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".
Coach Harbaugh has been in the news a lot lately. Whether you agree with his techniques or not, one thing is undeniable: he’s making the off season something worth watching. And from a marketing perspective, that’s powerful stuff.
Sports marketers are challenged to find ways to draw a crowd and keep them coming back. That’s getting harder and harder to do, because there are more alternatives than ever to game day attendance. At a time when collegiate sports programs are struggling with declining attendance, you can’t afford to let your marketing initiatives simmer on the back of the stove in between seasons. You have to find ways to keep fans engaged and maintain your momentum year round.
Even if your program doesn’t have Michigan’s resources, here are a few lessons you can apply in your own way.
Shake things up. Spring break practice in Florida? Friday night games? What?? Breaking away from the status quo draws attention and gives people something to talk about. Whether you go big or go small, do something different. Better yet, do it in a way that offers some sort of advantage for your team or your fans. Don’t just do it as a copycat, because your fans will call you out on it.
Get people excited about your new line-up. Signing day is a big deal, so make it a big deal. You don’t have to make it a circus to make it count. Look for ways to hype up your new recruits and the strength of your upcoming season. Social media (especially YouTube) is an incredible tool for this, and it doesn’t take a massive budget to make a memorable impact.
Decide what you want to be. Then be it. A football program is a football program is a football program…except that it’s not. It’s a lot more. It’s a collective identity and a shared consciousness. Own it. Does your team have a reputation you’re proud of? Find ways to amp it up. Want to have a different reputation than you currently do? Come up with a plan for how to reposition yourselves, then go after it full force.
Controversy = conversation. Being controversial isn’t for everybody, and you certainly don’t want to be on the hot seat in terms of violating rules. But it’s a proven way to generate media attention, and it can be a mobilizing force for your fan base. Just choose your controversies wisely, if you’re going to go there. And make sure you have the right people on board.
Sure, it helps to have a big budget and powerful connections when you want to stand out. But you don’t need those things to do more in the off season. All you really need is a thorough understanding of your target audience, strong collaboration within your program, a few creative ideas, and the will to win.
In the past few years, there's been a great shift on social media - a shift to visual content over text content. Why is this?
Among the many reasons:
Statistics show that 81% of people only skim the content they read online.
The average person gets distracted in just 8 seconds.
It only takes someone 50 milliseconds to form a first impression.
Most people only remember 20% of what they read if the text is not accompanied by visual content.
So now, due to these reasons and lots of others, there's a greater focus on visual content in online marketing. And those of us who are spatial/visual learners...say it with me..."it's about time"! A great amount of people thrive on images, pictures, color, and visual media such as photos, videos, illustrations, and infographics to assist us in our learning process and in information retention. Raise your hand if you're like me and learn more than you ever thought possible from YouTube videos.
Visual content has become so important that it's predicted that 84% of communiation will be visual by 2018.
With this information, it may be time to consider the following:
Don't bother to tell your story if you're not prepared to also show it.
Because most people only skim the content they see online - do whatever you can to make your message stand out, and quickly!
Consider the creation of logos and icons to help sell your message. (We can help).
Look at your use of color and typeography. Are they visually pleasing? Are you consistent with their use? Are your colors and fonts on brand and reflecting of your style and the story you are wanting to tell?
Make stand-out photography and creative videography high on your priority list. The creation of stunning visuals will greatly help sell your message. And PS, one study I read speculates that 79% of internet traffic will be video content by 2018.
Duke is one Old Hat client who has really prioritized visual content on social media this year. We've partnered with them to create some great social media graphics they're using for gameday promotions, score updates, awards announcements and much more.
We started by creating social media cover and profile images so every Duke Athletics team was consistent and on-brand.
Fun Fact: Each individual sport's profile picture uses elements from their schedule poster, that we also designed. So even though they are consistent looking, there are unique differences.
From there, we created a variety of template graphics. Each sport has their own set that they can update with new information such as game scores, athlete accomplishments, and game day promotions.
We've even put together special occasion graphics for holidays, special events and more.
If you're interested in incorporating more visuals into your social media, but need a little help getting started, contact us!
And in the meantime, play this fun matching/memory game to get more tips and fun facts on images in social media.
There is a common critique/observation when people walk into the Old Hat office for the first time: "It's like a library in here. I'm afraid to speak." It's one of those things that can happen with the creatives and open-plan offices. It's crazy quiet and most of us have our earbuds in to help control the cacophonous din while we get all creative and stuff. I think it probably comes across as us being anti-social nerds. Well, there probably is some truth to that statement. What you don't see or hear is that all of the traditional office chatter has moved online. I think it's widely accepted truth that Geoff and I can be pretty quiet, but we are also the biggest GIF users in the office. Now, there's a good rule of thumb here at the Hat: If there's something that the staff is enjoying and spending a lot of time doing or talking about, then Kelby is going to make you blog about it. It makes sense- if we're digging it, that's a pretty good indication that it will be of interest to our readers, too. She's a wise lady.
