Football season is winding to a close and basketball season is heating up. No matter which sport you work with, these four tips will help you take your marketing efforts from having an average season to dominating your goals.
1. Talk smack.
As a sports marketer, you basically get paid to talk smack. How glorious is that? It’s a beautiful thing – as long as you get it right. Good smack-talk galvanizes your fans and increases ticket sales. Just remember that when you talk smack for your program, there are two groups who have to deliver on it: the team (of course) and the operations guys whose efforts ensure a good game-day experience for fans. Make sure you’re working closely with both. The other thing about talking smack is that in order for it to resonate, you have to talk the right smack to the right group. That can be tough if you’re new to a particular program, because every school and every sport is unique. When your messages are on point, you’re near the eye of the hurricane helping chart its path. If your messages aren’t on point, you’re going to be the guy getting crushed by the hurricane. To make sure you’re not that guy, follow the lead of your coaches and players: watch some tape.
2. Watch tape (a.k.a. do your research).
Do you know any college or professional football team that doesn’t watch tape? Yeah, us neither. There’s a reason for that. Watching game film gives players and teams insight into what went well (or didn’t go well) and what to expect from their next opponent. That type of research and analysis provides an important edge. Why not do the same thing with your marketing? Just like reviewing game film, there are two key areas you need to analyze: your brand and your target audience. When was the last time you thoroughly reviewed what your brand stands for, where it can improve on delivering the customer experience, and how strong your marketing strategy is? You also periodically analyze your customers: who they are, what they value most about the game day experience, how well their needs are being met, and what their satisfaction level is. The good news is that you can get away with investing in this type of in-depth analysis periodically (once per season) instead of having to do it for every game.
3. Develop your plays.
On the field or off, analysis is useless if it doesn’t translate into strategy. Use your brand and market research to develop your overall marketing strategy for the year, select the themes and media that are most likely to help you achieve your goals, prioritize your budget, and develop campaigns. Your marketing year can probably be divided pretty easily into its own set of seasons, and you need to have a solid campaign plan for each. Once you find something that works, there’s no shame in recycling it for the next year as long as you don’t get complacent. Complacency kills. You don’t want fans to be able to predict your next poster, email, etc. any more than your team wants the opposing players to predict their next move. So figure out what worked last season, make some adjustments to keep it interesting, and take the next year on like you own it.
4. Monitor the stats.
Ticket sales, game attendance, season ticket renewals, alumni contributions – these are all statistics you should be benchmarking and comparing to prior data. But don’t stop there: there’s more to measure if you really want to know how effective your marketing efforts are. While it can be difficult to measure the success rate of traditional marketing tactics (posters, print ads, billboards, radio, etc.), digital marketing offers a goldmine of statistics. Go beyond looking at basics like number of new and returning website visitors, and start measuring responses to calls to action and actual conversion. Incorporate a marketing automation tool so you can target your messages to different groups, move them along the conversion path, and measure the response you get to each email you send. Make your emails more personal and more interactive with videos that are customizable to each recipient – it’s more affordable than you think, and it helps seriously drive engagement and ultimately ticket sales.
I have spent a lot of time in my garden for the last six months. It has been a lot of work, but at this point in the year, it is pretty enjoyable work. Why? Because all I really have to do is walk out and pick things to eat.
That has definitely not been the case throughout the last six months. With twenty-seven inches of rain in twenty-nine days, it has been a struggle. Plants have gotten sick and/or needed constant attention. I have faced more bugs or diseases this year alone than all of my previous years combined. I have spent more time on garden forums than I want to admit and have read through a 300 page garden reference book. It has not been overly enjoyable, and it is a hobby that has it ups and downs. Through it all, being able to harvest has driven me. This Saturday I made gumbo. About half way through, I ran out of peppers and okra. It took all of two minutes to walk out and pick what I needed from my garden. It was rewarding.
I find that busy season for Old Hat is a bit like harvesting my garden. The stress level is definitely different, but the steps we take to get here are very similar. We spend more than six months reviewing our processes, creating new products, and telling the sports world about them. This year we have added an extra source of information in Marketing Automation that is producing more data than we have ever had. We are able to see what people are doing, clicking on, reading, and looking through on our site. It allows us to target our products to those that we know are interested. It is a great service and another product we spent the off-season preparing for our clients and ourselves. Zac blogged in detail about it here
You should check it out and then we can all be harvesting at this point in the year!
