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.
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.
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 looksthe 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.
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.
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.
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.
Last week, Instagram announced an update where the user can now take short videos that disappear after 24 hours, much like Snapchat. You can send them directly to a user or to everyone that follows you. While some users were excited about this new feature, many were confused by the new row of users at the top of their screen. It will be interesting to see how it effects Snapchats users and downloads, and how many brands start using the instagram feature to promote them.
With the release of this new feature creates new opportunities to promote your athletes, organization and ticket offers. Take users behind the scenes of your facilities, get them ready for game day, etc. If you have interns, this is a great avenue for them to take over and come up with ideas and videos. Since your audience is already built in, because you already have instagram followers, this is a way to reach them with even more content.
I do not follow a ton of brands on instagram, but I have noticed that the ones I do follow (Wilton, Food Network) have already started producing videos to further promote their brand, all while providing some fun cooking and decorating tips!
You can even use it as a special promo for ticket sales. Provide a code in the video to offer a special instagram ticket price. Or use it as a countdown to the fall sports season. Focus on the olympic sports, getting your fans excited for something other then football.
Another instagram tip: check your hashtag. If your team or department has a hashtag they plan on using this season, check to see how popular it is by searching it in the app. I recently went to a wedding and when I clicked on the hashtag to see other pictures after the wedding, it brought up photos of models that maybe weren’t the most appropriate. The hashtag wasn’t anything crazy, but a modeling agency also uses it to tag their photos. Make sure that whatever hashtag you are using is appropriate, no matter who clicks on it!
Most everyone is on social media, so make sure you are taking advantage of the way it can reach your fans!
As more and more social media platforms make their debut, how on earth are you supposed to figure out which platform is the best fit to promote your program? What's best for your brand? Which platforms attract which groups of fans? Which social media platforms will just eat up your time?
Let's make this fun and think about social media like a party. Each platform can be thought of as a different guest. Who do you want to invite? Here's a breakdown of each social media platform’s personality type to help you decide who will keep your shindig super-awesome.
Facebook - "The Conversationalist"
Frannie Facebook likes to let everyone know she is a one-stop shop of knowledge on your team. We're not talking simple fun facts, we mean LONG and IN-DEPTH responses. Some might even say she’s long-winded.
Having a lot to say isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Most social media users go to Facebook for information, and that includes long status posts or blogs being shared. If you have important information that needs a little bit of explaining, use Facebook to get that message out. But be careful not to over-post or overshare. Millennials and Gen Z love reading up on certain topics but can be turned off it gets too long-winded.
Twitter- "Mr. Know It All"
Teddy Twitter loves to shoot off quick little bursts of information. He can jump quickly from conversation to conversation, only staying in each one for a couple of minutes.
Think of Twitter as a way to get quick little messages out to the masses. Have a blog post that you want your followers to read? Link to it while giving a brief synopsis of what it's about. Have a last minute change to an event? Tweet it out. This platform is based on short posts, and if a user is on Twitter, they expect short messages.
Instagram- "The Model"
Isabella Instagram loves for people to look at her, and she always looks her best. She chooses her appearances selectively, but that makes her all the more memorable.
This is the same philosophy you should have for your Instagram account. Don’t over populate your followers' feed with a gazillion photos from the same event, especially all at the same time. Use this platform to show off one or two AMAZING pictures that sum things up. Instagram is using the same algorithm as Facebook now, so if you want to reach your followers and grab their attention, you need to post an image that really showcases your brand.
Snapchat – "The Scatter Brain"
Stacey Snapchat loves to be the star of the party and often shows up early to help set up. She’s not afraid to be candid. She likes to be in every photo, but she is only there for a short time.
Use this to your advantage with Snapchat. This is your chance to grab the viewer's attention by giving a behind the scenes stadium or arena tour. Most users of Snapchat don’t mind being flooded with photos of an event because they can easily click and move on to the next photo. This is a newer platform for brands to use, so it can get a little tricky. Don’t be afraid to experiment with new ideas. They are only there for a couple of seconds.
YouTube- "The Social Magnet"
York YouTube is that one friend you want at every party. Everyone loves him because he knows all the cool how-to's and can even show you things you never asked for!
