The need for creative content has never been greater in the world of athletics than it is right now. From traditional media that have been around for years like posters, ads, ticket stock and billboards, to the newer forms of creative output like social media graphics, recruiting graphics and the beloved animated gifs, the new truth is this: you need designers. The problem is, many athletic organizations don't have experience hiring for that position. And they don't have creative directors that leading a team of designers that they can lean on to head that up. No, many times it falls to sports information directors, sport operations managers or marketing directors to hire for a skill set they do not possess. They know what to look for when hiring a coach. They know what to look for when hiring marketing assistants or sports info assistants. But hiring designers is tough. Hiring designers with an eye for sports is nearly impossible.
I've spent nearly two decades in athletics creative and for the past 14 years, I've hired or been a part of the hiring of a lot of designers, editors, animators and other creatives to help Old Hat develop top notch creative for the more than 150 sports organizations we've worked with. We have a process and we know what to look for (and not look for) when identifying talented individuals that know how to produce for sports. So here are some tips and tricks that can help you in your search for someone that can churn out all those social media graphics on signing day.
1. There's no "Eye" in Team - I've seen hundreds of portfolios and interviewed countless designers. Some of them are extremely talented. But an eye for design doesn't always equate to an eye for sports design. Sports design is a different animal and to succeed in this industry, you have to look at design a little bit differently. Most of the design world operates on a "less is more" philosophy. But I've always said that sports subscribes to the "more is more" design philosophy. So one thing to make sure you look for is someone that knows sports and has an eye for sports design. Some will have examples of that in their portfolio but for those that do not...
2. This is a test - No matter how talented they appear to be or how many examples of amazing sports projects they have in their portfolio, always send them a test project. Primarily, this shows me what they can do with a project from scratch. For all I know, their portfolio is full of ads they resized from another designer's template. So send them your logo, a few photos of your athletes, tell them what to create and see what they send back. You'd be surprised by how many designers that have amazing portfolios send back test projects that fall completely flat. If you get something amazing back from them, you're on the right track. But there are other things to keep in mind, like...
3. It's about more than talent - Talent can get you far but the sports industry is a lot more fast-paced than most. Sometimes we have to produce things with quick turnaround. Actually, that happens more often than not. And great designers have a reputation for wanting to take their time to get it just right. You also want to know how well they follow instructions, how well the can stay on brand and what their attitude is like when you give them feedback. So as a part of your test project, make sure to give them basic instruction on the design, but specific instructions on content. You want to see how the operate with creative freedom but you also want to make sure they can follow instructions. Give them a specific deadline and if they don't meet it, mark them off the list (bonus points for sending it early). Then, if you really want to get a feel for 1) how they are to work with and 2) how much they want the job, send revisions. At this point, you'll know if they have an eye for sports design, you'll know how good they are and you'll know how fast they are. What else do you need to know about them?
4. For love of the game - They might be good, they might be fast and they might have great attention to detail. But do they love sports? You're going to get a lot more out of them if they do. You want someone that gets excited by what they're doing for you. I always ask, "If you could get a job designing for any industry, what would it be?" or "What's the most fun design project you've ever worked on?" If their answer is that they want to work in the fashion industry or that their favorite design project was their cousin's wedding invitation, they're not for you. That's not to say that you can't get good work out of someone that doesn't love sports but if they're not passionate about what they do, the long hours, tight deadlines and coaches that change their minds 12 times are going to wear on them and their time with your organization will be short-lived. If you can find someone that has an eye for sports design, nails the test project, follows instructions, meets deadlines and absolutely loves sports... HIRE THEM. However, if you want to take it one step further, there's one more thing you can look for that will get you the holy grail of sports designers...
