A few years ago I took a vacation to Cabo. It was beautiful and relaxing…except that every time I tried to relax on the beach and enjoy my surroundings, somebody wanted to interrupt the experience and sell me something. Sombreros. Ice cream. Water sport activities. Colorful souvenirs. Beach blankets. And you know what? It was frustrating. It wasn’t the experience I had hoped for, and it’s one I’d prefer not to repeat.
Do you realize that same type of thing is happening to consumers every day when it comes to online advertising?
There are certain types of digital ads that are like those beach vendors. Instead of displaying their wares in an enticing way and allowing consumers to come to them (like the nice locals I actually did buy something from in Cabo), these ads get right in the consumer’s face and make it difficult for them to do whatever they were trying to do online.
Since advertising money supports more than just businesses (think social connections, valuable free content and journalism), there’s a group called the Coalition for Better Ads that has developed a set of Better Ad Standards to try to improve consumers’ experience of online advertising.
Here are the types of digital ads the Coalition’s research revealed as the most intrusive and disruptive to consumers:
This month, Google Chrome is rolling out an initiative to improve their user experience based on the initial Better Ad Standards. That means they’ll warn sites that display these types of ads and block ads on those sites if their concerns aren’t addressed. And Google isn’t the only one taking action – you can expect to see others following suit.
So what does this mean for you? Basically, treat consumers the way you would want to be treated. Be considerate of the experience they’re trying to have. Ensure that your digital advertising strategy is focused on adding value for consumers and becoming part of their experience rather than interrupting it. Think about what’s useful and relevant to them, then offer it in a way that’s respectful.
Just when you thought you knew what content performed well on Facebook, the social media giant is shaking things up. In early January, Facebook announced a reform to their algorithm that will make organic reach more difficult for businesses while improving the Facebook experience for consumers.
The adjusted algorithm prioritizes “high-quality posts” or posts that they believe people want to see. That means content from friends, family, and groups that encourages interaction between people will perform better, and posts from businesses, brands and media will be held to the same standard. Just getting likes on a post will no longer be enough to grow its reach; now brands have to get followers commenting and re-posting in order to build a greater brand awareness.
Now that they’ve changed the rules, marketers have to change how we play the game. But, you may be wondering, how exactly do you do that?
The “quick fix” answer: pay to play. Now that it’s becoming increasingly more difficult for marketing content to be seen, we will likely see a rise in the use of promoted posts. The problem here, however, is that you have to convince your higher-ups that social media is essential for brand awareness and, even more so, that these posts will give you a return on your investment. It also means rethinking what little budget you do have for social media marketing and getting even more strategic with your targeting and placement. Continuously evaluating and adjusting your campaign performance and spend will help you respond to this algorithm, but it’s something you should be doing anyway, and it’s not going to be enough on its own.
The more strategic answer: get better at posting content that inspires people to interact with you, and don’t be shy about asking fans to follow you on Facebook. That means consistent creative engagement with the small audiences you can reach. To Facebook, “meaningful interaction” means having a conversation; the more comments you can get, the better off you’ll be.
So what can you do to start conversations? Sports teams have some of the most loyal fan bases around, so there is hardly a limit to the conversation. Create a poll on Twitter so your followers can vote on their favorite player moment from last week’s game. You can also encourage them to post gameday photos or videos of their own using your team or university hashtags. Think about what you, as a fan, would want to talk about on social media and create content that facilitates that discussion.
Do you have new players or coaches? Introduce them to your followers. Use Facebook and Instagram to host live events when key individuals can sit down and answer questions from fans. Make sure that you’re creating a situation where your fans feel welcomed to talk to you as well each other.
Another smart approach is to make sure you’re aware of what’s going on locally and piggyback on current events, activities, and topics. As a sports team, this is one of your easiest methods for drawing engagement. You can use your social media platforms to host contests and giveaways for team merchandise and tickets to upcoming games. Even if there’s an event coming up that has nothing to do with your team, you can put a unique spin on it to make it relevant to your followers. Something as simple as asking your fans to come out and participate with the team in a charity event at the university is a great way to gain some good publicity.
