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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
In exciting news out of Norman, the creative agency formerly known as Old Hat Creative, announces the beginning of a new era with a name and logo change. "Ideas Designed to Inspire Through Strategy," abbreviated, "ID.ITS", is the new moniker. "This new name really encapsulates who we are," says CEO and now lead of the ID.ITS, Zac Logsdon. "We feel like this change has been long in the making." says Logsdon. "We've always felt like we were ID.ITS. Now, it's as if for the first time we're actually being our true selves...and if it wasn't known before, it's now evident for everyone else to see with our new company name and logo!"
Robert Smith, Chief Operating Officer and Director of Client Relations, took a leadership role in both the name change and the logo development. Smith says, "I don't mind saying I really inserted myself into the logo project from day one. It was kind of my baby, and something I wanted to be as much a reflection of myself as it was a reflection of our new company and direction. I feel like Zac has been leading us towards this direction for 12 long years and now we're so excited to finally be ID.ITS!"
Much thought went into the actual logo design. Smith explains, "Some of the more obvious choices were using the color red, which as any marketer knows, represents love and profitability. Both of which are needed in any company." Logsdon continues, "Because Old Hat has made a clear shift to the digital age, we included the large dot in our logo to indicate we know the World Wide Web, often referred to as the Net." Particular aspects of the former logo were also tied in. Rather than having the word "Creative" in the new logo, the group opted to use a small "c" placed strategically above the "I", as a nod to their past designation.
Smith says that an important lesson was learned during this process. "We originally chose the tag line 'Ideas Designed to Inspire By Strategy', but because of the problem it would present with our logo acronym, we changed 'by' to 'through'. Paying attention to these types of details can prevent you from looking like a real idiot with your peers and others in your industry. Nobody wants their acronym to include 'IBS'. That's just dumb."
When seeing Logsdon and Smith explain the reasons for the changes together, it's evident that this change is truly the correct decision. It's like they share one mind. The mind of "ID.ITS".
For the first time in our 12 years of existence, Old Hat entered a few things in the 2016 Oklahoma Addy Awards. I was under a tight deadline to get things entered and ended up failing our print division by not entering anything that required a hard copy (i.e. anything print related). I only entered 5 videos and our SMU environmental graphics project and they all won awards.
So on Saturday night, we got all dolled up and went downtown to the awards banquet. Here's a pic of me and my wife looking all perty before the show:
And now, without further ado... The projects for which we won Addy Awards:
Baseball and softball seasons are about to be in full swing. We've been gearing up for opening day in the print department for a couple of months now. We all had our one favorite poster this season-Florida State Softball!
We were sent a photo of the team walking through a field, and some action shots to put all together to make one awesome poster.
Here are some of the comments from our design team!
• An easy pick of my favorite softball or baseball poster is the Florida State softball poster. I'm a longtime FSU fan and this screams Florida State and softball. I love the color and look of it. It's a great example of giving the client what they asked for plus a whole lot more.
• This is my favorite poster from the baseball/softball season this year. Not because it’s a great client or cool design, but because I always wanted a siege of seminoles running in slow motion through a field to meet me half way for a dogpile and plenty of aggressive yet encouraging butt taps as if I just hit a Women’s College World Series walk off grand slam. This may be the closest I’ll ever get. Only in my dreams. My wonderful field of dreams. I just keep whispering to myself, “If you design it, they will come.” And this year it happened to be in the form of the 2016 Florida State Softball poster.
• I really liked how the action shots of the players look like they are in a fence, much like the softball dugout that I remember growing up.
Another one of our fav's was the Charlotte Baseball Poster.
Be looking out for more of our softball and baseball posters as we release them in the next couple of weeks!
On Jan 26th, the Norman print crew got to spend a day out of the office judging a competition at a local school. The graphic design program at Moore Norman Technology Center teaches high school and adult students the principals of design, along with how to use the Adobe Creative Suite.
Each year, the school holds a Red Carpet Film Festival where the students in the video program create short films, and then the graphic design students produce the movie posters, DVD cases, and other marketing materials for the film festival. I recently was put in contact with the director of the Graphic Design Program and she mentioned that they needed judges to help critique and pick the movie posters for each movie. I volunteered our staff because it’s always good to have a day out of the office helping the young kids in the world, right? Right.
We started off the day by watching the rough cuts of the films so we were familiar with what the movies were about. Then, the students presented their posters and DVD cases. The four of us got to sit at the front of the room, at the judges table. We felt like we were the judges for The Voice or American Idol or something (at least I did).
After each student explained their concept and design, we were able to ask questions, critique and provide feedback. The designers were mostly juniors and seniors in high school, with very limited experience. Some of them have only used photoshop for one week!There were four designs for each movie, and we picked the top two. From there, the director of the film will pick the winner.
