, and change to keep your office in the forefront of their minds.
We recently launched ACU Wildcat Club’s new website. It is a site dedicated to helping the development team push their message. They control the content through an easy to use content management system. They make the decisions on what the website will focus on and what promotions they want to push. The development office is in control. On top of all of that, they are still part of the main athletics site. They are in the navigation; it links off to their standalone site. They are a part of the promotions; several ads on the home page link to specific sections of the development website. They can control their presence online while still being able to piggyback on the traffic the main athletics site gets.
Development offices are integral to the modern colliegiate athletics department. They raise funds for scholarships, student athletes, and new facilities. With a stand alone website and a good CMS your development office can control the message it is sending and engage your fanbase, without being at the whims of a website responsible for promoting 17 sports, teams, and coaches.
For the first time in our 12 years of existence, Old Hat entered a few things in the 2016 Oklahoma Addy Awards. I was under a tight deadline to get things entered and ended up failing our print division by not entering anything that required a hard copy (i.e. anything print related). I only entered 5 videos and our SMU environmental graphics project and they all won awards.
So on Saturday night, we got all dolled up and went downtown to the awards banquet. Here's a pic of me and my wife looking all perty before the show:
And now, without further ado... The projects for which we won Addy Awards:
Old Hat Creative recently hosted a webinar, where we presented information about our recent "Raise Up Carolina" website launch. Read Kevin's blog for more detailed background on the project.
One of the best features of this site is the inclusion of marketing automation. This is something we are now offering on new website projects.
Don't know about marketing automation? I'll explain it to you, the way it was explained to me, like I was five. Please note: don't get me wrong, I asked it to be explained to me this way… probably because I hadn't had my coffee yet. And sometimes technology is hard, yo.
Marketing automation refers to software that executes your digital marketing communication for you. It helps you by performing tasks for you in an efficient way. It makes you more effective in your job. It's all about nurturing leads, not hard selling. It's figuring out who is interested in you (your teams, your games), why they are interested and what specifically they are interested in, and directs your communication specifically about those interests to the people who are interested. Marketing automation keeps the conversation with your fans going by getting more and more content to them at appropriate intervals, nudging them forward as they continue to show interest (open an email, click, etc.). It also stops sending emails to people that indicate they aren't intersested (without them even needing to opt out), so you don't have to worry about sending so many emails that people get pissed off. It's anything but a generic death-by-email approach.
Still with me?
Let's talk about how marketing automation can help you in your job. Here are just a few ways:
1) It's going to simplify your life because you put the plan in place but it's doing the execution for you automatically.
2) It's like you just added an extra staff member to your marketing team. And who doesn't need that?
3) You won't waste as much of your time sending communication to people who probably aren't interested in what you are saying.
4) You can engage your fans, keep them happy, and coming back for more!
You can utilize marketing automation to improve your ticket sales and assist with season ticket renewals, to promote specific sports, get donor leads, and much, much more. And what's best about it is that you have hard facts (data, y'all) that direct you in which messaging to execute and when. And you are directing this messages to people who actually care about what you're saying.
Some of the awesome features of marketing automation include:
Website Visitor Tracking (by reverse IP address, but once you have an email address, you'll be able to track every interaction someone has with your website, forever).
Lead Scoring (a really cool way to put an actual "score" on someone's engagement with your site. You can assign "points" based on a number of factors).
Behavior Driven List Segmentation. Basically, you have the ability to "whittle down" a larger database so you don't waste your time sending messages to people that aren't interested.
Automated email campaigns.
If you want Marketing Automation included as a feature on an existing or a new website project, talk to us! We can not only get you started in this process, we can manage all of it for you!
I was talking with one of our account executives about a site we recently launched. We were reviewing the analytics and noticed there was a significant jump between now and the last time I pulled the numbers. I had not noticed the jump initially, but when it was pointed out to me I did a little digging and was able to pin point the cause.
I am a planner. I make lists. I think about what can go wrong, what will go wrong, and how I am going to deal with it. In just about all aspects of my life, this is how I approach things. It is probably the personality trait that Zac loves and simultaneously hates about me, but it's how I can make sure I am doing what is needed to get the job done.