Just be careful to keep your content and comments natural. Sharing something and inviting others to share back is appropriate social behavior; including things like “COMMENT on this post!!” makes you seem insincere and reeks of self-interest. Nobody likes making forced conversation in real life, so don’t expect them to enjoy it on social media either.
One thing that’s constant in the realm of social media is change, so don’t let things like Facebook’s latest algorithm adjustment stress you out. Look at it as an opportunity to become a smarter, more strategic marketer. Then look at the other social media channels you’re using and think about how you can improve your approach on those channels before another algorithm change comes along. By acting now, you can build a better knowledge base of what it takes to succeed on all of the social platforms you’re using and come up with your own creative ways to engage your fans.
#ExOps18 is in the books and by all indications, it was a rousing success. Huge thanks goes out to Brad Wurthman, Ryan Peck, Chris Ferris and Daniel Veale for traveling to Norman, spending a couple days with us and contributing great information to the discussion. Thanks also goes out to everyone who joined remotely. We were excited to see that people from the industry were tuning in, asking questions and participating in the discussion. We had a great time, learned a lot and have a lot of notes on ways to make #ExOps19 even more engaging and valuable for everyone.
We covered a number of topics during our day-and-a-half of discussions. You can watch it all for yourself on the Old Hat Facebook page or you can simply read my recap below.
An Unconventional Look at How to Drive Attendance We kicked things off on Thursday morning with a private presentation I've developed that addresses what I see as a new way looking at collegiate athletics marketing. The group in the room served as my test audience. I do a number of speaking engagements in the spring, and this will be a topic I cover when visiting with athletics marketing groups. In my opinion, we should take a much different approach if we want to fill our stadiums and arenas. In this presentation, I outline what I believe is that approach. Be on the lookout for a webinar of this presentation coming soon.
Major in the Majors Next up, we had Brad Wurthman of Virginia Tech walk us through a presentation called "Major in the Majors" where he outlined steps he feels we should be taking to focus on the things that truly matter. Brad pointed out that it's difficult to not get bogged down in the minutia and lose sight of the majors, or the big things we actually should be paying attention to. Brad asked questions like, "What's your why?" and "What are we chasing?" and also laid down some golden wisdom with comments like, "If you can't measure it, you can't manage it," and my personal favorite, "We don't want our staff to do more, we want them to do different." Check out his presentation slides here, but I also highly recommend you follow along by listening to the Facebook video feed for a more valuable experience hearing it directly from Brad.
Roundtable Discussion After Brad's presentation, Chris Ferris of Colorado State led a discussion on various external operations topics. One strong area of focus was that of student attendance. Everyone felt strongly that despite student attendance being a non-factor in direct revenue generation, there are ancillary benefits that cause indirect increases in revenue. The most obvious of those is the effect students have on the overall gameday experience. Games are more exciting and more fun if the students are there. That, paired with the idea that students are your future season ticket holders and donors, brought us to the conclusion that when the old fans are complaining about the loud music and song selection, but your students love it, you err on the side of pleasing the students. Those die-hard older fans aren't going to stop coming because of the music, but your students won't turn into die-hard fans if you don't give them a great experience.
Effects of the New Tax Code on Fundraising After a lunch break, we came back to another roundtable discussion led by Ryan Peck of North Texas. We went through what the old code states about tax-deductible gifts and what the new code says. We also talked through a number of things different athletic departments have done to try to prepare for the unknown, but "the unknown" was really where we landed on this topic. The fact is, no one really knows how, or if, the new tax code is going to affect the industry. After some initial panic toward the end of 2017, most of the people at the table agreed that it might not be a major issue. Toward the end of this discussion, we also touched on the topic of data analytics, predictive analysis, look-alike modeling and marketing automation.
