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 rightfully noted 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.

SMU

Poster Swag #33 and Bleacher Report #11

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.

 

Pittsburgh

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.

 

Florida State

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.

 

Utah

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.

Western Michigan

Poster Swag #40


Florida International

Poster Swag #24


Syracuse

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.

 

No, I'm not talking about Christmas. It's shoot season!

It's the time of year when we get to travel around the country and see our clients in real life! I also enjoy getting to see everyone in their natural habitats on campus.

Recently, Dustin and I adventured out to Salt Lake City to see our friends at the University of Utah. We were on-site to capture football and volleyball photos. The photos we take at this shoot go on pretty much every marketing piece Utah sends out, so we make sure to take plenty to last them all season. 

We also caught up with our on campus Old Hat designer, Douglas. It's always great to see him as well.

Here's a few photos I captured on my iPhone while Dustin was capturing photos on his "real camera":

Yay Douglas! 

 

When we got to our hotel, the power was out for most of the evening.  All I had were these two glow sticks to light up my room.

Obviously we have to take some diving photos.  Always one of my favorites.

Very intimidating.

Dustin...also very intimidating.

Swoop came by, and before we knew it, we had a handstand contest on our hands!

Dustin and Swoop in deep conversation...not having a handstand contest.

Have you ever had that moment where you look at another program’s website, schedule poster, or other promotional materials and say to yourself: “Man! That’s so cool. I want exactly the same thing – except in my school’s colors.”

Of course you have. We’ve all been there. That moment of marketing envy happens all the time. And that’s ok, because last time I checked there wasn’t a commandment that said “Thou shalt not covet they neighbor’s marketing.”

And besides, you know what they say: imitation is the highest form of flattery. I don’t know who “they” are, but that’s what my mother always told me when I whined about my big brother mimicking me. (Side note: I’m 99.99% sure he wasn’t doing it to flatter me, and hearing mom’s explanation always made me want to kick “they” in the shins. My brother usually got it in the shins instead.)

Most of the time, if you try to copy what somebody else is doing, they’ll take it as a sign they’re doing something right.

But here’s the rub: sometimes other people’s stuff just doesn’t fit you.

It’s like that time in middle school where you went out and bought something the most popular kid had, only to find that it looked kind of ridiculous on you.

Or that time when you really admired somebody else’s style (maybe their leadership style, their lifestyle, their hairstyle, their style of speaking… you get the idea), but when you tried to do things exactly the way they did, something wasn’t quite right.

Here’s another way to think of it. Wind back the clock to when you were in school. You had to write a paper about something. You found some really good information, copied it exactly, and turned it in. That’s called plagiarism. You got an F. You wrote another paper, but this time you kind of reworded things instead of copying them directly. You got a C, because it was pretty solid work but not very original. Then you wrote a paper where you used great information as a springboard for your own ideas instead. You crushed it and brought home the A. Yay, you! (Even if your actual experience didn’t quite happen that way, you get the point.)

When you copy somebody else, you’re not being your most genuine self. Even if others don’t see through it (which – trust me – they will sooner or later), whatever you’re doing won’t be nearly as effective as if you had done things your own way.

The same goes for marketing.

Sure, you can copy what somebody else is doing and just make it look like your own. And it might work out pretty well for you, at least for a little while. But it will never work as well as taking the time to create something that’s based on a deep understanding of who you are, what you offer, who you’re trying to engage, and the compelling reasons for your target audience to do what you’re asking them to do.

So the next time you see somebody else doing something cool, admire it. Get inspired by it. Then ask yourself why it works so well for that other brand. Think about the unique attributes, challenges, and opportunities of your own program and how you can use that understanding to come up with something that’s even better – for you.

Because once you start thinking that way, you’re moving from a marketing plan based on “I think” to a strategic approach based on “I know.” That’s when results happen.

Besides, wouldn’t you rather be the one who’s getting copied instead of the copycat?

Last Monday I posted an article about the death of the schedule poster as we know it and talked about the need to breathe life back into it through treating it more like an advertisement than an informational tool. Simply informing people of when the games will be played and scattering athlete photos around an 18 x 24" space doesn't do much to actually drive attendance anymore. It needs to be a part of a grander marketing campaign.

So that begs the question: How do we do that?

Answer: Through a research & discovery, internal & external surveys, target audience indentification, strategic messaging, media audits and brilliant creative.