Two seemingly random paragraphs that I hope to tie together before finishing this up. That’s the point of this whole thing, I have a plan to make this all make sense AND that’s what you have to do. You have to have a plan on how to take the next step, regardless of what that step may be.
Regardless of what you are working on, you need a plan. Here is why…
When it comes to an interactive project, we start early. We take the time to get to know you as a client. What are your goals in general? What is your goal for the website? How will you measure that goal? We need to know what is on your list of to-do’s or what's important to you, because we want to help you manage that list of to-do’s. The questions I mention above are the first steps. Outlining what needs to get done and what has to be done allows us to focus our efforts on that area.
However, knowing goals is just the start. We are partners with you and that means we will take over now that we know your goals. The next step is to sit down and figure out what is important to the people who will visit the site. What are the key things that will cause them to make a decision in your favor and how can we tailor the site to match those? Where are the areas of the site that the analytics (and YOUR FANS) say are important? Can they be improved, cleaned up, or even combined? As we go through our discovery we analyze your current site and make sure the recommendations we make about that site, tie into the goals we already discussed. We make sure the look of the site is one that fans will find appealing and we make sure that they will be able to find the information that we KNOW is important to them. It is all part of the plan…
The programming side of any website involves a lot of planning, but once we get to this point in our process, we know the plan and are simply executing the things we know we need to do. This is typically where I end up losing people because I will go on about coding and how that is done, but for this blog I am saving the nitty gritty for another day.
Having studied your analytics, worked with you to learn about your fans, analyzed your content; the plan for launching the site usually comes a bit easier. By this point, we know you, we know your fans, and we know how we're going to reach them. Whether through emails, ads, press conferences, or even marketing automation, we will have a plan.
With marketing automation, we will create a detailed plan that takes care of itself and that's what happened in the instance from my first paragraph. We built out a detailed automation plan that was executing emails at key points in the client’s month. The spike in traffic happened because of two emails we had set the system to send months ago, went out at a point when fans would be most engaged with the brand and IT WORKED!
I am a planner. It's just the way I am. It can get annoying but it helps. What do you have on your plate? Need a plan? Need some help with that plan? Let me know, I can help.
Back in the day, there was one group you could count on to be at the game and stick with you ‘til the end: students. The good news is that yesterday’s students are today’s involved alumni. The bad news is that when you look at the student section today, it’s looking a little thin…and sometimes practically empty by the time the final score is up.
You’re not alone. A Wall Street Journal study of stadium turnstile records showed that student football game attendance decreased by about 7% between 2009 and 2013. In contrast, total average attendance decreased less than 1% during that same time period.
So what gives? Why is student attendance down?
There are a lot of other options. Game day isn’t the only game in town. You’re competing with a variety of other entertainment choices. And remember, you’re asking students to pay for tickets out of their limited beer and pizza money and sit in uncomfortable seats in a venue where most of them can’t drink. If you want them to be there and stay there, you better make it good.
There’s not enough connectivity. And that’s a problem. 53% of Millennials would rather lose their sense of smell than their technology. No joke. So being able to connect during the game and feeling connected to the team are both really important. If you don’t offer stadium wi-fi and opportunities for students to feel connected both digitally and in-person, don’t be surprised at lower attendance numbers.
There’s no reason to stay. According to a recent study commissioned by NACMA and the University of Oregon's Warsaw Sports Marketing Center, almost a quarter of students say they’ve left a game before it’s 75% complete. You’re not keeping their interest long enough for them to stick around.
Here’s the real question: what can you do about it?
The best defense against declining student attendance is a good offense. You’re competing with countless other ways students could be spending their time, and going to a game is a pretty big time commitment. Especially when you consider this fun fact: a goldfish has a longer attention span than the average student. To capture and keep students’ interest, you need to get aggressive with your marketing efforts.
Get social. Driving engagement through social media before, during, and after the game can help you boost your numbers. The NACMA study showed that students who follow a team on social media channels such as Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram are more likely to attend three or more home games than those who aren’t engaged on social media. Think about how you can use social media to hype the game experience ahead of time and make being there live more exciting than watching the game from their home or dorm room.
