Last week Dustin and I were in Murray, Kentucky, capturing footage for the Murray State men’s basketball team intro video. We’ve been fortunate to travel to Murray State the past few years for an on-site video shoot. 

You can check out some of the past videos we’ve done for them here:

Each year, we work to create something new and different, and this year was no exception. Without giving too much of the video away, we shot all of the players in a dark gym using stop motion photography. This will give us the ability to create a really unique look with the footage we captured. The players had a really fun time with the lights, and I was impressed that they were still able to make baskets with lights flashing really fast right in their faces. That's probably why they play D1 basketball and I don't.

Be sure to check back in early November once their intro video is released along with all of the basketball video projects we're currently working on.

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. 

But why?

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. 

But why?

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 looks the 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. 

Marketing Collateral

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.

Game Experience

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.

 

We might have mentioned it once or twice before, but last spring, we conducted a Sports180 with SMU Athletics. We met with SMU's staff, did the research, and decided how to strategically and visually approach this year and drive attendance at SMU events on campus.

Last weekend, SMU hosted Liberty University for the first Mustang home football game of the year. I #GotThere and watched the game in person! I love being able to see the work our designers created in real life. Usually I only get to see it on my computer screen.  Thanks again to the SMU staff for having me!

As a part of the Sports180, we've created many many pieces for SMU sports all following a consistent brand.  For football specifically, those include:

A dedicated football ticket sales site: GetHereForGameday.com

This HUGE poster:

Schedule Card:

Billboard:

Season Tickets:

Snapchat Filter:

Social Media Templates:

Stadium Souvenier Cup:

Yard Sign:

Fire Box Graphics - they shoot fire when the team runs out of the tunnel, and we designed this for the boxes.

Intro Video: 

Mustang You - Get to Know's

Player Features

 

Here's some photos of our video board graphics actually on the video board!

A wise man once said, "I love it when a plan comes together." That's the best way I could describe how I felt after delivering the University of Illinois Football Intro Video. It started all the way back on April 25th with a simple email, subject line "This might be something in 2016-17" and a link to a song. And the rest they say is "history." Or is it "yada yada yada?" Just kidding, I'm not going to gloss over the numbers.

  • 9 locations total for this shoot. I love touring a pretty college campus on a golf cart. It's an underappreciated video asset right outside your front door: well-manicured lawns, beautiful landscaping, unique architecture and statues for days! We only used the campus beauty shots for about :13, but I think they worked well in setting the scene with the music and the voice over. We photographed the players in the indoor practice facility (gotta love a steamy venue in July) as well as their locker room (thankfully air conditioned).
 
 
  •  1 concept from the get-go. Dustin and I have been wanting to do some type of stop-motion photography in a practical sports setting with the athletes for several years now. In the past we've shot the photographs with a black background. I like the stop-motion look because it gives the athletes a really cool stop-and-start look that worked quite well with the music.
 
  • 3617 photographs shot. That's a lot of strobe lights going off in about three hours. Thankfully, there were no light-induced seizures that afternoon. It was quite bright. Without getting TOO technical, for most of our videos there are 30 frames of video per second. So if we're shooting photographs we'll need a lot to fill about 60% of the one minute video.
 

  • 120 photos actually scripted and used in the final edit Yeah, that's not a very big percentage. Sorry, Dustin. We used the best stills or series of stills and then had to make room for campus shots, graphics, and of course highlights. WE'VE ONLY GOT ONE MINUTE!!
 
  • 16 Illini football student athletes. Listen, shoots are cool, but they're hard work, they take time, and you're often waiting your turn...in the steamy indoor football facility. I've worked with hundreds of players over the last eight years and these guys were absolutely great to work with. They followed directions, brought enthusiasm and intensity, and were very patient. We had them in full pads and gear and I didn't hear one complaint. Coach Smith has a great group this year. We got awesome photographs and the guys got done an hour early. Win-win.



He was actually growling at Dustin. It was fantastic.

  • 5,000 the number of times I listened to "The House of the Rising Sun" at my computer, driving home, mowing the lawn. I'm a big fan of covers done well.

  • 8 Illini Athletic Marketing staff members holding lights, carrying boxes, bringing us 5lb bags of Swedish Fish, driving us around campus. Amazing group of awesomeness led by the Canadian King of Awesomeness Brad Wurthman.
 
  • 3 Old Hatters just doing what they love to do.
 
 
  • 48,644 fans in attendance at Memorial Stadium for the 52-3 victory over Murray State.
 

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.

 

One of my favorite things about the Olympics are the advertisements during and leading up to the Games. Yeah, I said it. I LOVE COMMERCIALS. I know there have been a lot of complaints about the volume of spots during the Opening Ceremonies as well as the Prime Time broadcasts, but I tend to agree with the notion that folks are just becoming more intolerant. The numbers for the Opening Ceremonies actually dropped compared to the 2012 London Games. While I get that these interruptions can be annoying, it's not like we're getting the local auto dealership and mesothelioma lawsuit ads. Every two years the very best in athletic competition is complemented with the very best in advertising. I'll be totally okay taking a 4.5 minute break every 15 minutes if the product remains as entertaining and inspirational as the events themselves.