YouTube has actually become the search engine of choice for most Millennials and Gen Z! For that reason and more, this is a platform you cannot leave out of your brand's social media plan. The opportunities are endless for your YouTube page. Not sure what to share? Think of things that need a little more explanation, have a story to tell, or that just have fun visuals. Want to show off your new coach? Create a set of videos that intro him/her to your fans and give the inside scoop. Want to ensure your fans have a great gameday experience? Why not create a video featuring some tips on where to hang out pre-game, give parking and construction updates, highlight new concessions and merchandise available, and more.
Everyone is different and it can be hard to figure out what's right for you. One final tip: millennials who are in the workforce can be a great resource for you. They’ve spent most of their life on social media, and they can be tasked with brainstorming your social media strategy.
Last week, Robert and I, as well as Joel, Holly and Jentry from our OKC office, participated in a Snapchat webinar. After exploring the selfie lenses (and posting our photo to Instagram)...
we learned some Snapchat stats:
- 100 million daily active users
- 8 billion videos viewed per day
- 60% of Snapchat users are creating content daily
- The average Snapchat user opens the app 15 times per day
- Largest age demographic is 18-24 years old (37%)
Next, we learned how people use Snapchat vs. how brands use Snapchat. Everyone uses Snapchat differently. A study conducted by the University of Washington in 2014 shared what most people share on Snapchat which included: people, funny things, selfies, food, events, what they're up to, drinks, beautiful things, and animals. I use it to share snaps of my dog, Happy.
But brands are using Snapchat a little differently. They have the option to create organic content as well as paid content, and typically, they're using Snapchat to meet marketing objectives. Across the sports industry, you'll see alot of teams using it to give fans a behind-the-scenes look at venues (locker rooms, new stadiums, etc), a look at student-athlete personalities (singing and dancing), and locker room celebrations.
What brands should be looking at is how they use Snapchat and compare it to how their "fans" use Snapchat. The goal should be to create something in the middle to better connect with their audience. Are you wondering how you can engage with your fans through Snapchat? Here at Old Hat, we can not only help you keep your message consistent across all social media, but through our Sports180 process, we take a thorough look at what your fans are interested on a much larger scale through extensive research, and make suggestions for how to improve your social media and better present your brand.
Last Monday I posted an article about the death of the schedule poster as we know it and talked about the need to breathe life back into it through treating it more like an advertisement than an informational tool. Simply informing people of when the games will be played and scattering athlete photos around an 18 x 24" space doesn't do much to actually drive attendance anymore. It needs to be a part of a grander marketing campaign.
So that begs the question: How do we do that?
Answer: Through a research & discovery, internal & external surveys, target audience indentification, strategic messaging, media audits and brilliant creative.
Sounds difficult and daunting, doesn't it? Well, it's not. It's time-consuming and requires expertise in all of these fields. It involves large groups of people working together to provide feedback and input. It requires everyone in an organization buying in to a common goal. But fortunately, Old Hat has the tools and processes in place to facilitate all of it. It's called the Sports180° Process and is our proven, research-based process that gets to the heart of your unique position. Through this approach, we help you clarify objectives, analyze your playing field, and develop a winning strategy.
We just completed the initial phases of the Sports180° with SMU and are entering implementation phase where we will launch an internal and external marketing campaign, a ticket sales website and multiple gameday experience pieces that are united under a common message and goal.
Phase 1: Scouting
The first step in the process is research and discovery. Understanding your internal culture and inspiring your staff can prevent disconnects between your brand promise and what your fans experience. Their weigh-in will produce buy-in.We talk to Senior Athletic Department Staff,Individual Department Team Members, Development, Marketing, Ticket Sales, Sponsorship andSupport Staff as Directed (Team Operations, Coaches, Game Operations, Designers, Interns, Game Day Contractors, Facility Staff, Merchandise, etc.)
There are other key groups that play a role in the success of your brand, so we meet with a few representatives or request their participation in your survey. This may include groups like Fundraising Club Members, Alumni, Students,Community Influencers,Individual Game Buyers,Premium Customers, etc.
By the end of this phase we’ll understand both your market and your uniquely compelling story, as told straight from the horse’s mouth.
