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.
Since starting these 20 Questions posts we've had some quality go-to karaoke song answers, but we believe that Abilene Christian University's Dave Kinard would really put on quite a show. Seriously, who picks David Allen Coe's "You Never Even Call Me By My Name"? A seasoned karaoke man, that's who. It's all about crowd involvement, folks.
Do we primarily work with seasoned karaoke-rers? No. Maybe? Well, I know we really enjoy working with them! And that's likely one of the reasons why we work so well with Dave! Also, he has an incredibly adorable baby. So, karaoke and cute babies. Those are the secret Old Hat ingredients.
Old Hat has a partnered with ACU since 2013 and with Dave the last two years. Hannah says Dave brings a lot of energy to each new project and if you know Hannah that's really saying something.
Below is one of our latest projects with the fine people at ACU.
It's only a four-hour drive to Abilene and they've got that 72oz steak challenge at The Big Texan. We'll see you soon, Dave!
1. NAME: Dave Kinard
2. OCCUPATION/TITLE: Senior Associate Director of Athletics
3. HOMETOWN: Tulare, CA
4. PREGAME RITUAL: It’s a long day, so I start it off with some hype songs in the truck on the way with a Dr. Pepper or Mountain Dew in hand.
5. FAVORITE THING TO SNACK: See previous answer…
6. FAVORITE THING ABOUT YOUR JOB: It’s fun! We get paid to go to games people pay to go to. More importantly, we get to have an impact on the people and students around us while we do it.
7. LEAST FAVORITE THING ABOUT YOUR JOB: Meetings about solving an issue that shouldn’t have happened in the first place.
8. HIDDEN TALENTS/HOBBIES: My wife and I love live music and always are up for anything from a concert or listening to a guitar player around a campfire. I have also been called a “human jukebox,” being able to name an artist and know lyrics to just about anything on the radio.
9. ADVICE TO YOUR YOUNGER SELF: Enjoy the process and invest yourself in the people, not the results.
10. YOUR GO-TO KARAOKE SONG: Have to get crowd involvement so I go with “Livin’ on a Prayer” by Bon Jovi, or from my Kentucky days “You Never Even Called Me By My Name” by David Allen Coe.
11. FAVORITE MOVIE: This is hard, don’t know if I can just pick one… Top Gun, Airplane, Old School… pretty much anything you can hear me quoting from throughout the day.
12. FAVORITE TV SHOW: If I can’t say Sports Center, I will go with Fixer Upper.
13. IF YOU WERE IN A BOY BAND WHAT WOULD IT BE CALLED: Why are you laughing at us?
14. FAVORITE PLACE TO EAT: Firestone Grill, San Luis Obispo, CA
15. WHAT DO YOU ORDER THERE: Tri-tip Steak Sandwich with fries
16. FAVORITE DISNEY PRINCESS: Have to go with the original, Snow White.
17. WHAT’S YOUR SPIRIT ANIMAL: My nickname in little league was Gorilla, so there is probably some truth to that. Big and bad on the outside, but a kid at heart on the inside.
18. WHAT’S THE STUPIDEST THING YOU’VE EVER DONE: I found out that my zipper was unzipped during a job interview (wardrobe malfunction). Needless to say, I didn’t get that job. Checking for any malfunctions has since been part of my routine prior to any interview.
19. WHAT’S THE LAST SHOW THAT YOU BINGE-WATCHED: How I Met Your Mother
20. IF YOU WEREN’T DOING THIS JOB WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING: Many would probably say Pediatrician, since it was my 4th grade dream, but I think I would be best as an A&R Director for a music label.
Scott Yogodzinski, Director of Marketing at Florida International University, has the perfect baseball surname which we think probably gives him an advantage when coming up with awesome concepts for posters. Check this out:
We've had the pleasure of working with Scott and the FIU Athletics Marketing staff for two years now. We have a blast working with these fine folks and look forward to 20Qs with the rest of them. Be warned: Scott has set the bar pretty high. This Kesha and Disney Channel enthusiast from Big Sky Country is a man of many talents and tastes. As for #8, Scott, we're going to need photographic or video proof. So without further ado, we present 20 Questions with Scott Yogodzinski.