Virginia Tech Ticket Sales Strategic Planning Session Having spent the past few hours in discussion, we turned the live-stream off to get our hands dirty with a little strategic planning for Hokies football and men's basketball. Due to the proprietary nature of both the client information being shared, along with wanting to keep our process for making strategic marketing recommendations under wraps, we didn't broadcast this part to the masses. However, I can tell you that ahead of time, Brad Wurthman gave us a goal he's hoping to achieve: increase non-season ticket sales for football and men's basketball. We dug through the data gathered from surveys we'd conducted, talked through some of the issues Va Tech is facing, and looked at census data and historical sales information before calling it a day. This part of the process was all about information gathering. We haven't completed our strategic plan yet, but we will be doing so in the coming weeks and delivering that to Va Tech with a full list of recommendations to help them achieve that goal in a targeted and strategic manner.
2018 Digital Marketing Trends We kicked things off on Day 2 with a live-streamed presentation from Old Hat's Director of Web/Digital, Kevin Kelly, on the topic of web and digital trends for 2018. Kevin shared some great statistics on the impact of video engagement vs. the traditional means of communicating on social media. Some of those stats:
- 4 times as many consumers would rather watch a video vs reading - 1 in 4 consumers lose interest in product if there's no video about that product - 4 in 5 consumers say video of how a product works is important in decision to buy - 95% of a message is retained when watched in video vs. 10% when reading
One idea that was thrown out as a result of this is that maybe instead of having our internal video production crews focus so heavily on high-impact, emotionally driven videos, we should ask them to produce more informational videos that actually communicate a message about our product.
Other topics that were covered are too many to name, but I'll be asking Kevin to develop this into a webinar in the spring - so stay tuned for that. There's some great information that can help us better engage with our fans.
Responding to a Changing Industry For the final segment of #ExOps18, we turned off the live stream and talked through ways Old Hat can better serve the industry. When I started Old Hat 14 years ago, we were a traditional creative production shop, and we were selling a service the industry was already buying and knew it needed. Old Hat just offered a better version of it at a competitive price. However, as I've seen the industry shift, I've realized the need for our marketing to be much more strategic. Therefore, we developed a wide range of strategic marketing services that include data collection, analysis and strategic recommendations that can help an athletics organization identify who specifically to target, where to find them, how to message to them and how to measure the results. Unlike posters, videos and schedule cards, this list of services is not one the industry already knows it needs. During this discussion, we talked through ways of shifting the industry's perception on what marketing should look like and how to convince athletic departments to look at the product they're selling the same way other industries view their own products and services. That is through doing research, developing insight into who to reach and how to reach them and then rolling out a strategic marketing message in the right ways to the right people.
Overall, it was one of the most fun and most valuable day-and-a-halves in my entire career. Outside the walls of that conference room, we ate a lot of great food, learned a lot about each other and enjoyed the company of some very progressive and forward-thinking minds in collegiate athletics. There were so many people that came together behind-the-scenes to make this a reality, and my sincere gratitude goes out to all of them. We can't wait to do it again next year.
After months of planning, we are excited to announce the first ever Collegiate Athletics External Operations Symposium, or as we like to call it, #ExOps18. What is #ExOps18, you ask? Great question!
#ExOps18 is an opportunity for anyone working in collegiate athletics to learn about and discuss the topics at the forefront of the minds of those charged with ticket sales, increasing attendance, game experience and fundraising - the "external operations" of collegiate athletics. We're starting small and because of the luxuries the web provides us, year one will primarily be an event you can attend remotely. No need to worry about getting approved to spend money to attend. That's assuming, of course, that your university isn't on AOL's pay-per-minute internet service. If so, maybe you can collect some "free trial" disks in the mail and attend next year.