Discovery process on campus at SMU
Phase 2: Playbook
In phase two we analyze the research and develop a playbook to achieve your objectives. This phase involves refining your leadership vision, identifying sales and marketing opportunities, aligning your target audiences with your brand differentiators, and assessing how you can win against your competitors.
Leadership Vision: Review and discussion of the vision shared by your organization’s key leaders.
Research Findings: Presentation of comprehensive research findings and analysis, including key takeaways and opportunities.
Audience Alignment: Development and presentation of profile personas for key current and desired target audiences.
Marketing Opportunities: Identification of opportunities that support your vision, engage your key audiences, and position you for greater success.
Examples of Findings:
Phase 3: Game Day
Incorporating your feedback and our research findings, this is where we execute our recommendations and begin to engage with your fans, alumni and donors. We will present a set of campaign platforms that demonstrate how you will connect with your key stakeholders. You’ll also receive comprehensive reports with our research findings and strategic recommendations plus a detailed brand launch marketing plan.
Strategic Recommendations: Summary of insights and recommended actions.
Brand Platform: Presentation of final creative look, feel, and messaging as a springboard for future tactical elements.
Marketing Communications Plan: Marketing campaign launch plan, including recommended tactics, message channels, delivery, and timing.
Brand Style Guide: Written brand style guide detailing fonts, colors, photo types, brand language and more for internal use in execution. Provided following final approval of brand platform.
The SMU Sports180° is complete and the creative elements will begin to see the light of day in the coming weeks. Through our research, we were able to identify what their most important needs were and how to properly address those needs. Portions of the Sports180° process were also used in the Raise Up Carolina project where we conducted research to identify what was unique about football game days in Chapel Hill and built a site around that position that was targeted at the proper audience.
A brilliant marketing campaign targeted at the wrong audience will produce no better results than a terrible campaign targeted at the right audience. Old Hat has the proper experience, tools and processes that allow us to both identify and target the proper audience and build the creative that will reach them.
The mission of most collegiate athletic departments surround the idea of developing the student-athlete. And we know that's impossible without the financial support that comes from having fans in the stands. Old Hat's mission is to increase attendance at sporting events. Plain and simple. Together, and using this process, Old Hat can achieve our mission while helping you achieve yours.
A few years ago, an acquaintance of mine decided he was going to start a sports apparel company. Like most new businesses, he was starting with nothing. He had no facility, he had no customers, he had no product. He just had an idea.
Oh, and he had one more thing. He applied to a program through the SBA that provided him with a steady stream of potential customers with built in brand loyalty to his new company. He didn't have to do a single thing to create that brand loyalty. This program was revolutionary. The government would take large groups of young people and spend four years slowly building an affinity within them for this guy's brand. They'd give these kids free product, they'd surround them with this company's logo and they'd teach these impressionable young minds songs that furthered a love for this guy's company. And every year, after spending four years instilling passion within these potential customers, the program would release thousands of them into the world where they would make more money than nearly half of the population.
Needless to say, my friend's company was set up to be a smashing success. Every year from the start of his company until the end of time, he had 5,000+ people who automatically loved his brand. All he had to do was supply them with a good product. Some of these people were more passionate than others, of course. And he couldn't retain them all. But what he found was that for the rest of these people's lives, they had at least some affinity for his product. On top of that, their ability to afford his product was better than average. So of course he was incredibly successful…how could he not be?
What was the name of this company? It doesn't matter because I made it all up. That is, I made up the idea that this was someone's company that couldn’t help but succeed. The rest of it happens every year at hundreds of organizations.
On average, about 1.8 million people receive bachelor's degrees from colleges and universities in the United States. The vast majority spent about four years being surrounded by that university's brand every single day. They walked past hundreds of signs, pole banners and trash cans all bearing that institution's logo. They sat next to thousands of other students wearing t-shirts with that university's brand across the front. They were taught the history of their school, songs they will never forget, and traditions that reinforced their love for their school. And then, after four years of this indoctrination, they are released into the world with the ability to earn an average of $18,000 more per year than those who did not attend college.
