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While getting a ticket to the World Series or Superbowl remains a real feat for sports fanatics, it's also becoming harder and harder for smaller sports organizations to fill the seats. Though the fandom hasn't died, sports entertainment companies and venues are up against many hurdles in efforts to increase profits.
How then do sports marketers better understand their demographics and effectively reach them? Luckily, our CEO Stacy Jones met with an expert to further elaborate on this topic. In this blog post, Hollywood Branded examines the best practices for understanding sports fans and marketing to them from the experience of Old Hat Creative's Zac Logsdon.
A Little Background on Zac
Over the past two decades, Zac Logsdon has worked at more than 150 sports and entertainment organizations to help drive attendance to their events and venues, and improve the experience for fans and attendees. He is CEO and Founder of Old Hat, the strategic marketing company specializing in the sports and entertainment industry. Zac successfully ran Old Hat for more than 15 years.
He grew the organization from one employee with one client, to employing nearly a 100 people combined over that period and partnering with nearly every major collegiate athletic program in the nation, along with multiple professional organizations. Zac has also written two books on the topic of sports and entertainment marketing and hosts two podcasts on the subject, as well.
Interview Transcript Highlights
Question: Stacy Jones: Can you tell our listeners a little bit more about your background, where you started and what got you to where you're at today?
Answer: Yeah, absolutely. Thank you. So I grew up a big sports fan, loving the University of Oklahoma Sooners and going to OU football and basketball games. That was the highlight of my life, getting to go to sports with my family, with my dad and brother. Those memories the greatest memories of my life. Because of that passion I had for goin to events, I think that drew me into working in sports.
I worked for the University of Oklahoma athletic department for three years before launching my company. It's one of those deals where you look back, and years later you realize why you are where you are. I think I went into sports marketing because I wanted to give that same experience to other fans. It didn't have to be Oklahoma. It could be anywhere, just because those were so special to me growing up and having that connection and that time with my father, my family, my brother, my friends, whoever it was. Sports provides that opportunity to connect with people in a way that hardly anything provides. You stand there and the emotion involved, you go to a movie and it's just not the same thing. You can get emotionally involved in the movie, but it's not happening live, it's just a different deal. That's why I do what I do. Because I want to help create those connections, really give people the opportunity to share those experiences with their loved ones like I did.
Question: So it's not just sports, it goes across entertainment venues, and also goes into music because I'm hearing this from a lot of different labels and different outlets who are trying to put together true large scale events - audiences are dropping. What are your thoughts on that?
Answer: Yeah, it's not isolated to sporting events. With what we do, our philosophies and tactics and expertise, is applicable across any platform or any venue where you're trying to drive attendance. Like you mentioned, attendance isn't just dropping in sporting events, it's dropping at movie theaters. It's dropping at concerts. I think that has to do with the access that people have now that we didn't use to have. When I was growing up, or even 15 years ago, a lot of events you could only see if you were there. Now, whether it's concerts, you can live stream concerts on Netflix now. Who was it recently that did that? I think it was Taylor Swift had her concert on Netflix. Sporting events, where you could only listen to them on the radio or watch them on tiny, little, terrible picture screen, now you can walk around the mall and watch it on your handheld device.
As for movie theaters, you don't want people doing it but you can download the newest releases immediately and watch it on your computer screen or at home, where you have the great surround sound or the unbelievable giant picture. People are electing to stay home because, honestly, home offers as good a quality product, a lot of times, as attending. You don't even have to get out of your chair. I don't know that it's laziness. It's convenience. It's easy. Why would you go spend a bunch of money to do something that you can do for free sitting right where you are?
Question: So what can people do about this?
Answer: That's a great question. The answer is we have to start marketing our products no differently than anybody else markets their products. For a hundred years, we didn't have to market our events nearly like we do now because it was, we were the only game in town. It was the only option. Entertainment options were so limited, it was a matter of saying, hey this artist is going to be performing. People showed up because they didn't have another options. Texas is going to be playing this Saturday, so people went.
So we don't have to market it. We didn't have to do all the things that Ford does or Wrigley does or Dr Pepper does to market their products. We simply had to publicize that the game was going on, or the movie was going on, or whatever it was, and people showed up. And we got spoiled. The entertainment industry got spoiled by having decades of not actually having to market their product the same as all the other industries have to market. It's as simple as that. That doesn't mean it's easy. But it's as simple as identifying what is unique about your product, identifying what is unique about your market and who the potential customers are, purchasers of your product. Then marketing it to those people and reminding them why showing up is better than staying home.
Question: Does that also include needing to, not just market differently, but actually to have on site experiences that are different?
Answer: I'm glad you said that because I just, earlier today, was giving a talk about the fact that, for years and years, the product we were selling was the product on the field or on the screen or the product on the stage. That's not our product anymore. Our product is the experience. So it's about one, providing an unbelievable experience aside from what's happening on the field of play or on the stage. Everything about the experience has to be amazing. It has to be something people want to show up for, because, again back to my original point, you don't have to show up to see the product on the field anymore so the product, being that experience, that experience has to be amazing. From the second you walk in the gates, from your customer service, to your concession options, just everything about it has to be top notch. It's not enough to be good anymore, it has to be great.
Question: Are there any tricks of the trade that you suggest? You have a lot of options out there in different directions you can go, but where should someone start?
Answer: I think one comparison I always use when I'm talking about this, because most of what we do is in the sports world, is if you're working for a sports organization, you have coaches down the hall that are preparing their team to take the field. These coaches are spending hours, days, on research. They're researching their opponents. We don't do that in marketing, nearly to the extent that the guys down the hall are doing to defeat their opponents. A major college football program will spend upwards of twenty thousand hours a year researching their opponents, researching themselves, developing strategies based on that research and only then, form a game plan to try to defeat their opponent.
In marketing, we jump to the end. We're like, I got a plan without knowing who our opponents are, without knowing anything about ourselves, so the tip, the trick is spending the time researching. This can be done. Marketing works. It's a fact. Marketing works, but you have to do it right. So the tip, unfortunately, there's no magic bullet. There's no one size fits all solution in marketing because SMU, a small private school in a market like Dallas, is going to market entirely differently than Alabama, a giant school and a small market. So you can't take that, well SMU did it and it worked so we're going to do it in Tuscaloosa, or this concert venue in Memphis did it, or Nashville did it, a better example, so we're going to do it in Oklahoma City.
Question: Is there any other advice you want to share with our listeners today?
Answer: The advice goes back to the idea of investing the time and the research and not jumping straight to the end. Not jumping straight to the creative. That's what we always want to do, is get to the creative, because that's the fun part. But invest in the why behind the what. Figuring out why and then create the what if that makes sense.
To learn more about understanding your audience and sports entertainment marketing, you can listen to the full interview in our podcast.
Home Runs In Sports Marketing
Want to learn more about marketing in the sports entertainment and case studies of successes? Check out other blog posts we've written on the subject and how brands made an impact partnering with celebrity athletes!
Want to learn how your brand can partner with a celebrity that will be the perfect fit for your brand? Check out our video on celebrity endorsement deals!