Fortunately for you though, not everyone is attending remotely. Old Hat has invited four of the top minds from collegiate athletics marketing and fundraising to be on-site to present, discuss and field questions. Those minds belong to:
Chris Ferris Senior Associate AD for Sales, Marketing and Communications Colorado State University
Ryan Peck Executive Senior Associate AD for External Affairs University of North Texas
Daniel Veale Director of Marketing SMU
Brad Wurthman Senior Associate AD for External Affairs Virginia Tech
On January 25 and 26, these four people will gather at Old Hat world headquarters for a day-and-a-half to discuss the topics that are weighing most heavily on their minds. Portions of those discussions will be live streamed via Facebook Live (link: ExOps.live), and we're inviting you to listen in and be a part of the conversation. You will be able to send in questions ahead of time, ask questions live via Twitter using the #ExOps18 hashtag or submit questions in the comments on the Facebook Live video stream. Below is an agenda for the event and a list of topics we will be discussing, so mark your calendars and get ready to plop down in front of your computer next Thursday and Friday for some great conversation.
Please note: Portions of the days' events will not be live streamed due to proprietary and confidential information being shared. The segments that will be live streamed are indicated below.
Thursday, January 25 - All times Central
9:00 a.m. (LIVE) - Welcome, Introductions and Icebreaker
9:30 a.m. (PRIVATE)- An Unconventional Look at How to Drive Attendance: An internal discussion on fan behavior - Zac Logsdon, CEO, Old Hat
10:15 a.m. (LIVE) - Major in the Majors: Filtering out the unimportant and concentrating on valuable metrics - Brad Wurthman, Virginia Tech
10:45 a.m. (LIVE) - Q&A session Brad Wurthman
11:15 a.m. (LIVE) - Marketing/Ticket Sales Roundtable discussion, led by Chris Ferris, Colorado State - Topics to include: Increasing Student Attendance, Growth Metrics that Matter, Data Analytics and How do you measure engagement?
Noon - Break for Lunch
1:30 p.m. (LIVE) - Fundraising/Development Roundtable discussion, led by Ryan Peck, North Texas - Impact of the new tax code on fundraising
2:30 p.m. (PRIVATE) - Strategic Planning Session for Virginia Tech Ticket Sales
5:00 p.m. - Break for the day
Friday, January 26 - All times Central
9:00 a.m. (LIVE) - Digital Marketing Marketing Trends for 2018 Presentation/Discussion - Kevin Kelly, Director of Digital/Web, Old Hat
9:45 a.m. (LIVE) - Q&A - Last opportunity to ask our guests questions
10:15 a.m. (PRIVATE) - Internal Discussion on new products/services, positioning and adapting to the changing market
It’s a great conversation starter. Since we know a lot of credit union marketers want to start more conversations with Millennials and Gen Z – and that sometimes looking at research is exhausting when your day is already full of tasks and reports – we’ve put together a game of marketing “would you rather” for you. It’s the easiest game you’ll ever play, because we’ve provided answers based on statistics from 9GAG and GFK on consumers aged 18-34.
1. Would you rather have an easy job working for someone else OR work for yourself but work incredibly hard?
53% of those polled said they rather work for themselves but work incredibly hard. Millennials have taken some flak for being lazy, but they’re actually pretty entrepreneurial. Twenty years ago it was much harder to launch a business because you needed a brick-and-mortar location or at least a distribution channel, plus marketing yourself often meant pounding the pavement. Today, e-commerce gives Millennials greater opportunity to test the waters of self-employment and many of them are jumping in.
2. Would you rather be a smart person who’s never appreciated OR be an average person who gets all the praise in the world?
63% said they would rather be a smart person who’s never appreciated. These generations have grown up with unprecedented access to information at their fingertips. They’re used to finding answers quickly and learning on the fly. While they’d willingly give up recognition in favor of actual smarts, you can’t afford not to recognize them for who they are. Don’t make the mistake of underestimating them or talking down to them.
3. Would you rather gain 10 friends in real life OR gain 10,000 friends on Instagram/Twitter?
With 95% of those polled preferring to gain 10 friends in real life, we are seeing a shift in how the younger generations are interacting. Despite what older generations may think, Millennials and Gen Z see real value in face to face communication.