Can you imagine what Nike would do for that kind of exposure? What do you think Nike would pay to have their logo on every banner, trash can, building and sign on a college campus? The value of that level of exposure to a brand is incalculable. As a business owner I can tell you that I would have killed to have been able to start my business with a group of customers that already loved my company.
Those of us who work in collegiate athletics are spoiled. We’re playing with a stacked deck and we’re still losing. We have something Nike would pay millions of dollars for and that businesses everywhere dream about. I've used the number 5,000 in talking about the number of graduates that come out of a university each year. Some are less, obviously. But some have double or triple that number. The point is that collegiate athletics departments have four years of free marketing opportunities handed to them on a silver platter, and there are thousands of people graduating from universities every year who have will have some level of affinity for their alma mater for the rest of their lives.
No other industry in the world has this advantage. No one ever says, "Well, I wear Adidas because my grandpa wore Adidas and my dad wore Adidas." Even professional sports teams have less of an automatic fan base and less built-in loyalty than collegiate athletics.
If you have empty seats at your stadium or arena, you have no excuse. Or at least you don't have nearly the excuse that organizations in every other industry has if they're failing to bring in customers. If alumni aren’t coming back to support your athletic program, it’s because the product you’re asking them to support isn't good enough.
Winning Isn't Everything
The argument can be made that fans would come if the team would win and that as marketers, we can't control the product on the field. But the decrease in attendance among collegiate athletics isn't isolated to losing programs. Winning teams are losing fans too. The product on the field is great but fans are still choosing to stay home.
At home, the beer is cheaper, the couch is more comfy and the temperature is always a nice 72 degrees. That’s hard to compete with, but not impossible. Because we do have an advantage: they already love us. They spent four years seeing our logo, wearing our clothes and singing our songs.
We might not be able to control the product on the field, but there’s a lot more to the home-or-stadium decision than that. We can control ticket prices. We can control advertising. We can control strategically targeting the fans most likely to attend and understanding what makes them tick. And we can control the gameday experience.
So what about my theoretical friend and his theoretical business? Was success really that easy for him? Of course not. He had to work at it. He had to realize that he couldn’t rely on the same old tricks to get fans to the stadium. He had to stop taking his steady stream of brand loyalists and their disposable income for granted, and start doing more to give them a product that is better than staying home. That was when he started succeeding. And if he didn’t do those things and ended up failing even when the deck was stacked in his favor, then he had nobody to blame but himself.
My father cried on November 16, 1957. He was 12 years old and he wept on my grandfather’s lap as he had just experienced something he had no recollection of ever experiencing before. His beloved Oklahoma Sooners lost a football game for the first time in more than 4 years. When OU began their 47-game winning streak, he was only 8 years old. So there he sat, tears flowing down his cheeks, while his father held him and assured him that everything would be okay.
On Saturday afternoons in the early 1980s, my father and I would get in the car and leave our farmhouse in Guthrie, Oklahoma for the hour drive to Norman. Going to OU football games was not guaranteed but often I would have begged enough that my dad would give in and take me. Sometimes the whole family. Sometimes just me. We’d stop by the tailgate of James and Maryanna Martin for fried chicken. We’d go watch The Pride of Oklahoma (OU’s marching band) warm up. We’d throw a football around on the South Oval. And I would bring every dollar I had saved so I could buy a new OU jersey at the stadium. But the best part was sitting next to my dad while he explained the finer points of the game of football to me.
I remember where I was when the Denver Broncos won their first Super Bowl. I know who I was with, what I was wearing and most importantly, I remember the emotions I felt. I remember driving to Kansas City to see the Broncos play the Chiefs. I remember night after night at the Lloyd Noble Center with my brother and dad watching Wayman, Mookie, Tim and Stacey play basketball. I remember the flyover at the old Mile High Stadium before the game started and how loud and overwhelming it was. I remember meeting Ozzie Smith in the parking garage outside Busch Stadium and getting him to sign a ball for me before we took in an afternoon Cardinals game. I remember standing next to my best friend in Oklahoma Memorial Stadium as the clock wound down after OU beat #1 Nebraska 31-14 after spending years in that same stadium watching OU lose game after game after game with him.