5. What color do they bleed? - This one is easy because you don't have to even ask them the question to find out the answer. Look at their resumé and see where they went to school. If they attended the some other institution, that's fine. They're probably worth hiring anyway. But if they list your school as their alma mater, that's one more mark in the W column for them because I can assure you that they'll pour themselves into their jobs even more if they have a pride in the organization they're working for. This doesn't work, of course, if you're hiring for a professional organization. But you can solve this simply by asking who their favorite teams are. Or simply look at where they're from. If you're hiring for the Pittsburgh Steelers and your candidate grew up in Dallas, they might not have the passion for the Steelers you want them to have. But if you find someone that meets all the criteria for a great sports designer and they went to your school or grew up in your town, you have a winner.
We Hire, Train and Consult
One thing to keep in mind is that if you still don't feel comfortable facilitating the hiring process, or if you'd like to have someone to train that individual prior to them taking their seat within your organization, is that Old Hat offers creative staffing services as a part of our mission to help sports organizations drive attendance to their events. We believe strongly that great creative can help fill the stands and we want to help organizations achieve that goal in every way possible. Therefore, we developed a program where we serve as your proxy to hire your creative staff. Here's how it works:
1. We Identify Candidates - We tap our network of sports designers we know from coast-to-coast to see who may be interested in a job in your organization. We also post the job on multiple creative job boards to get as large a pool as possible that are interested in working for you.
2. We Test Them - Over many years we have developed a number of test projects depending upon the job description and we put the candidates through the rigors to figure out who best meets the requirements.
3. We Interview - We narrow the pool based on talent and we interview them to see who would be the best fit.
4. We Recommend - Based on our tests and interviews, we submit a list of qualified candidates to you. You are the final decision maker on who gets the job.
5. We Train - As a part of our program, we bring your new staff member to Old Hat HQ to spend 2-4 weeks training under our design staff. We put them through a crash course in file management, project management, how to field requests, design tips and tricks, photography, motion graphics and more to make sure they are ready to roll when they begin working for you.
6. We Consult - The hardest part about being a designer in a sports organization is that often times, you're on an island. You're not surrounded by other creatives that you can learn from, bounce ideas off of, etc. It's a lonely gig. Old Hat solves this by being on retainer to answer questions, provide input and allow your designer to submit their ideas for feedback.
If you're interested in finding out more about our creative hiring services, download this PDF, email me at email@example.com or call (405) 310-2133 x118.
We understand that environmental branding is imperative in appealing to fans and is a game-changer in the recruiting process. We also know that big projects often mean big investments and sometimes big headaches! We wanted to find out more about the challenges you face when it comes to projects involving large-scale graphics, so we recently conducted a survey through our new company, Powerhouse.
Here are a few things we learned through the Powerhouse Environmental Graphics Survey:
1. You believe environmental graphics projects are effective.
Only 14% of survey respondents said that the environmental graphics projects they’ve done in the past 24 months weren’t effective at all. We’re not surprised, because large-scale graphics projects are a great way to influence the energy of student-athletes, administrators, donors and fans. The big question to ask yourself is: are your environmental graphics projects as effective as you’d like them to be?
2. You prefer local partners, but don’t always use them.
80% percent of survey participants agreed that using local printers and installers is an important consideration when creating environmental graphics. Pricing and creative design capability were the top two reasons cited for choosing to work with a supplier outside the local area.
3. Football and basketball rule the roost.
Not surprisingly, basketball and football facilities were identified as the main focus for environmental graphics investments. The environmental graphics used in these facilities were also seen as the most effective by survey participants.
For more survey data and insights, see the full survey report here.
We're not exaggerating when we say Ronald Semro III is one of the nicest guys in the universe. We first met Ronnie a few years ago as a part of Brad Wurthman's crew at Cincinnati. Since then, we've had the pleasure of working with Ronnie at the Air Force Academy and now SMU for the last year or so. As true friend of Old Hat, collaborating with Ronnie and his team is ALSO one of our favorite things (see #6). And that's not only because of his natural talent as a perfect test model on our photo/video shoots.
Even better, now that Deb and Hannah know Ronnie is a FRIENDS fanatic too, you know the FRIENDS references will skyrocket.