Sounds difficult and daunting, doesn't it? Well, it's not. It's time-consuming and requires expertise in all of these fields. It involves large groups of people working together to provide feedback and input. It requires everyone in an organization buying in to a common goal. But fortunately, Old Hat has the tools and processes in place to facilitate all of it. It's called the Sports180° Process and is our proven, research-based process that gets to the heart of your unique position. Through this approach, we help you clarify objectives, analyze your playing field, and develop a winning strategy.

We just completed the initial phases of the Sports180° with SMU and are entering implementation phase where we will launch an internal and external marketing campaign, a ticket sales website and multiple gameday experience pieces that are united under a common message and goal.

Phase 1: Scouting

The first step in the process is research and discovery. Understanding your internal culture and inspiring your staff can prevent disconnects between your brand promise and what your fans experience. Their weigh-in will produce buy-in.  We talk to Senior Athletic Department Staff, Individual Department Team Members, Development, Marketing, Ticket Sales, Sponsorship and Support Staff as Directed (Team Operations, Coaches, Game Operations, Designers, Interns, Game Day Contractors, Facility Staff, Merchandise, etc.)

There are other key groups that play a role in the success of your brand, so we meet with a few representatives or request their participation in your survey. This may include groups like Fundraising Club Members, Alumni, Students, Community Influencers, Individual Game Buyers, Premium Customers, etc.

By the end of this phase we’ll understand both your market and your uniquely compelling story, as told straight from the horse’s mouth.


Discovery process on campus at SMU

Phase 2: Playbook

In phase two we analyze the research and develop a playbook to achieve your objectives. This phase involves refining your leadership vision, identifying sales and marketing opportunities, aligning your target audiences with your brand differentiators, and assessing how you can win against your competitors.

Leadership Vision: Review and discussion of the vision shared by your organization’s key leaders.

Research Findings: Presentation of comprehensive research findings and analysis, including key takeaways and opportunities.

Audience Alignment: Development and presentation of profile personas for key current and desired target audiences.

Marketing Opportunities: Identification of opportunities that support your vision, engage your key audiences, and position you for greater success.

Examples of Findings:

 Phase 3: Game Day

Incorporating your feedback and our research findings, this is where we execute our recommendations and begin to engage with your fans, alumni and donors. We will present a set of campaign platforms that demonstrate how you will connect with your key stakeholders. You’ll also receive comprehensive reports with our research findings and strategic recommendations plus a detailed brand launch marketing plan.

Key Components

Strategic Recommendations: Summary of insights and recommended actions.

Brand Platform: Presentation of final creative look, feel, and messaging as a springboard for future tactical elements.

Marketing Communications Plan: Marketing campaign launch plan, including recommended tactics, message channels, delivery, and timing. 

Brand Style Guide: Written brand style guide detailing fonts, colors, photo types, brand language and more for internal use in execution. Provided following final approval of brand platform.



The SMU Sports180° is complete and the creative elements will begin to see the light of day in the coming weeks. Through our research, we were able to identify what their most important needs were and how to properly address those needs. Portions of the Sports180° process were also used in the Raise Up Carolina project where we conducted research to identify what was unique about football game days in Chapel Hill and built a site around that position that was targeted at the proper audience. 

A brilliant marketing campaign targeted at the wrong audience will produce no better results than a terrible campaign targeted at the right audience. Old Hat has the proper experience, tools and processes that allow us to both identify and target the proper audience and build the creative that will reach them.

The mission of most collegiate athletic departments surround the idea of developing the student-athlete. And we know that's impossible without the financial support that comes from having fans in the stands. Old Hat's mission is to increase attendance at sporting events. Plain and simple. Together, and using this process, Old Hat can achieve our mission while helping you achieve yours.

It’s unseasonably chilly here in Norman, which makes a post about football posters make me think that it's almost time for kickoff, but sadly, we have a whole summer to wait. Luckily, for you, the print dudes have been in football mode for a while now, thinking outside the box boat and creating designs to showcase some of the new coaches around the league. 

Here are some of our recent designs. Look for more to come in the next few months! 

Syracuse and North Texas are both about to kick off the 2016 season with new coaches. To get fans excited, we made the coaches big and prominent. Add some fans, some text that looks likes it's moving and you have a couple of awesome posters! 

This Western Michigan poster isn’t your normal rectangle. It’s even more! They have been Rowing the Boat for a couple years, but now there is a poster to truly showcase it. This poster is cut in the shape of a boat and features some specialty printing that features a shiny effect on the text. We’ve never done a poster like this before, and we are happy with the result! 