Go deeper. Being a fan isn’t just about attending the game or talking about it on social media, it’s about feeling a real sense of connection to the team. To forge a deeper bond, you have to offer content that goes deeper: showcase fan culture, give a behind-the-scenes peek at practice or other team events, share candid player or coach interviews, recognize new recruits, or even make student fans the star of the show sometimes. Comedy and movie-style content resonates particularly well with Millennial fans – who also happen to watch a lot of YouTube.
Make it worth staying for. Seeing the last few minutes of the game isn’t incentive enough for a lot of students. While giving away freebies like t-shirts is a good start, you need to look for other ways you can make the end of the game exciting and rewarding for students. Consider options like a post-game party or concession discounts. The NACMA study found that loyalty programs and player meet and greets were big draws for students. When the final minutes count down, the game might be over for the players but it’s not over for you as a marketer. If you walk away after halftime, your student section will too. Make every engagement opportunity count.
Well, it's official. Today marks the date that the merger we've been talking about for the past few months finally takes effect. Truth be told, Old Hat Creative and Third Degree Advertising have been working together for many months now in preparation for combining into a single company. But today is the day that we no longer exist as separate entities. Old Hat and Third Degree are one.
What does that mean, exactly? Well, on one hand, not much. And on the other hand, it means a lot.
What is NOT changing?
Primarily, Old Hat will continue to be the company you know and love...
2. You'll continue to be the life of the party by being able to quote random facts that you found by viewing our email signatures.
• When hippos are upset, their sweat turns red.
• Banging your head against the wall burns 150 calories per hour.
• Billy goats urinate on their own heads to smell more attractive to females (female goats, I assume).
3. You'll continue getting the most amazing creative to help you engage your fans, improve the gameday experience, sell tickets and increase fundraising.
4. Our dedication to ridiculously good customer service will never fade. We'll continue to always be available, always be responsive and never miss deadlines.
What IS changing?
Well, we're getting bigger...
1. Old Hat is currently headquartered in Norman, Oklahoma with remote employees in North Carolina and Utah. Starting today, we will have talented employees working from offices in Oklahoma City; Durham, NC; Greensboro, NC; Salt Lake City, UT; Charlottesville, VA and Frederick, MD.
This is me outside the OKC office with the downtown skyline in the background:
And, we're getting better...
2. Old Hat has a long history of producing amazingly awesome creative. This merger puts us in the position to make that creative even more awesome by adding research, media planning/buying, digital strategy and implementation, content creation, repositioning, media audits, copywriting, marketing automation and much more. We're taking our creative and making it smarter.
The UNC Ticket Sales site is a perfect example of taking our current offerings (web design and development, video production, on-site video shoots) and combining that with the expertise of our new partners (research, strategy and marketing automation).
So to summarize, nothing that you like is going away. We're just going from ridiculously-awesome to far-more-ridiculously-awesome. And just for fun, here's a photo tour of our OKC office.
This is a map with doorknobs showing all of the locations of Third Degree's clients from all over the United States. It's rad.
This is a cool yellow couch. The wall behind me says, "Elevate."
This is a really big pencil we use write all of our really big ideas down with. It's bolted to the wall so no one will steal it.
This is the room where we keep a guy named Richard.
Just kidding. The men's room says, "Dick" and the ladies' room says, "Jane." How clever is that?
This is a cool red refrigerator where I get to keep my Diet Dr Pepper.
Can you also think of a time when you received the response:
- "Go with your gut"
- "What does your intuition say?"
We've all heard the words "gut" and "intuition". In Brene Brown's book The Gifts of Imperfection she states, "psychologist believe that intuition is a rapid-fire, unconscious associating process- like a mental puzzle. The brain makes an observation, scans its files, and matches the observation with existing memories, knowledge, and experiences. Once it puts together a series of existing matches, we get a "gut instinct" on what we've observed.
Sometimes our gut instincts are great, they guide us in a good direction, but when we don't have enough information, out gut instincts steer us towards fact finding and reasoning. It's at this point where one becomes uncomfortable with the not knowing, the uncertainty. We start asking the questions listed above OR we start to say:
- "I'm just going to do it. I don't care anymore"
- "I'm tired of thinking about it. It's too stressful."