1. NAME: Ronnie Semro
2. OCCUPATION/TITLE: Director of Marketing at SMU
3. HOMETOWN: Aurora, IN
4. PREGAME RITUAL: As we all know, gamedays are hectic. I try to take a minute to reflect on a number of things, such as: all the work our team put into the event, how I got to where I am, and remind myself to have a bit of fun on gameday. Then I immediately go back to double checking everything.
5. FAVORITE THING TO SNACK: Cheez-Its
6. FAVORITE THING ABOUT YOUR JOB: Three aspects stand out. The first is being influential in creating memorable moments that our supporters cherish. The second is guiding those that look up to me and how I can help them attain their goals. Last but not least, working with our friends at Old Hat!
7. LEAST FAVORITE THING ABOUT YOUR JOB: The speed bumps we encounter that prohibit either progress or innovation.
8. HIDDEN TALENTS/HOBBIES: My hidden talents are so hidden, I’m unaware of them. As for hobbies, I’m a huge soccer follower and I also like to get out on the golf course.
9. ADVICE TO YOUR YOUNGER SELF: Speak up. Don’t allow outside factors to alter your thought process. Convey your ideas with confidence. If you aren’t willing to believe in them, how will others.
10. YOUR GO-TO KARAOKE SONG: You’re more likely to see me performing in the car next to you than seeing me on stage. Regardless of venue, the favorites would be: Friends in Low Places by Garth Brooks, Small Town by John Mellencamp, Ain’t No Mountain High Enough by Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell.
11. FAVORITE MOVIE: Toy Story
12. FAVORITE TV SHOW: Friends
13. IF YOU WERE IN A BOY BAND WHAT WOULD IT BE CALLED: I have spent far too much time trying to think of a witty answer for this question. The result is: N’Treble – as that’s exactly what our listeners will be thinking.
14. FAVORITE PLACE TO EAT: Penn Station
15. WHAT DO YOU ORDER THERE: Pizza Sub & Chocolate Chunk Cookie
16. FAVORITE DISNEY PRINCESS: Ariel – I grew up with two older sisters, meaning that I was always outnumbered when we voted on what movie to watch.
17. WHAT’S YOUR SPIRIT ANIMAL: Bear – Thanks to a quiz and some Google searches I’ve been able find out that the Bear stands for strength, confidence, solitude, and standing against adversity.
18. WHAT’S THE STUPIDEST THING YOU’VE EVER DONE: I was rushing to get into my apartment on the third floor and my roommate who was on ground level had the keys. We both thought that it would be fine to toss the keys up so I could get in. We. Were. Wrong. Unfortunately, he had a cannon for an arm and the keys ended up on the roof. We had to build a contraption out of broom handles, duct tape, and a rake to retrieve our keys. It certainly wasn’t our finest hour.
19. WHAT’S THE LAST SHOW THAT YOU BINGE-WATCHED: I’m currently finishing up Season 3 of Bosch. Please don’t reach out with any spoilers!
20. IF YOU WEREN’T DOING THIS JOB WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING: I would like to think that I would be working for a club in Major League Soccer.
We have had the absolute pleasure of working with some really talented Notre Dame Athletics Marketers over the years and Jasmine Cannady is no exception. This former Sacramento State Hornet student-athlete brings a different perspective to projects that not a lot of marketers possess. It's a definite positive. Plus, we're pretty confident she would own Robert on the court and that's just enjoyable to think about.
We're adding Jasmine to our weekly Grey's Anatomy Friday chat. Any suggestions on an appropriate hashtag are welcome (#FridayMcChats). Learn a little bit more about Jasmine Cannady in today's 20 Questions!
1. NAME: Jasmine Cannady
2. OCCUPATION/TITLE: Assistant Marketing Director, University of Notre Dame Athletics
3. HOMETOWN: Sacramento, CA
4. PREGAME RITUAL: NA
5. FAVORITE THING TO SNACK: Popcorn
6. FAVORITE THING ABOUT YOUR JOB: The people I get to work with and getting to watch my marketing plan come to life right before my eyes. If you are successful, you know. If you are unsuccessful, you know. Either way, you get measurable results that you can act on immediately.