It was really cool to see the creativity and skills the students had. They took elements of the movie and incorporated into the posters. Even with the limited experience, the posters looked well put together and professional. The students were very receptive to our feedback and encouraged by our comments. The four of us were very impressed at the whole process and enjoyed being able to help the students make their designs even better.
It was a really fun day helping show the students a little bit of what goes on in the design industry and answering questions about what we do day-to-day. We look forward to seeing how the students took our feedback and tweaked their posters before presenting them to the directors.
Well, it's official. Today marks the date that the merger we've been talking about for the past few months finally takes effect. Truth be told, Old Hat Creative and Third Degree Advertising have been working together for many months now in preparation for combining into a single company. But today is the day that we no longer exist as separate entities. Old Hat and Third Degree are one.
What does that mean, exactly? Well, on one hand, not much. And on the other hand, it means a lot.
What is NOT changing?
Primarily, Old Hat will continue to be the company you know and love...
2. You'll continue to be the life of the party by being able to quote random facts that you found by viewing our email signatures.
• When hippos are upset, their sweat turns red.
• Banging your head against the wall burns 150 calories per hour.
• Billy goats urinate on their own heads to smell more attractive to females (female goats, I assume).
3. You'll continue getting the most amazing creative to help you engage your fans, improve the gameday experience, sell tickets and increase fundraising.
4. Our dedication to ridiculously good customer service will never fade. We'll continue to always be available, always be responsive and never miss deadlines.
What IS changing?
Well, we're getting bigger...
1. Old Hat is currently headquartered in Norman, Oklahoma with remote employees in North Carolina and Utah. Starting today, we will have talented employees working from offices in Oklahoma City; Durham, NC; Greensboro, NC; Salt Lake City, UT; Charlottesville, VA and Frederick, MD.
This is me outside the OKC office with the downtown skyline in the background:
And, we're getting better...
2. Old Hat has a long history of producing amazingly awesome creative. This merger puts us in the position to make that creative even more awesome by adding research, media planning/buying, digital strategy and implementation, content creation, repositioning, media audits, copywriting, marketing automation and much more. We're taking our creative and making it smarter.
The UNC Ticket Sales site is a perfect example of taking our current offerings (web design and development, video production, on-site video shoots) and combining that with the expertise of our new partners (research, strategy and marketing automation).
So to summarize, nothing that you like is going away. We're just going from ridiculously-awesome to far-more-ridiculously-awesome. And just for fun, here's a photo tour of our OKC office.
This is a map with doorknobs showing all of the locations of Third Degree's clients from all over the United States. It's rad.
This is a cool yellow couch. The wall behind me says, "Elevate."
This is a really big pencil we use write all of our really big ideas down with. It's bolted to the wall so no one will steal it.
This is the room where we keep a guy named Richard.
Just kidding. The men's room says, "Dick" and the ladies' room says, "Jane." How clever is that?
This is a cool red refrigerator where I get to keep my Diet Dr Pepper.
2015 was busy! It was filled with lots of projects for a wide variety of clients. When I was asked to share a few of my favorite projects from 2015, I knew it was going to be challenging. Every project is fun and unique in its own way. A few of the projects from 2015 that stick out to me are:
1. Towson Women's Basketball Intro Video
I enjoyed this project because the Towson Women's Basketball coaching staff had a clear vision of what they wanted this video to be. We traveled to Towson to shoot footage of the women's basketball team and Baltimore to bring their vision to life. It was the first video shoot I'd been a part of where we captured footage off campus. My favorite part of the video is how our video crew was able to show the movement of the team and basketball through the iconic locations in Baltimore.
2. Army Football Videos, Graphics and Animations
We had the opportunity to do 6 different videoboard projects for Army football. I really enjoyed these projects because each one was so unique. We had the opportunity to do a high end 3D logo animation, a Make Some Noise crowd prompt animation, a Shuffle game, a Derby game, a hype video and an intro animation for Army to use prior to their own video features. Stay tuned for some awesome new projects for the Army / Navy basketball game on January 23 at Madison Square Garden.
3. Delaware Custom Font and Wordmarks
This project was great because we had the opportunity to create a custom font for the University of Delaware and then used that font to design wordmarks for Delaware and all of their sports. Since Delaware was getting a new uniform supplier, all of these marks were then used on their 2015 team uniforms. It was really cool to see our work being worn by all of the Blue Hen athletes.
4. Duke Social Media Graphics
I enjoyed this project because we were able to work with Duke to create a consistent brand across all of their sports. This included creating profile pictures and cover photos as well as a wide variety of templates and holiday graphics for each sport to use. We based the social media profile and cover images off of the Olympic sport poster template design to create an even more cohesive look.
2016 is already off to a flying start with some exciting projects underway. I'm looking forward to another year of memorable projects!