4. Would you rather lose the right to say anything on social media OR lose your right to vote in an election?
Younger generations want their voices to be heard, but you might be surprised to know that 67% felt the right to vote in an election was more important than being able to say whatever they want on social media. With all the recent attention on fake news in social media, there’s a growing recognition among Millennials that the real way to get their voices heard is by participating in politics and putting action behind their opinions.
5. Would you rather lose all your money and valuables OR lose all the selfies you have ever taken?
There’s no doubt that the 34-and-under crowd loves their selfies, but they’re also smart enough to realize that selfies don’t pay the bills for most people. A whopping 98% said they’d rather sacrifice their selfies than lose all of their money and valuables. So, you know money is valuable to them. How can you help them make more of what they have?
To build a stronger marketing strategy sometimes you need to have a little fun and get into the minds of those you are targeting. While some of these statistics might not be crucial to your marketing efforts, hopefully they’ve helped you get a better sense of what’s important to Millennials and the leading edge of Gen Z.
When you’re selling tickets, one of the main groups you need to appeal to is the millennial generation: the 18-34(ish) year old group of current students, recent grads, and local sports fanatics.
And guess what?
Not just college-student-eating-ramen broke or first-job-small-salary broke, but seriously broke.
In 2016, there were more households in poverty headed by a Millennial than by a member of an older generation. Massive student loan is partially to blame: borrowers under the age of 39 are on the hook for 2/3 of the nation’s $1 trillion in student loan debt. Older generations often talk smack about lack of millennial responsibility and how they’re waiting longer to get married, buy a home, etc. but part of the reason this generation is lagging behind is because they simply can’t afford those “grown up” expenses.
Even though this group doesn’t have much money today and probably only makes up 25%-30% of your current revenue base, you shouldn’t write them off. Millennials are the biggest generation this country has ever spawned and they aren’t going to be broke forever. Just about the time Baby Boomers are dying off, Millennials will be hitting more solid financial ground and will represent the majority of your target audience.
So how do you get this strapped-for-cash group to spend money on tickets today?
Focus on the experience.
According to an Eventbrite report, Millennials are more likely to spend money on attending events than on material goods. They’re all about having experiences and creating memories. More than ¾ of Millennials credit an event or live experience with creating their best memories, and they’re eager to make more. When they come to a game, they’re there for more than just the game itself – they view it as an opportunity to hang out with friends or family and feel like they’re part of the action. They’re also driven by FOMO, so if you make your game the place to be they’ll want to be the one showing up and sharing it on social media.
Make it affordable.
Millennials love discounts and getting a good deal. What are you doing to put tickets within reach for this group? Think beyond simply offering discounted tickets for students and get creative. Have you tried a buy-one-get-one promotion to encourage greater attendance? Extended payment options for ticket packages? Geo-targeted digital ads that include a special offer in the days leading up to the game? According to a NACDA report, just over half of Millennials say they’d share their location in return for a relevant coupon or promotional deal, especially if it means better access at events. What about special discounts on game day? TodayTix (think Uber for ticket sales) did some research, and they found that men are 30% more likely than women to take advantage of last-minute sales. That’s an another insight worth keeping in mind as you design day-of-game discount promotions targeted at this group.
Even though the bad news is that Millennials don’t have much money to spend on tickets, the good news is that they’re more likely to spend their limited dough on experiences and events. Your challenge is to make your games both affordable and engaging. While this might not be your core fan base today, the more of a relationship you can form with Millennials, the more likely they’ll be to continue to support your program in the future when they’ve got some money to burn.
YouTube is the social media channel for all things video, from self-promotion to how-to lessons to crazy cat antics. It’s the place where brands go to connect with a variety of audiences, where consumers go for information and entertainment, and where social influencers can make a living.
In August, Adweek published an article about what’s hot on YouTube now based on research that Zefr conducted on Gen Z and their YouTube habits. It’s no surprise that right now, back-to-school is top of mind for this generation, as many will be headed to college this fall. Here are the four main types of back-to-school videos they are watching.