7. LEAST FAVORITE THING ABOUT YOUR JOB: The fans. Ha! JK. I don’t have a least favorite. I truly love everything about my job.
8. HIDDEN TALENTS/HOBBIES: I love to read crime/murder mysteries
9. ADVICE TO YOUR YOUNGER SELF: Don’t underestimate your qualifications and abilities
10. YOUR GO-TO KARAOKE SONG: Drops of Jupiter by Train or Don’t Stop Believing by Journey
11. FAVORITE MOVIE: Big Fish by Tim Burton
12. FAVORITE TV SHOW: Grey’s Anatomy
13. IF YOU WERE IN A BOY BAND WHAT WOULD IT BE CALLED: IDK (no seriously, “IDK” would be the name of the band)
14. FAVORITE PLACE TO EAT: It’s a place in Sacramento, CA called Arigatos. It’s a sushi restaurant.
15. WHAT DO YOU ORDER THERE: Vegetable Tempura, the Dragon and Lion King Rolls and Miso Soup
16. FAVORITE DISNEY PRINCESS: Ariel
17. WHAT’S YOUR SPIRIT ANIMAL: Fox
18. WHAT’S THE STUPIDEST THING YOU’VE EVER DONE: When I was in high school I decided to ditch school one day and called myself smart by calling into the front office and pretending to be my mom to excuse my absence. The lady asked for a call back number and instead of leaving my cell phone number, I left my mother’s number. Needless to say, my called me about 20 minutes later asking why I wasn’t in school. Ha!
19. WHAT’S THE LAST SHOW THAT YOU BINGE-WATCHED: Mad Men, it’s an amazing show! You should watch it!
20. IF YOU WEREN’T DOING THIS JOB WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING: I would have either joined the Peace Corps or tried to join the California Highway Patrol as an Officer
Diana Pulupa, Brand Manager, Georgetown University Athletics, has been working with Old Hat for so long that she's got projects on our Archive server. She's definitely an OH OG. Robert added, "When we started working with Di so many years ago, she was just a young [bulldog] pup. And if you keep up with her on Instagram like we do, you'll realize she hasn't aged a bit. She's been a great client and advocate for Old Hat, so now... we lift our shot glasses and salute Diana!" Apparently, Robert is filling up shot glasses at 10 in the morning. But hey, it's for Di and Di is awesome! Cheers!
1. NAME: Diana Pulupa
2. OCCUPATION/TITLE: Brand Manager, Georgetown University Athletics
3. HOMETOWN: Bethesda, Md.
4. PREGAME RITUAL: Pray the printed materials get to the venue on time? When I was an athlete (a very very long time ago) my favorite pregame song was Ma$e “Breathe, Stretch, Shake.”
5. FAVORITE THING TO SNACK ON: Cheese sticks. My cheese consumption went up significantly once I started working with Barbara Barnes who hails from America’s Dairyland.
6. FAVORITE THING ABOUT YOUR JOB: Working on a college campus has (seemingly!) kept me young – at least I feel younger than I actually am.
7. LEAST FAVORITE THING ABOUT YOUR JOB: Seeing rogue or unapproved use of Georgetown logos. Or a lack of Trademark – that TM means so much to me!
8. HIDDEN TALENTS/HOBBIES: I wouldn’t call it a “talent” but I do enjoy baking and cooking in general. It’s not uncommon for overly ripe bananas to be anonymously left on my desk so I can bake them into banana chocolate chip muffins the next day – and if we’re really good friends, I’ll even make custom muffins that either don’t have chocolate chips or added walnuts, etc.
9. ADVICE TO YOUR YOUNGER SELF: Take advantage of those glorious times in life when you can still schedule a nap during the day. I really miss naps.
10. YOUR GO-TO KARAOKE SONG: I like other people too much to ever actually do karaoke, but if this were a lip sync battle, I’m prepared to go with Nicki Minaj “Super Bass” if called upon.
