At the 2016 NACMA Conference, Old Hat lead a presentation on marketing automation. We highlighted the success of RaiseUpCarolina.com, a ticket sales website built for UNC that has helped increase ticket sales revenue by more than $500,000 and aided in selling out their premium seating areas for the first time ever. Marketing automation is one of the tools we used as a part of that project. We took a uniquely positioned website with a great user experience that built excitement for a specific program and turned it into a ridiculously effective sales tool.

A lot of people think of marketing automation as a ticket sales tool, in and of itself. I disagree. I don't think of marketing automation as a tool any more than I think of the handle of a hammer as a tool. The handle of a hammer is only effective if it has the head and/or claw of the hammer. Without one or both of those, it's completely ineffective in achieving its goal. Marketing automation is no different. Without combining marketing automation with other elements to drive results, you're stuck with something as ineffective as the handle of a hammer would be in driving nails.

Some ticketing companies are starting to offer marketing automation as a part of their platform. First, fans visit a school's primary athletic website, navigate to the ticket portal and then their activity is logged and put into the automation system. That information is segmented into audiences and communicated based on their interest on the site. However, there's one major problem with this approach: It's predicated on the idea that people are already interested in coming to those events. If they already want to come, attendance wouldn't be an issue in the first place. 

Think about it this way: using marketing automation on a ticket portal through a primary athletic website (goheels.com, for instance) is like putting a ticket sales phone number on a blank, white piece of paper and posting it on a telephone pole on a street corner. It's boring, uninviting, really hard to find and once you do find it, it does nothing to actually make you want to attend the event.

Marketing automation is an amazing way to help increase ticket sales and attendance, but tracking fans' activity on a ticket portal that no one is coming to doesn't take advantage of the power of marketing automation. If no one is coming to your ticket purchasing pages, you're not going to have anyone to track. 

Marketing automation is simply a piece of a ticket sales tool. And here are the three things that render it completely ineffective.

1. Dedicated Ticket Sales Site

Again, the problem isn't that people don't know when/where the games are. The problem is that they don't want to come. Simply providing information is not enough. You have to create an interface that builds excitement. Look at your primary website real quick, select any sport, click to purchase tickets and determine if there's anything about that page that actually makes you excited about that sport. If the answer is yes, you're a step ahead, but you're still faced with the issue of forcing people to have to navigate through information about 25 other sports before they find the one they want to buy tickets for. There's a reason the producers of The Avengers built a website just to build excitement about that movie rather than just making it one of many options to look at on the production company's website. And there's a reason that every other major movie does the same thing. Using your primary athletic site to drive ticket sales is a mistake.

2. Off-Season Marketing Campaign

Most of the time, the marketing that takes place for a specific sport happens in the weeks leading up to the start of the season. It will typically continue through the season, but once the season ends, the marketing ends. Sure we send out ticket renewal letters and other information, but most of the time we cease to continue to make them excited about that sport. What we should be doing is actually ramping up our marketing efforts as the season comes to a close and keeping those marketing efforts going the entire off-season. One of the reasons RaiseUpCarolina.com was so successful is because it launched right at the end of the football season. Then, throughout the winter and spring, we were consistently pushing people to that site through a comprehensive marketing campaign. Because we were continually driving traffic to the site, marketing automation was able to do what marketing automation does. If you're not continually driving traffic to your site, you're not getting the most bang for your buck in what you're spending on marketing automation.

3. Digital Marketing Strategy

As discussed, marketing automation is only one part of a much larger puzzle. It is a force multiplier, much like the handle of a hammer. A hammer's head will drive a nail if you hit it hard enough. Add a handle to that head and it amplifies the force exponentially and makes driving that nail a lot easier. Marketing automation is the piece of the tool that makes your efforts exponentially more effective in driving ticket sales. What can make marketing automation even more effective? Other digital strategies that augment marketing automation. One example is geofencing. We can identify an area where you have a potential base of ticket purchasers and target them by geofencing that area and serving them digital advertising through whatever site or app they spend most of their time on. For instance, let's say you have a loyal and passionate fanbase at your basketball games, but those fans aren't coming to your football games. We geofence your basketball arena and all your fans have to do is use their phone to access the web in any way during that event. Once they do, we can then serve them ads on Facebook, Google, etc. to drive them to purchase. These ads will push them to your website where they then enter your marketing automation platform and now you're hitting them from all angles.

 

There's no question that marketing automation is powerful. A $500,000 increase in ticket sales at UNC is enough to prove that point, but it took a lot more than marketing automation to make that happen: A good program, a great marketing staff, a ticket sales team, a dedicated ticket sales website, an off-season marketing campaign and marketing automation. This season we'll be implementing a comprehensive digital marketing strategy including geofencing and hope to add yet another force multiplier to the ticket sales effort.

"Great moments are born from great opportunity." That's the first line of US Hockey Coach Herb Brooks' motivational locker room speech in the movie Miracle that is about the 1980 victory over the USSR in the Lake Placid Olympics. It's unclear if Coach Brooks actually said it, but man, when you hear Kurt Russell deliver it, you're hooked.

The 2000 film Remember the Titans is chock-full of inspriational speeches. Here's one delivered by Denzel Washington: 

And of course who can forget Gene Hackman's rally clap inducing speech in Hoosiers?

Hollywood has got the sports motivational locker room speech nailed down and it begs the question: Is there such a thing as an organic motivational coach speech in real life?