When I asked Geoff how to start this blog his suggestion was a GIF. I took it under consideration and recommended he reword that sentiment. "A GIF isn't just a repeating video clip that infinitely loops on the internet," Geoff said. "NO. It's a visual representation of ones heart and soul at any given moment." SEE, GUYS. The dude is deep. He added, "GIF is pronounced GIF, not JIFF. Geoff however is pronounced Jeff, not Geff." Listen, we're not going to argue about the pronunciation. Just accept it as fact. Like Michael Jordan being better than Lebron.
Geoff is an old pro at GIF-making. Which shouldn't be a surprise since he is a Photoshop wizard. His style ranges from the absurd, to the absurd, but practical, to silliness and oftentimes genius.
Absurd, but practical.
My GIF style is a mix of silliness, wit, absurdity and practicality.
A lot of our OH TV videos are pretty absurd to begin with. Exhibit A.
Exhibit B. Adding the proper text is the easy part.
I was sort of, but not really, surprised at the sheer number of Dustin Eating GIFs we could create.
Most of my inspiration comes from movies and TV that I find funny and/or entertaining.
Another good source is the cutting room floor, so to speak. Schools send us a lot of footage and there are so many clips that don't make the Intro Video cut.
GIFS might seem simple, annoying, immature and out of place to the average GIF noob, but we live in a multimedia world and they are everywhere. It's a part of our internet culture. A couple of weeks ago Twitter joined the social media cool kids with their new searchable GIF library. In fact, Tricia and I had quite the heated GIF exchange this week via Twitter.
Is this just the latest trend in internet communication? Perhaps.
First we had emoticons ;)
Then there were emojis
And now we have looping, animated graphics:
There's something about GIFs that can help express a tone or clear emotional reaction that IM and emails just can't. Of course nothing can replace just getting up and winking at Geoff face-to-face, but that's not the world most of us live in from 9-to-5. Our casual conversations happen via screens.
From a professional perspective a lot of conversation with our fans or customers happens via social media. Several collegiate and professional sports teams, leagues and organizations have some serious social media GIF game (2-points for the sports pun!). The NWSL (National Women's Soccer League, c'mon guys...) social media gurus are all over the GIFs. I'm a soccer fan and I enjoy seeing the different teams interact with each other on the Twitter. When you use a GIF you're letting the Millennials know you're in on their super cool language. GIFs are easy and they are attention-grabbing - two things the kids love.
Back in the day, there was one group you could count on to be at the game and stick with you ‘til the end: students. The good news is that yesterday’s students are today’s involved alumni. The bad news is that when you look at the student section today, it’s looking a little thin…and sometimes practically empty by the time the final score is up.
You’re not alone. A Wall Street Journal study of stadium turnstile records showed that student football game attendance decreased by about 7% between 2009 and 2013. In contrast, total average attendance decreased less than 1% during that same time period.
So what gives? Why is student attendance down?
There are a lot of other options. Game day isn’t the only game in town. You’re competing with a variety of other entertainment choices. And remember, you’re asking students to pay for tickets out of their limited beer and pizza money and sit in uncomfortable seats in a venue where most of them can’t drink. If you want them to be there and stay there, you better make it good.
There’s not enough connectivity. And that’s a problem. 53% of Millennials would rather lose their sense of smell than their technology. No joke. So being able to connect during the game and feeling connected to the team are both really important. If you don’t offer stadium wi-fi and opportunities for students to feel connected both digitally and in-person, don’t be surprised at lower attendance numbers.
There’s no reason to stay. According to a recent study commissioned by NACMA and the University of Oregon's Warsaw Sports Marketing Center, almost a quarter of students say they’ve left a game before it’s 75% complete. You’re not keeping their interest long enough for them to stick around.
Here’s the real question: what can you do about it?
The best defense against declining student attendance is a good offense. You’re competing with countless other ways students could be spending their time, and going to a game is a pretty big time commitment. Especially when you consider this fun fact: a goldfish has a longer attention span than the average student. To capture and keep students’ interest, you need to get aggressive with your marketing efforts.
Get social. Driving engagement through social media before, during, and after the game can help you boost your numbers. The NACMA study showed that students who follow a team on social media channels such as Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram are more likely to attend three or more home games than those who aren’t engaged on social media. Think about how you can use social media to hype the game experience ahead of time and make being there live more exciting than watching the game from their home or dorm room.
Go deeper. Being a fan isn’t just about attending the game or talking about it on social media, it’s about feeling a real sense of connection to the team. To forge a deeper bond, you have to offer content that goes deeper: showcase fan culture, give a behind-the-scenes peek at practice or other team events, share candid player or coach interviews, recognize new recruits, or even make student fans the star of the show sometimes. Comedy and movie-style content resonates particularly well with Millennial fans – who also happen to watch a lot of YouTube.
Make it worth staying for. Seeing the last few minutes of the game isn’t incentive enough for a lot of students. While giving away freebies like t-shirts is a good start, you need to look for other ways you can make the end of the game exciting and rewarding for students. Consider options like a post-game party or concession discounts. The NACMA study found that loyalty programs and player meet and greets were big draws for students. When the final minutes count down, the game might be over for the players but it’s not over for you as a marketer. If you walk away after halftime, your student section will too. Make every engagement opportunity count.