11. FAVORITE MOVIE: Toss up between Top Gun, Mean Girls and 17 Again because all three are movies that, when on television, definitely get watched – no matter where in the movie it is.
12. FAVORITE TV SHOW: The Mindy Project
13. IF YOU WERE IN A BOY BAND WHAT WOULD IT BE CALLED: I’m not really a “share the spotlight” kind of person. However, the GU sports info office (more specifically, Ryan Sakamoto) once gave me the stage name Positive D. Pretty sure he was mocking me.
14. FAVORITE PLACE TO EAT: Medium Rare, Washington, D.C.
15. WHAT DO YOU ORDER THERE: Steak frites – the only thing on the menu!
16. FAVORITE DISNEY PRINCESS: Ariel … best sidekicks in Sebastian and Flounder.
17. WHAT’S YOUR SPIRIT ANIMAL: Mindy Kaling is my spirit animal.
18. WHAT’S THE STUPIDEST THING YOU’VE EVER DONE: I have twice waited a full 18 months between oil changes in my current car. Somehow, my poor car is still kicking despite my attempts at literally driving it into the ground.
19. WHAT’S THE LAST SHOW THAT YOU BINGE-WATCHED: 13 Reasons Why … it was all over the internet! Couldn’t avoid it. But right before that was re-binging Master of None – much more lighthearted and Aziz Ansari is amazing.
20. IF YOU WEREN’T DOING THIS JOB WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING: Most likely a job in communications, just outside of sports.
We've had the great privilege to work with Chris and the Southland Conference for five years on everything from logos to printed tournament materials to commercials. We get to collaborate with Chris and his crew on a little bit of everything. He's a hardworking, thoughtful guy who puts a lot of effort into his creative messaging for the Southland and its student-athletes. At that's a lot of student athletes!
Chris provided us with a few photos to choose from, but we will always pick the ones with babies. Cute baby, Chris! He's a natural with the mic! It's always great to go visit him down in Frisco because they always find a new great place to eat. Speaking of which, it's about time for another visit...
1. NAME: Chris Mycoskie
2. OCCUPATION/TITLE: Assistant Commissioner for Television and Electronic Media at the Southland Conference
3. HOMETOWN: Arlington, Texas
4. PREGAME RITUAL: I pray silently during a portion of the national anthem. I started doing that as an athlete and still do it today, whether I’m at an event as an administrator, broadcaster or fan.
5. FAVORITE THING TO SNACK: Pita chips and pesto hummus.
6. FAVORITE THING ABOUT YOUR JOB: I love telling stories. Whether it’s through a short piece for social media, or a complete game broadcast on national television, I have a ton of opportunities to tell great stories about our student-athletes and coaches.
7. LEAST FAVORITE THING ABOUT YOUR JOB: Budgets! If only money were infinite.
8. HIDDEN TALENTS/HOBBIES: Any talents I have, I make sure they are visible. As far as hobbies, I used to run 5Ks on a regular basis. But now that I have a son, my runs are a lot shorter. They involve happily pushing a stroller and stops at the neighborhood playground.
9. ADVICE TO YOUR YOUNGER SELF: Study more, eat healthier, do not apply for those credit cards and live within your means.
10. YOUR GO-TO KARAOKE SONG: My brother Kevin and I knocked out a killer rendition of “Baby, it’s Cold Outside” on my nephews’ new karaoke machine at Christmas last year. No comment on which part I sang.
11. FAVORITE MOVIE: Tie between Aspen Extreme and Inglorious Basterds.
12. FAVORITE TV SHOW: The West Wing. I am constantly watching old episodes on Netflix.
13. IF YOU WERE IN A BOY BAND WHAT WOULD IT BE CALLED: Austin & the Blockheads.
14. FAVORITE PLACE TO EAT: Tommy’s on Thomas in Hammond, Louisiana.
15. WHAT DO YOU ORDER THERE: Bayou breadsticks.
16. FAVORITE DISNEY PRINCESS: I don’t have one. I’m sure I’ll develop either a love or a hatred for the princesses if I ever have a daughter.