1. NAME: Scott Yogodzinski
2. OCCUPATION/TITLE: Director of Marketing, FIU Athletics
3. HOMETOWN: Whitefish, Montana
4. PREGAME RITUAL: Taking strolls across our beautiful campus.
5. FAVORITE THING TO SNACK: Cookies and milk! What a combo!
6. FAVORITE THING ABOUT YOUR JOB: Working and interacting with students on campus…whether that’s through student-interns, student-athletes, or simply our student body fan base. It’s great to know that I can have an impact on their futures.
7. LEAST FAVORITE THING ABOUT YOUR JOB: Sometimes I simply don’t have the time or resources to give all of our teams the marketing attention they deserve.
8. HIDDEN TALENTS/HOBBIES: I can balance a baseball bat on my nose for long periods of time.
9. ADVICE TO YOUR YOUNGER SELF: If you work hard and are a genuine, kind person to those you meet and work with, everything will fall into place and you and those around you will find success.
10. YOUR GO-TO KARAOKE SONG: This is an easy one… Timber by Kesha
11. FAVORITE MOVIE: Sports: Field of Dreams, Brink!, Johnny Tsunami; Non-Sports: Lord of the Rings
12. FAVORITE TV SHOW: Big Bang Theory; Modern Family; Even Stevens
13. IF YOU WERE IN A BOY BAND WHAT WOULD IT BE CALLED: Lars and the Honeytoasters
14. FAVORITE PLACE TO EAT: Right now, it is this new bakery on FIU’s campus called Vicky’s Bakery.
15. WHAT DO YOU ORDER THERE: The croqueta preparada sandwich…after being in Miami for a few years, I’ve really taken a liking to Cuban and other Hispanic foods.
16. FAVORITE DISNEY PRINCESS: Snow White…she was adventurous.
17. WHAT’S YOUR SPIRIT ANIMAL: Not sure, I’ve always thought that pelicans are really cool animals.
18. WHAT’S THE STUPIDEST THING YOU’VE EVER DONE: Well, just the other day, before a game at work, I tried taking a stroll across campus in a rain storm and got soaked through to the skin…not sure what I was thinking there.
19. WHAT’S THE LAST SHOW THAT YOU BINGE-WATCHED: I know I was like two years late, but I recently binge-watched the final season of How I Met Your Mother.
20. IF YOU WEREN’T DOING THIS JOB WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING: I like being and working outdoors. It’s possible I might be a snowboard instructor, as my hometown is a ski-town in the mountains of Montana. Shortly before being hired at FIU, I had actually even printed out the paperwork to become an instructor.
The wait is finally over! For a few weeks now, we've been teasing about the release of a new podcast. Yesterday, we published Episode 1 of Stop the Clock, featuring an interview with Matt Roberts, Director of Athletics at the College of Charleston.
Stop the Clock is a podcast about the most amazing moments in sports history when you just wanted to stop time and live in that moment forever, or, those not-so-amazing moments when you would have done anything to have another shot at it. The idea for the podcast was actually born out of the book I'm writing, also called Stop the Clock. I've been conducting a lot of interviews with the nation's top collegiate athletics administrators and I'm recording those interviews to then turn into content for the book. What I'm discovering though, is that many of the people I'm speaking with are great storytellers. Some of these stories are too amazing not to let the world hear. So, I decided to turn the best stories with the best audio quality into a killer new podcast.
Mark "Hot Rod" Riordan: He has a few nicknames, "Godfather," "White Rhino," and a horribly-awesome rugby nickname that we cannot remember, nor should we probably write for people to read. Mark is an OH OG. Full disclosure, we heart this guy. If we were a celebrity couple we'd be OldMark or MarkHat.
So OldMark goes back all the way to 2005 when he was with the University of Michigan. It would be an understatement to say this relationship helped put Old Hat on the map. Mark is probably 100% the reason why Zac needed to create the position of video project manager and why I'm living in Norman, Oklahoma. Mark is the man. Which makes perfect sense since he's working for the 12th Man Foundation at Texas A&M. Partnering with Mark and his crew on KyleField.com is arguably one of OH Interactive's proudest moments. The site broke the mold for most stadium development sites you see today.
Ladies and gentlemen, buckle up. It's time for 20 Questions with Mark Riordan.
1. NAME: Mark Riordan
2. OCCUPATION/TITLE: Vice President – Marketing & Communications
3. HOMETOWN: Olean, NY
4. PREGAME RITUAL: I used to like to get to the office before everyone else and crank the music up to 11 while I put the finishing touches on the script. Now that I’m in the development world things are a little different. I’m not in the office 6 hours before kick…more like two before kick and visit a few tailgates before starting my responsibilities.
