We all know the movie and love the sentiment “If you build it, they will come.” Sadly, it’s not a magical corn field you are trying to fill with legends and a handful of local fans. Instead, you’re dealing with large facilities and fans whose attention is fragmented.

Facilities spending is one of the biggest reasons otherwise profitable or self-sufficient athletic departments run deficits, according to a Washington Post review of athletic departments at 48 schools in the five wealthiest conferences in college sports. Big-time college athletic departments are taking in more money than ever and spending it just as fast, yet we continue to see attendance decline.

Think about this: many of the most iconic college football stadiums have always been about volume rather than quality. Michigan and Tennessee — two schools with stadiums with capacities greater than 100,000 — counted on fans wanting to be a part of the general atmosphere rather than wanting Wi-Fi or the ability to post on social networks.

While the old saying “if you build it they will come” may not be true in this case, another classic is true: “where there’s a will there’s a way.”

Here are a couple of tips to consider as you look for ways to improve your game experience for fans.

• Simple improvements such as tidying up the exterior look of a stadium with new graphics, updating concessions stands and connecting concourses can make a huge impact on the overall fan experience that exists within a stadium.

• Focus on technology. Smarter, better, and more connected stadiums have the potential to provide a game day experience tailored for the 21st century fan who don’t want to just have an experience, but also want to share it on social media.

While there’s no one-size-fits-all solution to the collegiate athletics attendance problem, there is an approach that can help any program overcome their challenges. It’s called the Sports180 process and it’s offered exclusively by Old Hat. Our proven, research-based approach helps you clarify objectives, analyze your playing field, and develop a winning strategy by getting to the heart of your program’s unique position.

Contact us directly at 405.310.2133 or by email to learn more or to request a demo of our Sports180 process.

With the start of each new school year, a crop of new potential fans is being introduced to your team. The good news is they are predisposed to love you. The challenge is getting them into the stadium - not just this year, but in the future.

So who will your fans be in 2022 when today's incoming freshmen graduate? The answer is largely up to you. You will always have your die-hard fans. We all know them – the fans who wouldn't miss a game for any reason, not even their own wedding. Then you have the casual fan, the new fan and the fair weather fan. Beyond the die-hard fan, everyone else is susceptible to distraction and nonattendance. They're the ones you truly have to win - game after game, season after season.

Collegiate athletic programs used to believe that stadium attendance was losing ground to the couch and cable TV. Well, that has changed. Did you know that more than half (55%) of teens believe they can access any content they want without cable? Millennials/students are not sitting on their couch watching the game. In fact, they probably aren't “watching” the game no matter where they are.

The reality is this: whether they are new, casual or fair weather, fans are more interested in the experience than the game. Creating an atmosphere of inclusion and excitement on game day is more important than your number of wins. Here's the proof: even winning teams lost attendance over the last 4 years. If fans cannot capture, share and tag it, it never happened - regardless of whether it was a win or a loss.

Follow these five guidelines to create an experience that every fan type can embrace. You’ll fill more seats at the game and your die-hard fans will love the company.

1. Create opportunities for students to have an “experience.” Create “party” areas, general admission areas where they can hang out with friends and just happen to watch the game if they want. Offer food/drinks. Make it memorable!

2. Give stuff away. Fans of all types love free stuff. Get creative here and look for sponsors to offer up the goods.

3. Make it a competition. Fans of all types are competitive. They love to win and love to rub it in…..

4. Make it social. Offer opportunities for fans to post to social and win something (they will post it anyway, so let’s get in on it).

5. Make it easy. Remember: if there is an easier option, they will do that instead.


Today marks a new era in the long history of Old Hat. As a company that started 14 years ago offering print design only, we are well aware of the need to change and adapt to a changing industry. Twelve years ago that meant adding video production to our list of service offerings and we went on to become the largest single provider of intro videos, player features and videoboard graphics in all of collegiate athletics. Ten years ago that meant adding web development as collegiate athletics discovered the ability to use the digital realm to market themselves more effectively and in that decade, Old Hat has developed more than a hundred websites for the collegiate and professional athletics industry aimed at engaging fans, increasing attendance and aiding in fundraising efforts. The list continued just to grow to include photography, videography, branding and consulting. 