17. WHAT’S YOUR SPIRIT ANIMAL: According to results of the quiz I just took on spiritanimal.info, my spirit animal is a deer.
18. WHAT’S THE STUPIDEST THING YOU’VE EVER DONE: When I was 23, I was renting a house and needed something out of the attic. I had no idea I was supposed to walk on the joists. I fell through the ceiling, Clark Griswold style, but I grabbed hold of something and didn’t fall directly to the floor. Otherwise, I probably would have broken an arm, leg or my neck. The ceiling had a huge hole though, plus paint cans fell from the attic and destroyed the carpet below.
19. WHAT’S THE LAST SHOW THAT YOU BINGE-WATCHED: The Man in the High Castle.
20. IF YOU WEREN’T DOING THIS JOB WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING: I’d probably still be chasing my old dream of being a big-time sports anchor. But I’m honestly glad that door closed and this one opened. I love working on this side of college athletics.
If there was only one thing we could say about working with Notre Dame Athletics Marketing Intern Conor Montijo it would be: Fun. If there was another word it would be: Hardworking. Okay, this is our blog we can say whatever we want. Conor is both FUN and HARDWORKING. And well if you're going to be an intern in the sports industry you better have both traits. This "young pup" (that's what Robert calls anybody under the age of 30) is going to do a lot of awesome things with his career because his passion is truly infectious. We also really like that his pregame ritual involves the song "World's Greatest."
It's our pleasure to introduce to you the World's Greatest Intern, Conor Montijo:
Ella Odland, Marketing and Promotions Coordinator at North Texas Athletics, is known around Old Hat HQ as "The Mean Green Rowing Machine." You see Ella is a former rower from Washington State University and well, Robert is really good at rhyming. We collaborate with Ella on multiple sports marketing strategies and she's a perfect fit with the fine folks in Denton. Ella is great to work with and gives us the right amount of direction and creative freedom to create some really cool work.
This week, Ella answers our 20 Questions and we all find out she has great taste in karaoke songs, tv shows, food, and having a dog. Ella, let us know if you want to video conference in to discuss Grey's every Friday.
1. NAME: Ella Odland
2. OCCUPATION/TITLE: Marketing and Promotions Coordinator at North Texas Athletics
3. HOMETOWN: Seattle, WA
4. PREGAME RITUAL: Eating Pizza
5. FAVORITE THING TO SNACK: Peanut Butter
6. FAVORITE THING ABOUT YOUR JOB: Being on social media all day and calling it “work”
7. LEAST FAVORITE THING ABOUT YOUR JOB: Not being able to bring my dog to work ☹
8. HOBBIES: Travelling and exploring new places
9. ADVICE TO YOUR YOUNGER SELF: Listen to your parents, they actually know what they’re talking about
10. YOUR GO-TO KARAOKE SONG: Ignition (Remix)
11. FAVORITE MOVIE: All the Disney movies
12. FAVORITE TV SHOW: Friends and Grey’s Anatomy
13. IF YOU WERE IN A BOY BAND WHAT WOULD IT BE CALLED: *ROAR*
14. FAVORITE PLACE TO EAT: Dick’s Drive-In
15. WHAT DO YOU ORDER THERE: A special, fries, and a chocolate shake
16. FAVORITE DISNEY PRINCESS: Mulan
17. WHAT’S YOUR SPIRIT ANIMAL: Lion
18. WHAT’S THE STUPIDEST THING YOU’VE EVER DONE: Flipped a boat… while I was still on the dock
19. WHAT’S THE LAST SHOW THAT YOU BINGE-WATCHED: How to Get Away with Murder
20. IF YOU WEREN’T DOING THIS JOB WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING: Travelling the world
Pitt is It! Never have truer words been spoken. We've been partnering with the Pitt Athletics Marketing team for a solid two years now creating everything from schedule posters to web ads to social media packages. Chris Bain, Assistant Athletic Director of Marketing, is one of those guys our designers really look forward to collaborating with. We get to work with multiple teams and on multiple concepts. It's all-around awesome for our creative minds when Chris comes our way with a new project.