1. DIY- 341 million views - Buzzfeed has turned this category upside down by inspiring brands to post their tips and tricks, and clearly it’s resonating. If members of Gen Z want to know how to do something, this is their first stop.
2. Essentials - 286 million views - Essentials feature what’s new in school supplies, clothing, tech and dorm reviews. Gen Z loves to research, so don’t expect them to buy a name brand product if it has received negative reviews. Word of mouth is king, and YouTube is one of Gen Z’s most trusted resources.
3. Commentary - 198 million views - When members of Gen Z need to find the answer to anything, they go to YouTube. It’s also where they like to share their opinions. In this category, you will find vlogs, skits, plus college comparisons and reviews.
4. Regimens - 132 million views - This is a pretty broad category that includes meal prep, hairstyle tutorials and getting ready routines. Gen Z is looking for ways to make their days more efficient.
If you’re marketing to Gen Z, here are three ways you can connect with this audience through YouTube.
1. Post back-to-school related content. Think about what information Gen Z fans might find relevant or useful right now. Topics like how to become a member of the student section, where to find game schedules and promotions, and how to easily attend games and events. If you want to be top of mind, you need to find ways to make your brand more relevant in their eyes. Become a friend, not just another business.
2. Place digital ads in back-to-school videos. The great thing about digital marketing is you can tailor your content to be presented in certain types of videos. If you are targeting this younger demographic, this is where they are. The numbers don’t lie: with a 100% YOY (year over year) increase in back-to-school video views on YouTube, this trend is not going away anytime soon. It’s the right place and the right time for digital advertising if you want to communicate with this audience.
3. Bring on an influencer. Research shows that Generation Z looks at social media influencers as bigger stars than TV and movie personalities. This is great for brands because it gives you an affordable and natural way to engage this audience. Social media influencers create their own content, so that’s less work your staff has to do on social media. Do some research, find an influencer who’s the right fit for your brand, and let them help you engage Gen Z.
Everyone seems to be talking about Snapchat as the hot new social media platform. Actually, it really isn’t that new. Snapchat first made an appearance in 2011. Let’s put some perspective around that. Remember the hit song “Friday” by Rebecca Black? What about the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton? The final installment of Harry Potter was released. Yeah, Snapchat has been out that long!
The platform has made some major strides the past year that have contributed to its growth. Here’s what you need to know about how Snapchat is growing up.
1. Millennials and Gen Z have gotten on board.
If you want to connect with younger generations, Snapchat is where it’s at. The platform is basically a glorified emoji creator, so it really resonates with consumers who have embraced the emoji trend.
Millennials and Gen Z use the platform to communicate with their friends in fun creative photos. If your brand wants to reach users via Snapchat, keep that in mind. Snapchatters want to be entertained, not sold to. If you decide to add Snapchat to your marketing mix, do it with content that leans into the fun, quirky aspect of the platform.
2. It’s not permanent.
Snapchat deletes all content after a 24 hour period. With social media being so prominent, a lot of users try to keep their channels clean and concise. The fact that Snapchat does the work for them has contributed to the platform’s popularity.
As a marketer this can be confusing. How do you maintain a channel that doesn’t have content on it? They key with Snapchat is maintaining a consistent presence and voice. NASCAR is a brand that currently does this well. They have a staff member who controls their Snapchat and is constantly adding new content.
Snapchat users love a fun, interactive geofilter because it’s a way of being in the moment in a particular location.
As a marketer you can log into the backend of Snapchat and draw a geofence around the area you want the geofilter to be placed. This gives marketers full control of the area in which the filter will be seen. You have to pay for geofilters, but they’re relatively inexpensive. Snapchat has adjusted its pricing to offer an annual plan that allows you to maintain a geofenced area and swap out your creative filter as often as you like.
If you have been hiding under a rock the past couple of weeks you might have missed Snapchats biggest update, the Snap Map. This new feature allows users to share their location on an interactive map.