The Redfoxes are ready to Defend The Den this season. Featuring some of their best players and a great shot of their stadium, this long horizontal poster is sure to get people excited to attend the games next to the Hudson River this season. 

Utah’s spring game is always a fun event, putting Red vs White against each other. This year we even added some mountains and some space-like features to make it even more OUT OF THIS WORLD. 

FIU wanted to show the team, Miami skyline and a big player, so how else could we have done that? The team inside the visor shows that this team is ready for the season, and I have a feeling, it will be a good one! 

Here’s an example of one of hundreds of conversations I’ve had over the past 15 years with people I meet:

Person: What do you do for a living?

Me: Sports Marketing.

Person: What does that mean, exactly?

Me: I own a creative agency that works with athletics organizations.

Person: (looks at me blankly) So you like, print t-shirts or something?

Me: No. We partner with universities to help them with their marketing efforts. 

Person: Huh?

Me: Okay, so you know how when you walk down Main Street in your nearest college town and there’s a poster in the local bar window advertising the State U. volleyball team? We design those!

Person: Ahhhhh! That’s cool.

The conversation usually then turns into all the other stuff we do. But it all begins with the schedule poster. Everyone knows what a schedule poster is. And Old Hat was built on the schedule poster. We don’t know exactly how many we’ve designed over the years but conservative estimates put us at more than 4,000. 

Four. THOUSAND. Schedule posters. 

That’s insane.

 

The Dying Art of the Schedule Poster

Used to be, schedule posters were something people actually looked at in order to find out their favorite team’s schedule.  I remember seeing an OU Sooners Football schedule poster from 1985 hanging in a restaurant in Norman. No photos, no crazy photoshop effects, no cheesy tagline. Just the schedule. And the thing about it is, that poster probably did more to get people to the games than most of what is produced these days. People don’t have to walk over to the poster on the wall anymore to see what the schedule is. In fact, there have been times when I’ve had the OU football poster on my wall behind me and I’ve still pulled out my phone to see when the next game is. Because when I do that, I can then tell Google to put it in my calendar automatically and set it to send me a reminder to buy tickets to the specific away games I want to go to. Last time I checked, the poster on the wall couldn’t do that. 

Schedule posters are going the way of the dodo bird as a promotional tool. They have some value in recruiting but let’s be honest, 18-year-old student-athletes are probably way more interested in the multi-million dollar weight room and the 64-foot wall graphic than the idea that when they’re a senior, they might get to be on a poster. 

Once upon a time, just putting your schedule on a poster was enough to get people to the game. The art of the schedule poster has come a long way since then. Some of the posters we produce here are truly works of art. But these days, they have to be so much more than that if you want them to actually result in a fan taking action.

I’ve talked a lot about how we are fighting for people’s attention unlike ever before. The world has changed more in the past decade than it did in the 50 years preceding it and that has resulted in people having a lot more options in entertainment. And that’s not changing. In fact, it’s going to get worse for those of us whose job it is to get people to the stadium. Stadiums aren’t doing multi-million dollar renovations to create more premium seating areas just for the fun of it. They’re doing it to compete with people’s couches. Because more and more people are finding it hard to convince themselves to go sit on a hard bench crammed in with thousands of other people in the September heat when they can watch from the comfort of their recliner.

Stadiums are upgrading to appeal to fans more. It’s time schedule posters do too.

 

Breathing Life into the Schedule Poster

Your schedule posters can be one of three things: 1) A valuable sales tool. 2) An ancillary recruiting tool. 3) A waste of time. You’re going to have to decide which you want yours to be.

If you want your schedule posters to be a valuable sales tool, what can you do to make them have more of an effect on driving game attendance? For one, you can remove the schedule.

The biggest mistake we can make is assuming that putting the schedule on a schedule poster has any relevance anymore. I’m not saying you have to remove it. I’m just saying that its presence is pretty irrelevant. If you make people want to come to your games, they’ll find the schedule. And probably not by looking at a poster.

So that’s the key, right? Making them want to come? 

What we have to start doing is treating a poster more like an advertisement than a schedule poster. The poster, like an ad, has to be positioned properly. It has to target the right audience. It has to deliver a message. It has to inspire action. 

You have a built-in passionate fan base already. You have fans that wear their school colors every Friday before the game and then watch it from their living room the next day. The passion is there. You just have to reignite it. You have fans that want to be reminded about what they’re missing out on by not being there.