Here are some of my personal favorites:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Old Hat just recently completed video shoots for The University of Illinois' football and men's basketball teams. We were very excited to once again head out to Champaign and work with the Illini marketing staff and their respective student-athletes on a unique video concept. 

When we started talking with Illinois about these shoots we wanted to find a way to show their student-athletes and the familiar concepts of a football and men's basketball shoot in a different way. We settled on stop-motion as the method of telling our story. 

A stop-motion video is simply a series of still photographs played back at the speed of video which is typically 24 frames per second. That means for every second of video we show on-screen we shot 24 photographs to make that moment come alive. 

Let's get to a few of the technical challenges with this video. It was shot with a Canon 7D Mark II, which shoots stills at a maximum frame rate of 10 fps. Obviously this isn't quite up to the speed of 24 fps of shooting video, so you get a unique staccato, strobe-y feel to the video. The 7D is great because it's basically the poor man's sports shooter.  Just as many frames for way less than their flagship cameras. 

 

In the photo above you can see the 7D Mark II sitting atop a Glidecam 4000 on a steadicam arm. One of the things we wanted to do on these shoots was to really move the camera around like we would a video camera, even though we were shooting stills. Shooting with a steadicam allowed us to achieve that look. 

Here's a reverse angle of a slightly different setup. You can see that two strobes are on stands and the larger octabank is being handheld by light-holder extraordinaire Brad Wurthman, who also happens to be in charge of marketing at Illinois. In several other setups and throughout the day we had a person holding each individual light stand to facilitate movement of the camera and all of the lights simultaneously. 

We shot with Profoto B1 strobes. The B1's are battery powered and gave us the ability to move around quickly without having to worry about extension cords and finding power. We could go anywhere and continue to light our subjects. User replaceable batteries meant we could have backups charged and ready to go whenever we were running low. All in all we shot over 8,000 photographs between football and men's basketball, which is a lot of flashes. 

Stay tuned for the football video to make its debut in the coming weeks!

 

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?

Blog Assignment: Concepting client videos - what is your process.

Current Creative State of Mind:

Confession:

I hit a creative block this week. It's one of the awesome realities you face when your job is to be creative. There's no rhyme or reason. In fact, the day before it struck I drove home feeling really good about the creative work I put in. 16 hours later IT'S GONE. To be honest, it's infuriating. What changed between today and yesterday?? No idea, but now everything is a struggle. Writing this blog is a struggle. FINDING THE PERFECT GIF IS A STRUGGLE.

Struggle struggle struggle.

 

I'm sure this kind of honesty isn't exactly what they had in mind when assigning me this blog topic, but I'm also pretty sure every single person who creates anything deals with this problem. It's a little paralyzing especially when most days it comes so easy. So you find yourself filling part your day with tasks that don't require a whole lot of thought, but provide very little satisfaction. The other part of the day you stare at a blank piece of paper. You write the same voice over lines over and over again thinking maybe if you write it one more time it will finally sound good in your head. You play the Intro music with the footage from the video shoot and read the VO lines in your head. You play Heart really loudly in your ear buds hoping Ann Wilson's voice will drown out the office din, but then get distracted by their version of "Stairway to Heaven." Maybe I do like that song? NO. I do not. Play "These Dreams" again.

Sooner or later everything leads to this:

The good news is this isn't a permanent condition. It's not the first time I've hit a creative wall and it won't be the last time. Thankfully, I have several boards on Pinterest to help drag me out of the creative void. THIS is typically where my creative concepting process begins. Looking at other people's creative work helps motivate that hamster in my head to get back on the wheel. It doesn't take much to get inspired. It could be a concept, a song, a design, writing, a camera angle, etc. I just have to put in the work to find it. 

Concepting isn't just on the creative person though. It helps when, for example, your client brings some ideas to the table. Simple lines like "Hail to the Orange" , "Texas Tough" or "Bring the Fight" actually help me conjur up several visuals like iconic campus settings, skylines, time lapses, groups of people and voice overs. From there I start researching ways to visually bring the lines to life. I ask a lot of internal questions: How have other people done it? Was it successful? How could we do it better? Could this work in a sports setting?

I spend a lot of time gathering pictures, videos, and music examples for a poor man's storyboard. And I might even write a rough voice over. There are several other things specific to each client, sport and team that have to be taken into account when concepting and I discussed all of that in length here.

If there's time and I have the assets I'll create a rough video edit to see how everything works together. Once I think I'm onto something I like to run it by another video creative person like a Dustin. Finally, if we're all on board then I'll hand it on over to the Geppetto's downstairs who will make the concept come to life. 

It's all pretty magical once you get past the creative block. I guess if you really think about it the block is a necessary part of the creative process. And there's my Doogie Howser, M.D blog conclusion.

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