Think of it as a way for users to find their friends and join in on their activities. Well, that is how Snapchat is selling it. With the initial launch there has been a lot of fear in “strangers” finding users. This is is not 100% verified because the map will only show your friends. So a random user will not be able to find you.
As a marketer this new feature doesn’t lend itself to you. There is no advertising you can do in this and we don’t see that happening anytime soon. What you as a marketer can do with this feature is see what hot events are happening around you. If you want to do some event marketing and be where a lot of users are, check the map and see the live hot spots. If a sporting event is happening you will see a red spot on the map, and if you click on that red spot you will start seeing snapstories. Don’t worry it doesn’t share Snapchat usernames, just the content you are sharing. This is your time to send staff to these locations to do some guerilla marketing.
Overall the platform is still focusing on the user and not marketers. That could change in the near future because Snapchat is now open to investors and with dropping numbers the platform will need to start pulling in more dollars. For now, enjoy the platform and don’t stress about being perfect with it.
The need for creative content has never been greater in the world of athletics than it is right now. From traditional media that have been around for years like posters, ads, ticket stock and billboards, to the newer forms of creative output like social media graphics, recruiting graphics and the beloved animated gifs, the new truth is this: you need designers. The problem is, many athletic organizations don't have experience hiring for that position. And they don't have creative directors that leading a team of designers that they can lean on to head that up. No, many times it falls to sports information directors, sport operations managers or marketing directors to hire for a skill set they do not possess. They know what to look for when hiring a coach. They know what to look for when hiring marketing assistants or sports info assistants. But hiring designers is tough. Hiring designers with an eye for sports is nearly impossible.
I've spent nearly two decades in athletics creative and for the past 14 years, I've hired or been a part of the hiring of a lot of designers, editors, animators and other creatives to help Old Hat develop top notch creative for the more than 150 sports organizations we've worked with. We have a process and we know what to look for (and not look for) when identifying talented individuals that know how to produce for sports. So here are some tips and tricks that can help you in your search for someone that can churn out all those social media graphics on signing day.
1. There's no "Eye" in Team - I've seen hundreds of portfolios and interviewed countless designers. Some of them are extremely talented. But an eye for design doesn't always equate to an eye for sports design. Sports design is a different animal and to succeed in this industry, you have to look at design a little bit differently. Most of the design world operates on a "less is more" philosophy. But I've always said that sports subscribes to the "more is more" design philosophy. So one thing to make sure you look for is someone that knows sports and has an eye for sports design. Some will have examples of that in their portfolio but for those that do not...
2. This is a test - No matter how talented they appear to be or how many examples of amazing sports projects they have in their portfolio, always send them a test project. Primarily, this shows me what they can do with a project from scratch. For all I know, their portfolio is full of ads they resized from another designer's template. So send them your logo, a few photos of your athletes, tell them what to create and see what they send back. You'd be surprised by how many designers that have amazing portfolios send back test projects that fall completely flat. If you get something amazing back from them, you're on the right track. But there are other things to keep in mind, like...
3. It's about more than talent - Talent can get you far but the sports industry is a lot more fast-paced than most. Sometimes we have to produce things with quick turnaround. Actually, that happens more often than not. And great designers have a reputation for wanting to take their time to get it just right. You also want to know how well they follow instructions, how well the can stay on brand and what their attitude is like when you give them feedback. So as a part of your test project, make sure to give them basic instruction on the design, but specific instructions on content. You want to see how the operate with creative freedom but you also want to make sure they can follow instructions. Give them a specific deadline and if they don't meet it, mark them off the list (bonus points for sending it early). Then, if you really want to get a feel for 1) how they are to work with and 2) how much they want the job, send revisions. At this point, you'll know if they have an eye for sports design, you'll know how good they are and you'll know how fast they are. What else do you need to know about them?