- "I'd rather just do it than wait another second."
- "I can't stand not knowing."
At this point, we want to get the decision over with because we can't stand being in a space of not knowing, but it's at this point where we need to slow down, be still, and gather more information.
The next time you are basing a decision off your gut instincts or doing it a certain way because that's how you've always done it, take some extra time to work through the decision, don't be in a hurry to get through it. With our upcoming merger, this is something Old Hat can help you with! We're adding research to our process so that we can help you find the facts and build a strategy that works best for you, your fans, and your teams.
There’s a whole spectrum of fandom out there, ranging from the passively positive to raving loyalists with a lifelong commitment to the team. Your goal is to move as many fans as possible forward along this spectrum, deepening their relationship with and commitment to your program.
But how do you turn a lukewarm supporter into a fired-up fan? And once that fire is burning, how do you continue to fuel the flames?
The answer is engagement. If you want your fans to be invested in your team, they need to feel like they’re involved. The worst thing your program can do isn’t losing games – it’s losing touch with your fans.
Here are 3 ways you can increase fan engagement and loyalty.
1. Be a good social host. Think of yourself as the one throwing the party, not the guest of honor. In other words, your social media engagement should focus on providing an experience rather than simply providing updates. There are a myriad of ways you can do this. Invite fans into the conversation before, during and after games through channels like Twitter. Profile star players on Facebook. Share clever visuals (think infographics of key statistics or animated gifs) through Instagram. Look for ways you can support and encourage your community of fans as they interact both with your program and with each other.
2. Make it personal. The more personal a connection somebody feels with your brand, the more likely they're to stay engaged. Fans want to feel like part of the team, and they also appreciate recognition of their commitment to the team. It’s within your power to do this, so why wouldn’t you? Segment your fan base, understand their motivations, and personalize communications such as emails. Make a point of recognizing individual fans during games. Hold fan appreciation events during the season. Give fans the opportunity to feel like they know players personally through player interview videos and updates.
3. Keep it exciting. The game experience isn’t just about the game itself, it’s about how you make the in-person event irresistibly better than watching the game at home, at a bar, or anywhere else. Part of what makes live sporting events so compelling is the drama and excitement of each game’s unpredictability. Infuse more of that excitement into the overall experience with unexpected surprises like 3-D court projection videos, fan trivia contests or unusual giveaways. In the off-season, build anticipation with tactics like behind-the-scenes videos, sneak peeks at new recruits, or insider reports on venue improvements.
Remember, your program’s relationship with its fans is a two-way street. They’re willing to give you their loyalty, but you have to give them something too. And like any other relationship, it needs to blend the comforting and familiar with the exciting and unexpected in order to stay fresh and grow over time.
Obviously, I don't have favorite clients...I would never...I love you all the same! However, when it comes to projects, even though I love everything that comes from our designers, I have a few that I could call favorites from this season.
So, without further ado...away we go!
In no particular order:
Illinois Football Intro Video:
This was our first trip out to Champaign for the season to see our Illini friends. Deb and Dustin worked with Brad Wurthman to create a visually appealing concept, and we used orange and blue gels to cover the lights we set up to give the video an intense orange and blue look.
I love how we incorporated their Victory Badge logo into our transition effects.
My favorite part of this video is the music...its so dramatic. Gets me everytime...
And that stare at the end...my goodness.
Mizzou Women's Basketball Intro:
I love this whole concept. The song is "I put on for my City" and we used campus and city b-roll, and even incorporated those into the silhouettes of the girls.
While this silhouette concept was trendy this year, I like this one because we used city footage instead of highlights.
Colorado State Basketball Commercial:
Deb had an idea, and Nick at CSU let her run with it. Inspired by American Horror Story, this commercial scares me a bit. It definitely makes me want to come experience the Moby Madness. If not for basketball, at least for this guy:
Presbyterian Men's Basketball Poster:
Simon at PC wanted to highlight the one senior on the team this year.
In years past, the designs we did had a darker look to them. This one is lighter and just stood out to me among our posters this season.
Syracuse Template Posters:
This design started as a unique poster for women's ice hockey last year.
They liked it so much, they decided to use it as the starting point for the template for most of the Orange sports this season.