Advertising works. That’s a fact. But it doesn’t work without being based in research and strategy. The most amazing looking schedule poster that delivers the wrong message to the wrong group isn’t as valuable as a very basic poster that delivers the right message to the right group. 

We are currently working with a number of universities to help figure out what that message is and to whom it should be delivered. And the research we’re doing to base our strategy on is truly fascinating. Who are the decision makers in your market? What are their other choices for entertainment? What are they doing instead of coming to your games? Why? What drives them? Dig deep enough and you’ll find the answers. And you’ll find your message. And you’ll find your fans. And they’ll find the stadium.

A few years ago, an acquaintance of mine decided he was going to start a sports apparel company. Like most new businesses, he was starting with nothing. He had no facility, he had no customers, he had no product. He just had an idea. 

Oh, and he had one more thing. He applied to a program through the SBA that provided him with a steady stream of potential customers with built in brand loyalty to his new company. He didn't have to do a single thing to create that brand loyalty. This program was revolutionary. The government would take large groups of young people and spend four years slowly building an affinity within them for this guy's brand. They'd give these kids free product, they'd surround them with this company's logo and they'd teach these impressionable young minds songs that furthered a love for this guy's company. And every year, after spending four years instilling passion within these potential customers, the program would release thousands of them into the world where they would make more money than nearly half of the population.

Needless to say, my friend's company was set up to be a smashing success. Every year from the start of his company until the end of time, he had 5,000+ people who automatically loved his brand. All he had to do was supply them with a good product. Some of these people were more passionate than others, of course. And he couldn't retain them all. But what he found was that for the rest of these people's lives, they had at least some affinity for his product. On top of that, their ability to afford his product was better than average. So of course he was incredibly successful…how could he not be?

Apply Here

What was the name of this company? It doesn't matter because I made it all up. That is, I made up the idea that this was someone's company that couldn’t help but succeed. The rest of it happens every year at hundreds of organizations.

On average, about 1.8 million people receive bachelor's degrees from colleges and universities in the United States. The vast majority spent about four years being surrounded by that university's brand every single day. They walked past hundreds of signs, pole banners and trash cans all bearing that institution's logo. They sat next to thousands of other students wearing t-shirts with that university's brand across the front. They were taught the history of their school, songs they will never forget, and traditions that reinforced their love for their school. And then, after four years of this indoctrination, they are released into the world with the ability to earn an average of $18,000 more per year than those who did not attend college.

Can you imagine what Nike would do for that kind of exposure? What do you think Nike would pay to have their logo on every banner, trash can, building and sign on a college campus? The value of that level of exposure to a brand is incalculable. As a business owner I can tell you that I would have killed to have been able to start my business with a group of customers that already loved my company.

Spoiled Sports

Those of us who work in collegiate athletics are spoiled. We’re playing with a stacked deck and we’re still losing. We have something Nike would pay millions of dollars for and that businesses everywhere dream about. I've used the number 5,000 in talking about the number of graduates that come out of a university each year. Some are less, obviously. But some have double or triple that number. The point is that collegiate athletics departments have four years of free marketing opportunities handed to them on a silver platter, and there are thousands of people graduating from universities every year who have will have some level of affinity for their alma mater for the rest of their lives.

No other industry in the world has this advantage. No one ever says, "Well, I wear Adidas because my grandpa wore Adidas and my dad wore Adidas." Even professional sports teams have less of an automatic fan base and less built-in loyalty than collegiate athletics. 

If you have empty seats at your stadium or arena, you have no excuse. Or at least you don't have nearly the excuse that organizations in every other industry has if they're failing to bring in customers. If alumni aren’t coming back to support your athletic program, it’s because the product you’re asking them to support isn't good enough.

Winning Isn't Everything

The argument can be made that fans would come if the team would win and that as marketers, we can't control the product on the field. But the decrease in attendance among collegiate athletics isn't isolated to losing programs. Winning teams are losing fans too. The product on the field is great but fans are still choosing to stay home.

At home, the beer is cheaper, the couch is more comfy and the temperature is always a nice 72 degrees. That’s hard to compete with, but not impossible. Because we do have an advantage: they already love us. They spent four years seeing our logo, wearing our clothes and singing our songs. 

We might not be able to control the product on the field, but there’s a lot more to the home-or-stadium decision than that. We can control ticket prices. We can control advertising. We can control strategically targeting the fans most likely to attend and understanding what makes them tick. And we can control the gameday experience. 