5. FAVORITE THING TO SNACK: Bison French Onion Dip with potato chips. Anyone from Western New York will know what I’m talking about.
6. FAVORITE THING ABOUT YOUR JOB: I like connecting with the donors. Also, I like being part of the process that gives student-athletes a world-class education.
7. LEAST FAVORITE THING ABOUT YOUR JOB: Fan message boards. TexAgs, I’m looking at you!
8. HIDDEN TALENTS/HOBBIES: I have a Harley. I like riding but don’t seem to have the time to ride as much as I would like.
9. ADVICE TO YOUR YOUNGER SELF: Appreciate your education and think more critically.
10. YOUR GO-TO KARAOKE SONG: Not much of a karaoke kind of guy. The last time I did it, I went with Coolio’s Gangsta’s Paradise at Old Hat’s 10-year Anniversary party. Actually, I think I have ever “karaoke’d” in public like three times in my life and two of those were at Old Hat parties. What’s with you guys and karaoke?!?!
11. FAVORITE MOVIE: Dumb & Dumber / Caddyshack
12. FAVORITE TV SHOW: All-time: Seinfeld Current: The Walking Dead
13. IF YOU WERE IN A BOY BAND WHAT WOULD IT BE CALLED: White Rhino (nickname from my lunch league basketball days at Michigan).
14. FAVORITE PLACE TO EAT: Wings ‘n More here in College Station.
15. WHAT DO YOU ORDER THERE: They have the best wings that I’ve found outside of Western New York…and that’s saying a lot. Notice I didn’t call them “Buffalo Wings”? If you are from WNY, they are wings. Also, it’s pop, not soda.
16. FAVORITE DISNEY PRINCESS: First off, I didn’t know there were only eleven princesses. I thought there were many more than that. Gun to my head, Belle.
17. WHAT’S YOUR SPIRIT ANIMAL: I like wolves…let’s go with that.
18. WHAT’S THE STUPIDEST THING YOU’VE EVER DONE: So many things to choose from! I guess one of the big ones is when I worked at a full-service gas station and thought it would be a good idea to start dipping to pass the time. I quit over 16 years ago but I spent almost 9 years rotting my mouth. All out of boredom.
19. WHAT’S THE LAST SHOW THAT YOU BINGE-WATCHED: I have three kids from 10-15 years old. Each one is in multiple sports (school, club, travel and rec leagues). Who has time to binge-watch anything?!?!?
20. IF YOU WEREN’T DOING THIS JOB WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING: Teaching high school and coaching football.
At the 2016 NACMA Conference, Old Hat lead a presentation on marketing automation. We highlighted the success of RaiseUpCarolina.com, a ticket sales website built for UNC that has helped increase ticket sales revenue by more than $500,000 and aided in selling out their premium seating areas for the first time ever. Marketing automation is one of the tools we used as a part of that project. We took a uniquely positioned website with a great user experience that built excitement for a specific program and turned it into a ridiculously effective sales tool.
A lot of people think of marketing automation as a ticket sales tool, in and of itself. I disagree. I don't think of marketing automation as a tool any more than I think of the handle of a hammer as a tool. The handle of a hammer is only effective if it has the head and/or claw of the hammer. Without one or both of those, it's completely ineffective in achieving its goal. Marketing automation is no different. Without combining marketing automation with other elements to drive results, you're stuck with something as ineffective as the handle of a hammer would be in driving nails.
Some ticketing companies are starting to offer marketing automation as a part of their platform. First, fans visit a school's primary athletic website, navigate to the ticket portal and then their activity is logged and put into the automation system. That information is segmented into audiences and communicated based on their interest on the site. However, there's one major problem with this approach: It's predicated on the idea that people are already interested in coming to those events. If they already want to come, attendance wouldn't be an issue in the first place.
Think about it this way: using marketing automation on a ticket portal through a primary athletic website (goheels.com, for instance) is like putting a ticket sales phone number on a blank, white piece of paper and posting it on a telephone pole on a street corner. It's boring, uninviting, really hard to find and once you do find it, it does nothing to actually make you want to attend the event.
Marketing automation is an amazing way to help increase ticket sales and attendance, but tracking fans' activity on a ticket portal that no one is coming to doesn't take advantage of the power of marketing automation. If no one is coming to your ticket purchasing pages, you're not going to have anyone to track.