Yesterday, Ashley and I traveled to Stillwater to meet with the OSU Sports Management Club. I enjoyed getting to meet the students involved in the group and share a few of the things I have learned from working in the industry. The excitement they have about going into the sports industry is refreshing. We spent about an hour talking with them about our careers and answering any questions they had about the industry. I am truly grateful to work where I work. I consider myself lucky to work on sports projects everyday.
I enjoy seeing that excitement in young people. Excited about what is to come and excited to learn. I help coach a flag football team for similar reasons. I enjoy working with kids and seeing that spark in their eye when they start to understand the game. Watching a young person go from confusion to pure joy in their understanding or the lesson they just learned. Then watching them apply it during a game is something that always brings a smile to my face.
Sports bring that out in people. At Old Hat we “Amplify the Sports Experience” and in that motto is the reason I enjoy coming to work everyday. We want to make every experience a fan has with your team an exciting one. We want fans to get the tickets they bought in the mail, see the design, and start counting down the days until they are in the stadium. We want fans to get chills when they watch a team run out of the tunnel to an intro video. That enjoyment, that passion for the game is what we want to amplify, and all it takes is a young person being excited about sports to remind me of why we do it.
Today is September 22 which for me is good ole blogging day which I have not participated in for a while. If I were not the absent minded professor you would get to read all sorts of wonderful posts, but I have reigned as the absent minded professor for a long time. When I was a little boy I would forget my house key at school which forced me to either walk all the way back to school or pull some acrobatic moves to open and jump through the back kitchen window just off the side of the back deck. My mother would have been quite upset if she knew how many times I jumped to that window 15' above where I could have easily plumeted to my death. Anyway, the title of my post is 365 Days of Social Media not The Absent Minded Professor, so lets continue moving forward on that topic.
365 Days of Social Media refers to a journey I am sending myself on in which I will be attempting to post a social media graphic every day for a year. I have been putting a lot of effort towards improving my overall life in every way and in today's world social media is ever more important and is only expanding and evolving. Social media engulfs the lives of anyone who has access to a computer. It has the power alter someones life in various ways, which has brought about debates as to whether it is good and/or bad. Regardless of what you think social media is most likely not going anywhere. So, I say embrace social media and take a look at my instgram and facebook pages. One of the graphics could inspire you, it could change your opinion, it could also piss you off, but remember Don't Think Too Much. Thinking too much can be a very bad thing.
As I watched the opener of the NFL season last night, I followed along on Twitter. Sports remains the top must-see live fare, and ‘watching’ it in realtime via social media along with others seems to be the way to go. Because my Twitter feed is full of sports sites and sport-industry creatives, I saw an abundance of graphics highlighting the matchup and especially Antonio Brown's hair, Rob Gronkowski's TD catches and the return of Tom Brady. Even if people aren't able to watch the live event, they want to follow along on their devices.We're certainly seeing this in college athletics, as evidenced by the increased amount of social media graphic creation that's popping up in our workflow. Graphics for the next game, pregame lineups, in-game updates, postgame wrap-ups, season tickets - we can certainly do them all whether matched to your poster/current campaign or a completely new look.
On a side note, one thing we haven’t liked that’s also been showing up in the workflow is changes to athletic department brand standards. While we don’t mind a school looking for uniformity in their projects, these style guide changes are especially frustrating during the school year once the creative look has already been established. (And yes, those changes usually do hamper creativity.) So to schools… please change your brand standards in April or May, not August or September!
And finally, on a completely different and more important note, it’s impossible to not write a blog on this day and not look back to fourteen years ago. I will never forget where I was, on my way to work hearing about the events from a radio show which originated in New York. While I didn’t know anyone that lost their life that day, we should pause to remember them and their families as well as the police, firemen and first responders that helped or assisted during the tragedy. It's unfortunate that cultural attitudes toward the police and military have changed for the worse over the last decade, but we owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to those who continue to protect, serve and guard against future incidents.
I was thrilled to head back to my home state, Nebraska, this past weekend for a quick visit and to attend the Nebraska/BYU Football game.
While there, I got to see a few old friends from my old stomping ground, HuskerVision. And by OLD stomping ground, I really mean it. It's been 11 years since I last worked at Nebraska. The changes are ridiculous. The athletic department looks nothing like it used to. The only constant was the people I was able to catch up with while there.