This ESPN College GameDay feature answers that very question (be sure to maximize the video frame for full goosebumps).

I've seen and helped produce Intro Hype videos featuring coaches and players giving pre-written lines and I've seen and helped produce videos featuring completely organic, from the heart speeches. Honestly, I prefer the later. Coaches are awesome at motivating student athletes and scheming up plays, and players are awesome at delivering on the field of play. The fact remains most do not have the acting chops of a Denzel Washington or Gene Hackman. Don't feel bad; I'm sure Gene would get destroyed on the field. Some of my favorite videos that we've produced feature real genuine audio and/or video of locker room speeches. This audio takes an otherwise solid video and raises it to another level. 

Nowadays, it's just about standard practice to have a team camera in the locker room during the pregame and postgame. Not every speech is going to be THE SPEECH, but you might be surprised by a few special nuggets from your team. It's worth keeping track of during the season and communicating with your video staff, because it's really hard to trigger those goosebumps, unless of course the person delivering the speech has won an Academy Award. It's to your advantage to use these organic moments that fans crave to see. There's a reason the HBO and Showtime sports documentaries following teams behind-the-scenes are so popular. I think it's a pretty good recruiting tool as well because it shows the passion a coach has for his/her team.

Point is, these speeches can and should have life beyond the moment, beyond social media. They are special. They are unique. They are POWERFUL. And they can mark a major change for a program. If you don't think so, rewatch Coach Dino Babers speech to his Syracuse Orange. 

Recently, I ventured down to Dallas for a photo/video shoot with SMU basketball. This could possibly be a record of the most things captured in one day!

Our shoot included:

2 on campus locations

1 green screen setup

1 seamless backdrop photo setup

1 on court practical setup

1 audio/video interview setup

 

We captured:

WBB on campus intro footage

WBB green screen player features

WBB on court intro footage

WBB photos

MBB green screen player features

MBB green screen intro footage

MBB interviews

MBB photos

 

In order to capture everything in one day, it took a lot of planning and working together with our friends at SMU.  Shout out to Ronnie, Director of Marketing, for helping organize everything. We needed to have every detail planned from where we were set up to what time student-athletes were coming to be sure we could capture everything in the most effienct way possible.  I think we did just that! 

I can't wait to see what Deb and her team do with what we captured. These intros, player features, and interviews are going to be awesome. Plus, these photos will look great on the posters and print pieces we are about to design.

#PonyUp

Want to know what (and how) your peers at other schools are doing when it comes to attendance, game experience, ticket sales, and marketing? Here’s your chance to find out!



You’re invited to participate in our State of Sports Marketing survey. It only takes a few minutes to complete, and individual responses will be kept confidential.

What’s in it for you?

  • The inside scoop. Participants will have the option to receive a special insiders’ report with full survey results that won’t be shared with the general public.
  • Gift cards! We’ll be giving away Amazon gift cards with values up to $100 to 15 lucky survey participants. All you have to do is opt in for a chance to win at the end of the survey.

So share your thoughts, score some free stuff, and find out what’s really going on in the industry. And share it with your friends who also work in college athletics.

Why share the survey? The more people who take it, the better you'll be able to see what's going on in the industry in terms of attendance, marketing techniques, game day experience, and more! Anyone who takes the survey is eligible to win one of the gift cards we're giving away (get up to $100 on Amazon!) and receive a copy of the exclusive Insiders' Report.

Take and share the survey now! It’s only open through Oct 21st.

Click here.

 

If there was only one thing I could tell a new college graduate looking to get into the sports industry it's that the turnover is constant. Folks are always moving halfway across the country for new opportunities. During my eight busy seasons with Old Hat, the list is short for people who have remained at the same institution for several years. Don't get me wrong, one of the best things about my job is getting to work with so many different teams. However, it's also pretty cool to be able to say we've been creating video board entertainment with North Texas, Utah, and Wisconsin for 5+ years. I know a lot of people will question how much a sports creative agency in Norman, Oklahoma could ever understand about an athletic institution deep in the heart of Texas, the Wasatch Range, or America's Dairyland, but honestly that's our job. It's really so much more than just creating cool-looking posters, videos and websites. It's researching, strategizing, and building relationships with the teams, the marketing department staff, and the fanbase that you might not normally get with one-and-done projects. 

The Wisconsin Badgers have a fantastic in-house video department that handles media responsibilities for 23 varsity teams; so the marketing department looks to us to handle their historical videos. And let me tell you, these projects are massive. We're talking more than a century of moments. In 2012, we took on the Men's Basketball Historical video for the very first time. 

Here's a quick By the Numbers:

  • 25 Audio Clips
  • 46 Photographs
  • 44 Video Clips

Over the years we've updated this video with several new clips thanks to a lot of March success. 

This year we'll be updating the design and music as well as adding a few new clips.

We've also had the awesome opportunity to work on Football, Men's Hockey, and Women's Hockey for several years:

U2 and the history of Badger Football are a staple at Camp Randall Stadium each fall.

We're pretty excited about the overhaul to this particular video this year as a few familiar faces return to Madison.

The Number One team in nation will be adding more accolades to this year's update.

Wisconsin Athletics has some seriously storied programs. Is it cool to work on projects featuring Ron Dayne, JJ Watt, Frank Kaminsky, Chris Chelios, and Hilary Knight (just to name a few)?

Do I consider myself one of the most knowledgeable people in the State of Oklahoma when it comes to the History of Wisconsin Badgers Athletics?

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.

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