Marketing automation is simply a piece of a ticket sales tool. And here are the three things that render it completely ineffective.
1. Dedicated Ticket Sales Site
Again, the problem isn't that people don't know when/where the games are. The problem is that they don't want to come. Simply providing information is not enough. You have to create an interface that builds excitement. Look at your primary website real quick, select any sport, click to purchase tickets and determine if there's anything about that page that actually makes you excited about that sport. If the answer is yes, you're a step ahead, but you're still faced with the issue of forcing people to have to navigate through information about 25 other sports before they find the one they want to buy tickets for. There's a reason the producers of The Avengers built a website just to build excitement about that movie rather than just making it one of many options to look at on the production company's website. And there's a reason that every other major movie does the same thing. Using your primary athletic site to drive ticket sales is a mistake.
2. Off-Season Marketing Campaign
Most of the time, the marketing that takes place for a specific sport happens in the weeks leading up to the start of the season. It will typically continue through the season, but once the season ends, the marketing ends. Sure we send out ticket renewal letters and other information, but most of the time we cease to continue to make them excited about that sport. What we should be doing is actually ramping up our marketing efforts as the season comes to a close and keeping those marketing efforts going the entire off-season. One of the reasons RaiseUpCarolina.com was so successful is because it launched right at the end of the football season. Then, throughout the winter and spring, we were consistently pushing people to that site through a comprehensive marketing campaign. Because we were continually driving traffic to the site, marketing automation was able to do what marketing automation does. If you're not continually driving traffic to your site, you're not getting the most bang for your buck in what you're spending on marketing automation.
3. Digital Marketing Strategy
As discussed, marketing automation is only one part of a much larger puzzle. It is a force multiplier, much like the handle of a hammer. A hammer's head will drive a nail if you hit it hard enough. Add a handle to that head and it amplifies the force exponentially and makes driving that nail a lot easier. Marketing automation is the piece of the tool that makes your efforts exponentially more effective in driving ticket sales. What can make marketing automation even more effective? Other digital strategies that augment marketing automation. One example is geofencing. We can identify an area where you have a potential base of ticket purchasers and target them by geofencing that area and serving them digital advertising through whatever site or app they spend most of their time on. For instance, let's say you have a loyal and passionate fanbase at your basketball games, but those fans aren't coming to your football games. We geofence your basketball arena and all your fans have to do is use their phone to access the web in any way during that event. Once they do, we can then serve them ads on Facebook, Google, etc. to drive them to purchase. These ads will push them to your website where they then enter your marketing automation platform and now you're hitting them from all angles.
There's no question that marketing automation is powerful. A $500,000 increase in ticket sales at UNC is enough to prove that point, but it took a lot more than marketing automation to make that happen: A good program, a great marketing staff, a ticket sales team, a dedicated ticket sales website, an off-season marketing campaign and marketing automation. This season we'll be implementing a comprehensive digital marketing strategy including geofencing and hope to add yet another force multiplier to the ticket sales effort.
EUGENE, OR - University of Oregon Athletic Department officials announced Wednesday that they have ended their long-standing relationship with Nike and have signed with Walmart's Avia brand to provide all athletic apparel and shoes.
"We appreciate everything Nike and Phil Knight have done for the University of Oregon and respect the organization immensely. However, we feel that it is time for a new era in Oregon Athletics and we are confident that Walmart is the right organization to represent the Oregon brand," one official stated.
Okay, did anyone believe that for one second? Did anyone truly believe that Oregon, a major collegiate athletic program, would drop Nike in favor of Walmart? Of course not.
A lot of reasons, most likely. For one, Nike and Phil Knight have given so much support to the University of Oregon, they'd never dream of going with any other apparel company, much less Walmart's Avia brand. But let's swap out Oregon, and let's say Michigan instead. Or Bowling Green. Or UConn. Or East Popcorn State University. Would you have believed the headline then?
East Popcorn State drops Adidas; Walmart's Avia to provide Colonels Team Apparel
Would that headline be any more believable? Probably not.
Avia makes fine apparel. I have a pair of running shorts from Walmart, and I don't run any slower when I wear them than when I wear my Nike shorts. In fact, I can't tell the difference. My favorite pair of running shorts are BCG brand, not Nike. Avia could provide athletic team apparel to the Ducks that feels pretty similar to what Nike provides. The Ducks could take the field in apparel provided by Walmart and they wouldn't run any slower, throw the ball any less accurately, shoot with any lower percentage or hit with any lower of an average.