I remember, because those moments are important. I remember, because now that I am older and my brother has moved a thousand miles away, my best friend and I rarely make time for each other and I don’t see my father nearly as much as I should, those moments are what I hold as my most prized possessions. No one can take them from me and I’ll take those memories to my grave.
These are the moments that sports create. Sports brings people together and creates moments shared by fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, brothers and sisters, and friends. I’ve never met anyone, regardless of how much of a sports fan they are, who doesn’t have at least one great memory surrounding a sporting event. They remember where they were, who they were with and what happened at that event that made it so special. Chances are, they get emotional when they think about these experiences. I get emotional just talking about it. Some people have one. Some people have many. I’m lucky… I have hundreds.
Sports are important, plain and simple. Sporting events provide an avenue for people to have experiences that shape their lives. Sports gives people memories that stay with them til the day they die. More often than not, even when their team lost, the memory is held as a fond one.
Sporting events are in a battle with convenience. And the statistics show that we are losing. Kids are upstairs in their rooms playing Minecraft or texting their friends while dad is downstairs in his man cave binge-watching Netflix. When that child is 80 years old, they aren’t going to be telling their grandchildren about the Saturday afternoon they spent playing video games. But being outside on a Saturday afternoon with thousands of other people screaming for the same cause, a ballpark hot dog in their hands and their hero… their father… sitting next to them? That creates a moment that will live on forever.
Old Hat exists for the sole purpose of helping create those moments for people. Whether through driving attendance to sporting events, improving the gameday experience once inside the stadium or arena, aiding in fundraising efforts for athletic departments and their capital campaigns, or any one of the many other things that a sports organization must do to put teams on the field, Old Hat is here to help.
Old Hat believes that there’s nothing greater than sharing a sports experience with someone you care about. We also believe that the purity of these moments is being lost to technology and convenience. Too often families opt to stay at home, everyone in separate rooms of the house staring at their own devices and not connecting with one another. My son will have no memory of the Saturday afternoon he spent playing Minecraft while I watched Breaking Bad on Netflix. However, he still remembers going to the OU vs. Texas football game when he was only 8 years old. He doesn’t remember it because OU won or lost. He remembers it because he was with his brother and his dad. He will always remember it. Because of the experience.
In exciting news out of Norman, the creative agency formerly known as Old Hat Creative, announces the beginning of a new era with a name and logo change. "Ideas Designed to Inspire Through Strategy," abbreviated, "ID.ITS", is the new moniker. "This new name really encapsulates who we are," says CEO and now lead of the ID.ITS, Zac Logsdon. "We feel like this change has been long in the making." says Logsdon. "We've always felt like we were ID.ITS. Now, it's as if for the first time we're actually being our true selves...and if it wasn't known before, it's now evident for everyone else to see with our new company name and logo!"
Robert Smith, Chief Operating Officer and Director of Client Relations, took a leadership role in both the name change and the logo development. Smith says, "I don't mind saying I really inserted myself into the logo project from day one. It was kind of my baby, and something I wanted to be as much a reflection of myself as it was a reflection of our new company and direction. I feel like Zac has been leading us towards this direction for 12 long years and now we're so excited to finally be ID.ITS!"
Much thought went into the actual logo design. Smith explains, "Some of the more obvious choices were using the color red, which as any marketer knows, represents love and profitability. Both of which are needed in any company." Logsdon continues, "Because Old Hat has made a clear shift to the digital age, we included the large dot in our logo to indicate we know the World Wide Web, often referred to as the Net." Particular aspects of the former logo were also tied in. Rather than having the word "Creative" in the new logo, the group opted to use a small "c" placed strategically above the "I", as a nod to their past designation.
Smith says that an important lesson was learned during this process. "We originally chose the tag line 'Ideas Designed to Inspire By Strategy', but because of the problem it would present with our logo acronym, we changed 'by' to 'through'. Paying attention to these types of details can prevent you from looking like a real idiot with your peers and others in your industry. Nobody wants their acronym to include 'IBS'. That's just dumb."
When seeing Logsdon and Smith explain the reasons for the changes together, it's evident that this change is truly the correct decision. It's like they share one mind. The mind of "ID.ITS".