#ExOps18 Recap

#ExOps18 is in the books and by all indications, it was a rousing success. Huge thanks goes out to Brad Wurthman, Ryan Peck, Chris Ferris and Daniel Veale for traveling to Norman, spending a couple days with us and contributing great information to the discussion. Thanks also goes out to everyone who joined remotely. We were excited to see that people from the industry were tuning in, asking questions and participating in the discussion. We had a great time, learned a lot and have a lot of notes on ways to make #ExOps19 even more engaging and valuable for everyone.

We covered a number of topics during our day-and-a-half of discussions. You can watch it all for yourself on the Old Hat Facebook page or you can simply read my recap below.

An Unconventional Look at How to Drive Attendance
We kicked things off on Thursday morning with a private presentation I've developed that addresses what I see as a new way looking at collegiate athletics marketing. The group in the room served as my test audience. I do a number of speaking engagements in the spring, and this will be a topic I cover when visiting with athletics marketing groups. In my opinion, we should take a much different approach if we want to fill our stadiums and arenas. In this presentation, I outline what I believe is that approach. Be on the lookout for a webinar of this presentation coming soon.

Major in the Majors
Next up, we had Brad Wurthman of Virginia Tech walk us through a presentation called "Major in the Majors" where he outlined steps he feels we should be taking to focus on the things that truly matter. Brad pointed out that it's difficult to not get bogged down in the minutia and lose sight of the majors, or the big things we actually should be paying attention to. Brad asked questions like, "What's your why?" and "What are we chasing?" and also laid down some golden wisdom with comments like, "If you can't measure it, you can't manage it," and my personal favorite, "We don't want our staff to do more, we want them to do different." Check out his presentation slides here, but I also highly recommend you follow along by listening to the Facebook video feed for a more valuable experience hearing it directly from Brad. 

Roundtable Discussion
After Brad's presentation, Chris Ferris of Colorado State led a discussion on various external operations topics. One strong area of focus was that of student attendance. Everyone felt strongly that despite student attendance being a non-factor in direct revenue generation, there are ancillary benefits that cause indirect increases in revenue. The most obvious of those is the effect students have on the overall gameday experience. Games are more exciting and more fun if the students are there. That, paired with the idea that students are your future season ticket holders and donors, brought us to the conclusion that when the old fans are complaining about the loud music and song selection, but your students love it, you err on the side of pleasing the students. Those die-hard older fans aren't going to stop coming because of the music, but your students won't turn into die-hard fans if you don't give them a great experience.

Effects of the New Tax Code on Fundraising
After a lunch break, we came back to another roundtable discussion led by Ryan Peck of North Texas. We went through what the old code states about tax-deductible gifts and what the new code says. We also talked through a number of things different athletic departments have done to try to prepare for the unknown, but "the unknown" was really where we landed on this topic. The fact is, no one really knows how, or if, the new tax code is going to affect the industry. After some initial panic toward the end of 2017, most of the people at the table agreed that it might not be a major issue. Toward the end of this discussion, we also touched on the topic of data analytics, predictive analysis, look-alike modeling and marketing automation.

Virginia Tech Ticket Sales Strategic Planning Session
Having spent the past few hours in discussion, we turned the live-stream off to get our hands dirty with a little strategic planning for Hokies football and men's basketball. Due to the proprietary nature of both the client information being shared, along with wanting to keep our process for making strategic marketing recommendations under wraps, we didn't broadcast this part to the masses. However, I can tell you that ahead of time, Brad Wurthman gave us a goal he's hoping to achieve: increase non-season ticket sales for football and men's basketball. We dug through the data gathered from surveys we'd conducted, talked through some of the issues Va Tech is facing, and looked at census data and historical sales information before calling it a day. This part of the process was all about information gathering. We haven't completed our strategic plan yet, but we will be doing so in the coming weeks and delivering that to Va Tech with a full list of recommendations to help them achieve that goal in a targeted and strategic manner.

2018 Digital Marketing Trends
We kicked things off on Day 2 with a live-streamed presentation from Old Hat's Director of Web/Digital, Kevin Kelly, on the topic of web and digital trends for 2018. Kevin shared some great statistics on the impact of video engagement vs. the traditional means of communicating on social media. Some of those stats:

- 4 times as many consumers would rather watch a video vs reading
- 1 in 4 consumers lose interest in product if there's no video about that product
- 4 in 5 consumers say video of how a product works is important in decision to buy
- 95% of a message is retained when watched in video vs. 10% when reading

One idea that was thrown out as a result of this is that maybe instead of having our internal video production crews focus so heavily on high-impact, emotionally driven videos, we should ask them to produce more informational videos that actually communicate a message about our product.

Other topics that were covered are too many to name, but I'll be asking Kevin to develop this into a webinar in the spring - so stay tuned for that. There's some great information that can help us better engage with our fans.

Responding to a Changing Industry
For the final segment of #ExOps18, we turned off the live stream and talked through ways Old Hat can better serve the industry. When I started Old Hat 14 years ago, we were a traditional creative production shop, and we were selling a service the industry was already buying and knew it needed. Old Hat just offered a better version of it at a competitive price. However, as I've seen the industry shift, I've realized the need for our marketing to be much more strategic. Therefore, we developed a wide range of strategic marketing services that include data collection, analysis and strategic recommendations that can help an athletics organization identify who specifically to target, where to find them, how to message to them and how to measure the results. Unlike posters, videos and schedule cards, this list of services is not one the industry already knows it needs. During this discussion, we talked through ways of shifting the industry's perception on what marketing should look like and how to convince athletic departments to look at the product they're selling the same way other industries view their own products and services. That is through doing research, developing insight into who to reach and how to reach them and then rolling out a strategic marketing message in the right ways to the right people.

Overall, it was one of the most fun and most valuable day-and-a-halves in my entire career. Outside the walls of that conference room, we ate a lot of great food, learned a lot about each other and enjoyed the company of some very progressive and forward-thinking minds in collegiate athletics. There were so many people that came together behind-the-scenes to make this a reality, and my sincere gratitude goes out to all of them. We can't wait to do it again next year.