One thing that Nebraska is in my opinion, really leading the country in, is technology related fan experience improvements. Last year, the Huskers announced multi-million dollar additions, including completely new in-stadium sound systems and improving their in-stadium wifi. As most people are probably aware, most stadiums have very limited connectivity in venue. Nebraska's is really great and I imagine it's leading the way for a lot of departments. I visited the department on Friday, and could connect outside the stadium, so I think the footprint must be pretty big.
When I was there, I visited my old friend Kelly, who is the Assistant AD for Digital Communications, and he showed me around Nebraska's digital headquarters (his office). He has a staff of people - three full time as well as interns, completely dedicated to digital strategy and production. This is their setup for monitoring all things Nebraska on social media.
Outside and Inside of their offices (I didn't get good pictures, so the two above are borrowed from Nebraska Media Relations).
These two are taken by me. The screen on the bottom right shows seven different Twitter feeds at once, including the official Huskers account, head coach Mike Riley and more. Here it is a little closer up.
Nebraska is hugely committed to staying at the forefront of social media and I've been really entertained by the content they release: great videos, behind-the scenes kind of stuff. Only speculating here, but I'd guess some of the staff (administrative and coaches), don't necessarily understand a lot about social media, but it seems like they do understand it's importance, especially for fans and for recruiting.
He also showed me what I think is one of the coolest enhancements Nebraska has undertaken, their official app. The app contains most of the information you can view on their regular website (schedules, rosters, news, ticket purchasing, etc), but also has really awesome in-game features. My favorite was the ability to see any replay, from several different angles, right on my phone during the game. I could also press a 10 second replay button so I could view anything I missed.
All-in-all, it was a great (but exhausting) weekend! The only downer was the final play of the game...
I get the question all the time: "What should we be doing that we aren't doing?" or "What's the newest thing that we should be doing?" The are always new answers because there are always new things being developed. But right now and for the forseeable future, the answer is: Marketing Automation
What is marketing automation, you ask? Well, there's a graphic below that does a good job of explaining it but honestly, this is one of those things you have to explain through a demo. The basics are this... Marketing automation takes your sales initiatives and makes them about 100% more effective. It's about tracking, data mining and giving you analytics that allow you to make your ticket sales and fundraising campaigns more targeted and more effective. It's audience segmentation, directed email campaigns, automated follow-ups, customer relations management, pixel tracking, re-targeting and much more. And it's something Old Hat is now offering as a service add-on to our web projects.
We'll be launching a website for a client in November that's directed at ticket sales. Through marketing automation, we'll be able to tell them who is spending time on what portions of the website and for how much time they're in each section. We'll know if they converted on the sale or not. If they spend 5 minutes on the mini-pack page, they'll get a follow-up email automatically a few days later telling them more about it. If they spend time looking at renting the terrace suite for their corporate event, we'll be able to give the client a list of those people so they can give them a call. If a family-pack is purchased, that person will get an automated email a few days later telling them about the family entertainment opportunities on gameday. And that's just the tip of the iceberg.
I've been working in collegiate athletics for nearly 15 years and I'm not sure I've ever seen a more powerful tool in increasing ticket sales and donor relations. Give me a call at (405) 310-2133 and I'll tell you more about it. And see below... This stuff is amazing.
Yesterday I was talking about one of our websites with Kelby and discussing propagation.When you look up propagation in the dictionary (ok, ok, I mean Google and then Webster) you get a couple different options for the definition.For the purposes of this discussion we are going with option B:
the spreading of something (as a belief) abroad or into new regions
When talking about propagation in websites, we are typically talking about the propagation of a site to the servers throughout the world. This process can take up to 72 hours and is typically the explanation to why one person in Texas can see your site while a person in California, at the same URL, can not see the site. It can be a pain, but since I started working in web, the process has improved and does not seem to take as a long.
As Kelby mentioned the other day, she is working on more projects now and quite a few of those projects are websites. I am not sure she wanted the impromptu lesson on server propagation, but I would rather someone understand than just regurgitate the words. This conversation got me thinking about the sports industry and how ideas tend to propagate through (around?) the industry.