The athletics industry continues to change though and in order for Old Hat to continue to help athletics organizations engage fans and increase attendance, we have to change with it. It has become more difficult than ever to bring fans to the stands and as we've seen from recent articles, attendance is on a downward spiral. Gone are the days where we can rely on the old ways of marketing and hope fans respond the way we want them to. It's not about having a schedule poster that has more "pop" than anyone else's. It's not about turning a highlight reel into a TV spot or social media video and expecting fans to show up to the games. Marketing is hard and driving attendance in a world that sees more competition for our fans' attention than ever before creates a need for us to be much more strategic than we've ever been before. We have to do research in its many forms. We have to develop insight based on that research. And we have to then develop a marketing strategy based on that insight. It is then and only then that creative implementation should occur. Old Hat is here to help you through that entire process. 

Over the past two years, Old Hat has performed exhaustive research on the athletics industry both internally and externally. We have surveyed athletics administrators from coast-to-coast and have collected feedback from thousands of sports fans in every market. Additionally, we have looked at the science behind sports fan behavior. What truly drives them to attend and not attend? We've analyzed data from every perspective and have formed a model of fan behavior we call #TheFanJourney. This journey map explains who we should be targeting and how. It shows where we are losing fans and why. More importantly, #TheFanJourney provides a path to overcoming these hurdles through research, insight, and strategy.

The Sports180 Process
Imagine walking into a doctor's office and simply saying, "My stomach hurts. Give me a prescription please." No, the doctor would have to ask questions in order to diagnose the issue. The worse the problem is, the more questions they have to ask. They may have to run tests. Point being, they have to do a lot of research into the problem and develop insight based on that research before they would even think of prescribing a solution. Many times, their solution doesn't fully address the problem so they have to change and adapt their approach based on the results they're seeing.

Now imagine there are 10 people that walk into a doctor's office from different parts of the country, all different ages, all different backgrounds, etc. They all have a stomach ache. Every one of them has the same problem, but the cause is most likely different for all of them and the solution most certainly is. The doctor is most certainly not going to prescribe the same medication to every patient. 

Marketing should be no different than medicine in this respect. We all have the same problem: fans aren't coming. But the reasons are different at every athletic program. Every program is different and every market is different. To drive attendance, we must dig deep, ask questions, run tests, and analyze data in order to prescribe a solution.

Old Hat has spent the past two years building its staff and capabilities around this idea. We have developed our "Sports180" process, which you've probably heard about by now, that is our proven, research-based process that gets at the heart of your unique position and helps better identify the right strategy for meeting your goals.

Sports marketing has to get smarter and more strategic and that is what Old Hat is dedicated to helping provide. We have a deep bench of talent with expertise in strategic marketing, market research, social/digital media strategy, data analytics and, of course, creative implementation. 

Don't worry. Our talented team of designers, editors and animators are still here to produce everything you need from a tactical creative perspective. We know that sometimes the budget doesn't allow for an intense strategic marketing plan for a program that can never support that expense. Sometimes you just need something that looks amazing and aids in fan engagement and recruiting. We're still here for that as well. There's no firm in the nation that has designed more print collateral, produced more video content and developed more athletics marketing and fundraising websites than Old Hat. Our experience and expertise are unmatched in this field and we plan to continue doing it all for many years to come.

Our mission from day 1 has been to help athletic programs drive attendance. We simply want to add greater capabilities that will help achieve that mission. 

A New Look
We realize that for many years Old Hat has been known predominantly for our creative. However, with our added focus on being a strategic marketing firm as opposed to purely a creative production house, we wanted to make sure people took notice that something has changed here. And what better way to change how you're viewed than to change how you look? To mark the new era of Old Hat and to get the athletics industry to start viewing us a bit differently, we are refreshing our brand starting today. This begins with a new logo, as seen above, that pays homage to our roots but provides a fresh and modern spin on our look. In the coming weeks, you will see a lot of things change about Old Hat. Our website is in the middle of a complete overhaul and the new site will be focused on case studies for how our creative has worked to achieve the goals for which it was intended. We will be sharing a lot of thought leadership on our site about ways to better engage fans and be more strategic in our marketing. Our brand presence will be focused on helping the athletics industry achieve the one goal we all share: Driving Attendance.

  • 1 of 414
  • >>
Subscribe to Old Hat Creative Blog