Now let's talk about Chris' answers to the 20 Questions survey: Simply amazing. Karaoke choice? Stellar. Boy band name? On point. Spirit Animal? Best response so far. Well played, Chris. Well played.
1. NAME: Chris Bain
2. OCCUPATION/TITLE: Assistant Athletic Director – Marketing at Pitt
3. HOMETOWN: Albany, NY
4. PREGAME RITUAL: Too superstitious to make public.
5. FAVORITE THING TO SNACK: Not sure you would call it a snack but I love to chew gum. Sugar-free of course. Juicy Fruit Starburst or Trident Layers are my go-to.
6. FAVORITE THING ABOUT YOUR JOB: I love traveling to away football games with the team to see what game day is like on other campuses. It’s an opportunity to see what makes them unique and see if there are others things you’re not doing that we should be.
7. LEAST FAVORITE THING ABOUT YOUR JOB: Work-life balance. We have so many games and events we need to be at you need to tell yourself every now and again that it’s ok to miss a game or an event since family comes first.
8. HIDDEN TALENTS/HOBBIES: I really like to cook and BBQ. I got a smoker a couple of years ago and love trying new things in it. Ribs and chicken wings are my favorite.
9. ADVICE TO YOUR YOUNGER SELF: Learn to play the guitar. I always wanted to and never got around to it.
10. YOUR GO-TO KARAOKE SONG: Since U Been Gone by Kelly Clarkson
11. FAVORITE MOVIE: Back to the Future
12. FAVORITE TV SHOW: On now has to be This Is Us. Of all-time definitely Seinfeld.
13. IF YOU WERE IN A BOY BAND WHAT WOULD IT BE CALLED: Bane Of My Existence
14. FAVORITE PLACE TO EAT: Barrell Junction
15. WHAT DO YOU ORDER THERE: Cubano with a side of fries and baked beans and an IPA.
16. FAVORITE DISNEY PRINCESS: Rapunzel
17. WHAT’S YOUR SPIRIT ANIMAL: Goat King – didn’t know that until now.
18. WHAT’S THE STUPIDEST THING YOU’VE EVER DONE: Quit a job without having a fallback plan.
19. WHAT’S THE LAST SHOW THAT YOU BINGE-WATCHED: Homeland Season 5
20. IF YOU WEREN’T DOING THIS JOB WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING: I’ve always dreamt of owning/running a sports bar.
In the summer of 2004, I took my first trip to Chapel Hill, NC. I had just started Old Hat and Rick Hart, then on staff at Oklahoma Athletics but now the AD at SMU did me the favor of calling UNC on my behalf to see if they might have some work for me. Fortunately, they did and we’ve been working with UNC ever since. I made my way out there to discuss the details of what we’d be doing for the Tar Heels and afterward, I went over to the nearest apparel shop to grab a souvenir or two. I picked up a navy blue Nike hoodie that had the word “CAROLINA” embroidered across the front of it and more than a dozen years later I’m still wearing that thing as often as I get the chance.
On a recent trip to Charleston, SC, I happened to be wearing that very sweatshirt as I made my way to get my wife some yogurt from the market down the street from our hotel room. A fella was walking my direction and as we got closer he pointed at me and said in a louder-than-expected voice, “Go Heels!” I’ll be honest. I was a bit startled and it took me a minute to figure out what he said and why he said it to me. I had to remind myself that I was wearing an UNC sweatshirt. Fortunately, I was able to gather my thoughts quickly enough to offer a stuttered, “Yeah! Go Heels!” back at him before my confusion became too obvious. This exchange served as a good precursor to the one I had no more than 2 minutes later when I was actually at the market and another man gave me a hearty, “Go Heels!” when he saw me. I was more prepared this time and was quicker with my response. I walked out of the market fired up ready to shout my support for UNC at the next passer-by but unfortunately, I didn’t pass any more Heels fans between there and the hotel room.