So if Walmart were to come to the table and commit to providing everything Nike provides and a financial incentive far greater than Nike, would any major university be willing to announce that they've dropped Nike or Adidas or Under Armour in favor of a Walmart brand?
Not a chance. But why?
The answer, of course: Perception. Pride. Respect. Quality.
There's no coach or athletic director in the country that is going to send their team on the field wearing Avia or BCG or C9. And even if they were, how tough would it be to recruit kids to come play for a school if they know they'll be trading in the swoosh for the... uh, "I" with a little arrow thingy on top? The coaches, the department personnel and the kids would be embarrassed to compete in anything but a top name brand. And why? Because they'd look ridiculous. It's the same reason NBA players don't shoot free throws granny-style, despite the scientific data that shows they'd make way more shots that way. They'd get laughed at. And no one wants to be laughed at.
I'm not arguing that this is a bad thing. I jog in cheap jogging shorts. But rest assured that if I were going to be on national television, I'd go buy some brand new Nike shorts. I'd also probably try to drop a few pounds. Because on the national stage, we all want to look good. And no disrespect to Walmart, but running out of the tunnel wearing the Avia logo on your chest is not an idea that gets anyone excited. It all makes complete and total sense. I get it.
But there's something I don't get.
There's something I don't understand at all.
This philosophy of looking good and only being willing to wear what looks the best or shoot the way that looksthe best... the philosophy that we all think makes complete and total sense... why does that not apply to everything that represents our collegiate sports teams?
Why are we willing to let our team run out of the tunnel after an intro/hype video that doesn't actually build any hype? Why do we show videoboard prompts that are cheap, canned reproductions that don't match our brand? Why do we promote the sport that has the highest potential and greatest need for ticket sales revenue with marketing collateral that is just "good enough," has no research behind it and isn't positioned to actually drive attendance? Why do we not even consider for one second letting our teams wear something that isn't absolutely first-class, but when it comes to promoting those sports, driving attendance and building a game experience, we often settle for what is least expensive? This isn't the case everywhere, of course, but there are so many times at so many major universities that an athletic department will choose the Walmart version of a creative service over the Nike equivalent.
A glaring example of this is most universities' online ticket buying portals. Every school in the country wants to sell more tickets. Every school in the country wants to drive attendance. Yet if you look at the online ticket purchasing experience at those schools, the user interface is terrible, it's impossible to find the information you need, it takes way too many clicks to purchase and the pages are bland and boring and do nothing to actually make a fan want to come to the event. Everything about these portals depend on a fan already wanting to come to the event so badly that they're willing to jump through hoops to buy a ticket. And not even cool, exciting, flaming-hoops-of-fire. Boring, bland, unexciting hoops.
Promoting our teams with poor quality marketing isn't just as bad as sending them onto the court in Walmart brand shoes. It's like sending them onto the court with no shoes at all. We wouldn't be giving them the tools to succeed and by relying on the least expensive option for marketing, we're not giving ourselves the tools to succeed in driving attendance.
So all that said, I'm not ignorant to the idea that sometimes the least expensive option is the only option. Budgets are tight in collegiate athletics and sometimes you can control the amount you're given to promote your sports. So here are some practical tips that you can employ to help drive attendance at your events.
Ticket Sales Portal
Count the Clicks - How many clicks does it take to buy a ticket on your website? On the high end, we sometimes see that it can take up to 7-8 clicks to make a purchase. Some have streamlined it down to as few as 3. Obviously, the lower the number, the more likely people are to purchase. And most of the time, you can make changes to your site to bring that number down. Count the number of clicks it takes to make a purchase and see if you can cut that number in half.
Spruce Up the Joint - Unfortunately, most ticketing companies provide a portal that is boring and unengaging. They don't do much to actually make a fan want to purchase. But there are typically at least a couple of things you can to do customize that page. Take advantage of those opportunities by bringing your marketing campaign for that sport into the headers and other graphics on that page. In a perfect world, add some video content to those pages, even if it's just your stadium intro/hype video. Fans love to watch those things and if the only place to watch it is by going to your ticket sales page, that could go a long way toward driving ticket sales. Best way to sell a ticket to someone is to give them the opportunity to buy when they're most excited about it.