4. For love of the game - They might be good, they might be fast and they might have great attention to detail. But do they love sports? You're going to get a lot more out of them if they do. You want someone that gets excited by what they're doing for you. I always ask, "If you could get a job designing for any industry, what would it be?" or "What's the most fun design project you've ever worked on?" If their answer is that they want to work in the fashion industry or that their favorite design project was their cousin's wedding invitation, they're not for you. That's not to say that you can't get good work out of someone that doesn't love sports but if they're not passionate about what they do, the long hours, tight deadlines and coaches that change their minds 12 times are going to wear on them and their time with your organization will be short-lived. If you can find someone that has an eye for sports design, nails the test project, follows instructions, meets deadlines and absolutely loves sports... HIRE THEM. However, if you want to take it one step further, there's one more thing you can look for that will get you the holy grail of sports designers...
5. What color do they bleed? - This one is easy because you don't have to even ask them the question to find out the answer. Look at their resumé and see where they went to school. If they attended the some other institution, that's fine. They're probably worth hiring anyway. But if they list your school as their alma mater, that's one more mark in the W column for them because I can assure you that they'll pour themselves into their jobs even more if they have a pride in the organization they're working for. This doesn't work, of course, if you're hiring for a professional organization. But you can solve this simply by asking who their favorite teams are. Or simply look at where they're from. If you're hiring for the Pittsburgh Steelers and your candidate grew up in Dallas, they might not have the passion for the Steelers you want them to have. But if you find someone that meets all the criteria for a great sports designer and they went to your school or grew up in your town, you have a winner.
We Hire, Train and Consult
One thing to keep in mind is that if you still don't feel comfortable facilitating the hiring process, or if you'd like to have someone to train that individual prior to them taking their seat within your organization, is that Old Hat offers creative staffing services as a part of our mission to help sports organizations drive attendance to their events. We believe strongly that great creative can help fill the stands and we want to help organizations achieve that goal in every way possible. Therefore, we developed a program where we serve as your proxy to hire your creative staff. Here's how it works:
1. We Identify Candidates - We tap our network of sports designers we know from coast-to-coast to see who may be interested in a job in your organization. We also post the job on multiple creative job boards to get as large a pool as possible that are interested in working for you.
2. We Test Them - Over many years we have developed a number of test projects depending upon the job description and we put the candidates through the rigors to figure out who best meets the requirements.
3. We Interview - We narrow the pool based on talent and we interview them to see who would be the best fit.
4. We Recommend - Based on our tests and interviews, we submit a list of qualified candidates to you. You are the final decision maker on who gets the job.
5. We Train - As a part of our program, we bring your new staff member to Old Hat HQ to spend 2-4 weeks training under our design staff. We put them through a crash course in file management, project management, how to field requests, design tips and tricks, photography, motion graphics and more to make sure they are ready to roll when they begin working for you.
6. We Consult - The hardest part about being a designer in a sports organization is that often times, you're on an island. You're not surrounded by other creatives that you can learn from, bounce ideas off of, etc. It's a lonely gig. Old Hat solves this by being on retainer to answer questions, provide input and allow your designer to submit their ideas for feedback.
If you're interested in finding out more about our creative hiring services, download this PDF, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (405) 310-2133 x118.
While I didn’t attend NACMA in Orlando, I did keep up with what was going on via the internet.I was able to watch some sessions via Facebook Live and Twitter Live….so thanks, technology! I also always love seeing things from Collateral Corner…that's one thing I always wish I could see in person.
The Importance of Style Guides
One session I found interesting was about creating a style guide. Style guides are extremely important. They are like the rulebook when it comes to designing. They tell the creative’s what they can and can’t do to a logo, what colors to use, and if there are certain fonts you have to use.
If you don’t have one, don’t worry! We can help! We can help define existing brand standards, help make new ones, and even create a custom font for your department to use.
I thought the topic of Maximizing your Mascot was interesting. It was fun to see a ton of people take pictures with a bulldog. I have a feeling we’ll see some interesting mascot promos coming our way this school year.
I saw some good quotes mentioned from sessions as well. Like..