Good ideas are usually copied in our industry. It is as much a part of life as football in the fall. I try to see it as a compliment when someone copies what you do. It is interesting to me to watch the ideas propagate through the industry. College sports is where most of the websites we build are targeted and a quick look through college athletics websites, it is quite easy to see some of the more “popular” ideas, templates, or layouts that are being used. All it takes is for one high profile school to do something cool and then you can watch it propagate throughout the industry. This is not always a good thing and it is not always a bad thing, that all depends on the idea and the execution.
At Old Hat Creative, we do not use templates for our websites, but we do take good ideas and execute them in a way that we think will be most successful for our clients. Our motto is “We Amplify the Sports Experience” and we like to do that with good ideas as well. Do you have a website and always wanted to see something like it done for your school? Lets talk about it. You bring the idea and we will execute it in a way that makes you unique and successful in your goals.
The process does not stop with the idea or even the site launch. You have to execute the site well. You have to make sure your visitors on the site are finding the content you want them to find and are truly motivated by your call to action.
Want to know if your idea is causing fans to look at your ticket options more? We can provide analytics on your site that will tell you exactly who is clicking and where they are clicking.
Want to make sure your visitors are reminded about the season ticket benefits they were browsing through last week? We can set your site up to reach out to them later in the week and send them information specific to what they were browsing through on your site.
Want to know how long people are spending on the site and why they leave? We can tell you where their last clicks were and work with you to tailor the content to get them to want to stay on your site.
There is always going to be propagation of ideas in our industry and probably every industry, but at Old Hat, we can help you take that idea to the next level.
It's time for football!As the start of a new season and school year approaches quickly, Old Hat Print is already deep into our busy season. Make sure to follow Old Hat Creative (@OldHatCreative) on Twitter as we tweet an Old Hat-designed football poster each day leading up to the start of college football season. Prior to that, here's a sneak peek of a few of our favorites from the home base in Norman.
Football posters are just a portion of the work we do. There are many other sports to highlight. Some schools prefer a uniform look, with the same design for several sports. Other schools choose different looks for each sport. Some also opt to put several sports together on the same poster. It doesn't matter which option to us, as you can you see below - we can make any option work well. This is just a small sampling of work. There are tons more projects in the queue or that haven't been released yet to the public. And not just posters, but tickets, logos, game programs, media guides, ticket brochures, annual reports, development brochures, stadium displays, signage - the list goes on and on. Be sure to check here or any of our other social media, as we will have an abundance of work to showcase in the weeks ahead.
I am quite a fan of watching thunderstorms, most of the time. Something about watching a thunderhead build slowly in the afternoon heat and merge into something so powerful has always been an event that draws my attention.
When I lived in College Station during school, I was very fortunate to live on a 90-acre piece of property, on top of a hill, and about 8 miles from Texas A&M campus. I could walk out my front door and see Kyle Field on the horizon. I enjoyed being able to see the lights kick on and then off for Midnight Yell Practice, but what I really enjoyed was watching a storm build up. They would start south of town about mid afternoon and eventually build up to a light show. I could sit in the sun and beautiful weather watching a storm pour down on College Station. The storms would eventually move my direction, but the whole process was incredibly interesting to me. Some of my best writing came when I was on that porch watching a storm.
Now I live in Oklahoma and I do not enjoy all storms. They still interest me and I will still sit outside for as long as possible to watch a storm build and lightening light of the sky. Some storms are too strong or destructive to watch for long, but even for those, I am sitting on the front porch of the Railhouse, trying to get a picture while I can.
In College Station, I could watch the storm develop and see it moving my way. This was always the calm before the storm and I enjoyed it. Some of the best fishing can be done at this time and it is an interesting transition from relative calm to a major event. Nature is just interesting.
I feel like that right now.
We are on the cusp of our busy season at Old Hat. Projects are starting to line up in the queue, photo shoots have been booked, and the plans are starting to be laid for another round of amazing Old Hat work. To me, this calm before the storm is different. There is still that nervous anticipation of what will come out of all this. Where will we be on the other side of this storm? Storms like this always change things in some way. Often times for the better, but change will happen regardless.
I am excited for this busy season. I am excited to look up at my board and see that our projects have multiplied by five in the last week. I am excited to see the amazing work that we create AND I am excited to see what changes may come.
It may be the calm before the storm this time of year, but this is the storm that Old Hat Creative gets excited about.