Forget Your Die-Hard Fans - I wrote an article a few weeks ago about how we need to start looking at schedule posters as advertisements rather than promotional tools. Because most of the time, they don't do much to drive attendance. But every advertising campaign starts with research to determine who your audience is. Maybe you don't have a budget for research. That's fine. You know your area and you know who has the most potential to become new ticket purchasers. Spend some time thinking about who those people are and develop a campaign that targets those people. The die-hard fans are going to come regardless of what the poster looks like or the tagline that's on it. So think about a way to appeal (both through messaging and through the visuals) to a different group. You'll probably find that putting all the seniors on the poster with a generic tagline isn't the best way to appeal to those people. Be bold and put something unique out there. Because like I said, the die-hards are coming anyway. And by trying something unique you just might appeal to a totally new group.
Take Advantage of Your Friends & Family - The best thing I can advise for improving your game experience is to identify where things are lacking. And the best way to do that is to engage a firm to do a comprehensive gameday audit. But if your budget doesn't allow for that, make your friends and family work for those tickets they begged you for! Give them a checklist and have them rate every experience on a scale of 1 to 5. Ticket takers, concessionaires, ushers, intro video, band, cheer, etc. You may not get a comprehensive report from industry experts, but you'll have more information than you started with. And sometimes it's good to have input from people who aren't immersed in collegiate athletics 24/7. At the very least, you'll have a unique perspective outside your own.
With college football’s “Best Kickoff Weekend Ever” just finished, there’s no better time to look back at many of our fall sports posters for this season. Several of these football designs were rightfullynoted in best-of preseason poster rankings and those ranks are listed below. Since volleyball, soccer and other sports have also fired up their seasons recently, we’ll show off their designs as well.
If you follow the Old Hat blog, you may have seen several stories about the SMU 'Get Here For Gameday' campaign. Following the Sports 180 process and significant research, this poster was created by Jared Stanley. "The whole point of the poster was to make gameday something not to be missed in the city of Dallas," Jared said. "The inspiration was superhero movie posters." Mission accomplished! This was the only poster that was mentioned on both preseason poster rankings. Other fall sports posters were created from this template and are shown below.
Poster Swag #12
Old Hat designer Geoff Rogers has designed nearly 900 posters in his nine years here. (So doing great design is 'old hat' to Geoff? Sorry...) This was his favorite from this year, which was a tough choice over several other great options. Pitt wanted to spotlight their new uniforms, their facilty and players. The key Geoff says is "taking the client suggestions and then using his expertise to make it look good. And it's so much more than making it look good, it's being a problem solver. Using what you have and the time you have to do to it to achieve what the client wants." This poster also became a template for other fall sports, each using the same look and layout of Geoff's football masterpiece.
Bleacher Report #17
These are my favorite for multiple reasons. I've been a fan of Seminole football since the early 90s and I was fortunate to be able to design this year's poster(s). Just as Geoff said above, we take the ideas from the client and meld them into something special. There are several things going on in these posters that might not be visible at first glance. The state outline in the background is a reference to FSU victories last year over Miami, Florida and South Florida. Several background images of note (behind the state and the players) include the new HD videoboard, Chief Osceola and Renegade and two of my favorite all-time Noles (Derrick Brooks and Charlie Ward). Raymond James Stadium is the site of the National Championship this year and if you look closely, it's the reflection in Jimbo Fisher's sunglasses. Finally with three posters, we were able to highlight 30 members of the team. If recent drafts are any indication, most of those guys will be in the NFL in a few years.
Poster Swag #49
Douglas Wilson is Old Hat's designer for the University of Utah. He's located in Salt Lake City, working on campus with the Utes. While he doesn't work with the variety of schools and color combos that the other designers do, he certainly has the look for Utah nailed down as you see with his posters here. He says that while sometimes it can be difficult working with those who have ideas different than your own, it's satisfying to create something that balances both sets of ideas to make the best design possible. The client is usually good with what you create as long as the essence of their ideas remains intact.
Poster Swag #40
Poster Swag #24
Bleacher Report #21
There are a million different (well, lots of) ways to do your schedule poster. Some schools prefer a uniform look with the same design for multiple sports. Others want a different, unique identity for each sport. To show our skills and demonstrate this point, here are several examples of Old Hat designs using fall sports other than football.
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.