So what about my theoretical friend and his theoretical business? Was success really that easy for him? Of course not. He had to work at it. He had to realize that he couldn’t rely on the same old tricks to get fans to the stadium. He had to stop taking his steady stream of brand loyalists and their disposable income for granted, and start doing more to give them a product that is better than staying home. That was when he started succeeding. And if he didn’t do those things and ended up failing even when the deck was stacked in his favor, then he had nobody to blame but himself.

My father cried on November 16, 1957. He was 12 years old and he wept on my grandfather’s lap as he had just experienced something he had no recollection of ever experiencing before. His beloved Oklahoma Sooners lost a football game for the first time in more than 4 years. When OU began their 47-game winning streak, he was only 8 years old. So there he sat, tears flowing down his cheeks, while his father held him and assured him that everything would be okay. 

On Saturday afternoons in the early 1980s, my father and I would get in the car and leave our farmhouse in Guthrie, Oklahoma for the hour drive to Norman. Going to OU football games was not guaranteed but often I would have begged enough that my dad would give in and take me. Sometimes the whole family. Sometimes just me. We’d stop by the tailgate of James and Maryanna Martin for fried chicken. We’d go watch The Pride of Oklahoma (OU’s marching band) warm up. We’d throw a football around on the South Oval. And I would bring every dollar I had saved so I could buy a new OU jersey at the stadium. But the best part was sitting next to my dad while he explained the finer points of the game of football to me.

I remember where I was when the Denver Broncos won their first Super Bowl. I know who I was with, what I was wearing and most importantly, I remember the emotions I felt. I remember driving to Kansas City to see the Broncos play the Chiefs. I remember night after night at the Lloyd Noble Center with my brother and dad watching Wayman, Mookie, Tim and Stacey play basketball. I remember the flyover at the old Mile High Stadium before the game started and how loud and overwhelming it was. I remember meeting Ozzie Smith in the parking garage outside Busch Stadium and getting him to sign a ball for me before we took in an afternoon Cardinals game. I remember standing next to my best friend in Oklahoma Memorial Stadium as the clock wound down after OU beat #1 Nebraska 31-14 after spending years in that same stadium watching OU lose game after game after game with him.

I remember, because those moments are important. I remember, because now that I am older and my brother has moved a thousand miles away, my best friend and I rarely make time for each other and I don’t see my father nearly as much as I should, those moments are what I hold as my most prized possessions. No one can take them from me and I’ll take those memories to my grave. 

These are the moments that sports create. Sports brings people together and creates moments shared by fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, brothers and sisters, and friends. I’ve never met anyone, regardless of how much of a sports fan they are, who doesn’t have at least one great memory surrounding a sporting event. They remember where they were, who they were with and what happened at that event that made it so special. Chances are, they get emotional when they think about these experiences. I get emotional just talking about it. Some people have one. Some people have many. I’m lucky… I have hundreds.

Sports are important, plain and simple. Sporting events provide an avenue for people to have experiences that shape their lives. Sports gives people memories that stay with them til the day they die. More often than not, even when their team lost, the memory is held as a fond one.

Sporting events are in a battle with convenience. And the statistics show that we are losing. Kids are upstairs in their rooms playing Minecraft or texting their friends while dad is downstairs in his man cave binge-watching Netflix. When that child is 80 years old, they aren’t going to be telling their grandchildren about the Saturday afternoon they spent playing video games. But being outside on a Saturday afternoon with thousands of other people screaming for the same cause, a ballpark hot dog in their hands and their hero… their father… sitting next to them? That creates a moment that will live on forever.

Old Hat exists for the sole purpose of helping create those moments for people. Whether through driving attendance to sporting events, improving the gameday experience once inside the stadium or arena, aiding in fundraising efforts for athletic departments and their capital campaigns, or any one of the many other things that a sports organization must do to put teams on the field, Old Hat is here to help.

Old Hat believes that there’s nothing greater than sharing a sports experience with someone you care about. We also believe that the purity of these moments is being lost to technology and convenience. Too often families opt to stay at home, everyone in separate rooms of the house staring at their own devices and not connecting with one another. My son will have no memory of the Saturday afternoon he spent playing Minecraft while I watched Breaking Bad on Netflix. However, he still remembers going to the OU vs. Texas football game when he was only 8 years old. He doesn’t remember it because OU won or lost. He remembers it because he was with his brother and his dad. He will always remember it. Because of the experience.

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