Working in collegiate athletics for as long as I have and with as many different universities as I have, my wardrobe is full of team apparel that has been given to me over the years. It is not unusual for me to be wearing an SMU sweatshirt and Kennesaw State hat one day only to be followed up by a Texas A&M t-shirt and Michigan basketball shorts the next. There have been more than a few times that someone has approached me in a public place and commented about how great “that game” was last night, referencing some sporting event featuring the team I am representing with my wardrobe. Problem is, I rarely recall what I happen to be wearing that day so I have to look down at my shirt or take my hat off to remind myself who they think I’m a fan of. Then, I either express my agreement with their statement or have to admit that I missed that particular event.
Believe it or not, though, the point of this is not to talk about my wardrobe or my interactions at the local grocery store. It’s to talk about the bonds we form as fans. Hunter S. Thompson’s quote references football fans specifically but the idea applies to any fan of sport. We share a universal language that cuts across many cultures and many personality types. We are never alone. We are a legion and sports is often the only thing we have in common.
When was the last time you were wearing your favorite Aerosmith t-shirt and some stranger yelled, “Sweet Emotion!” at you? Or the last time you were wearing that old Incredible Hulk t-shirt and passed a guy that gave you a hearty, “RAAARRRRRRR!!!!!” No, sports fans are in a justice league of their own. And for some reason, though startling, we don’t question it when a random person yells, “Go X!” at us in the restroom at the bar just across from Xavier University’s campus.
Sports creates a bond between people who would otherwise be complete strangers and gives them something to share in common. I recently met a fella on an airplane and we spent the entire flight talking about sports. We didn’t even share the same team in common though. Our bond was formed over the fact that I’m a Sooner fan, Barry Switzer used to coach at OU, Barry Switzer played at Arkansas and that guy on the plane is an Arkansas fan. We connected over a former coach of my team that is a former player from his team. Sports fans are just searching for something to connect over!
The camaraderie that is felt between sports fans is obvious. I’m not uncovering any brilliant revelation here. But I did want to see how many sports fans recognize it themselves. In our fan survey, we asked how many of the participants felt a sense of camaraderie with people at sporting events. We further clarified the question by adding that they should not include people they were attending with. In other words, to what extent do you feel connected with all of the people at those events that you don’t even know. 75% of them said that they feel “a lot” and/or “a great deal” of connection with all those strangers with whom, beyond wearing the same color and cheering for the same team, they have no known commonalities.
Isn’t that kinda nuts? 75% of sports fans feel a connection with people they don’t even know, if for no other reason than that those people are cheering for the same group of people on the field wearing red to score more points than the other group of people on the field wearing blue!
Like I said, the connection between sports fans isn’t breaking news. Every sports fan has experienced it. What you may not have realized, however, is the positive effect sports fans can have on an athletics program. The ever-important home field advantage is because of fans. The scholarships student-athletes receive through the athletic scholarship funds wouldn’t exist without the fans. A department's primary source of revenue (ticket sales) would obviously disappear without fans. Apparel sales, sponsorship dollars, local economy boosts, etc... All because of fans. 80% of those polled think that fans can either “probably” or “definitely” affect the outcome of the game. There’s no doubt in my mind that fans affect outcomes and could do so even more if we focused more on developing relationships with fans.
If you take one thing away from this article, let it be this: Sports does not happen without every member of the team working toward achieving success. It does not happen without the athletes. It does not happen without the coaches. And it sure as hell doesn’t happen without the fans. If you are a sports fan, take pride in what you give to the game. If you are an athlete, thank the fans for wanting to watch you play. If you are a coach, try to tune out the criticism of those people that think you should have gone for it on 4th-and-27 from your own 12-yard-line instead of punting and relish the opportunity you have to affect the lives of young people through your job. All thanks to these crazy fans.