If you follow Old Hat at all, you certainly must have heard by now that I recently finished writing a book called If Not for Athletics. And as you can see from the graphic above, it’s a collection of 64 stories from 57 athletics administrators about the many ways in which sports shapes our lives. The books should be available on IfNotforAthletics.com and Amazon.com by June 15, and we started allowing people to preorder the book last week. The response has been amazing, and I can’t wait to see the impact this book makes. I’m extremely proud of it.
I don’t want to give anything away by posting any of the meat of the book here. However, I did think it might be nice to post the introduction so you can get a taste for what’s in store. Although, I didn’t want to call it the “Introduction,” because that’s kinda boring. So it’s called “Pregame.”
So here’s the Pregame section of If Not for Athletics. I hope you enjoy it.
In 2001 I was fresh out of college, working at an advertising agency in Oklahoma City. I didn’t have a design degree but fortunately was able to pick up a thing or two from the talented designers around me. When a graphic design job came open at the University of Oklahoma Athletics Department, I jumped at the opportunity as this was a dream job for me. My office was to be in the very stadium where I’d spent my childhood watching the Sooners play. It was here that I realized I wanted to spend my career working in athletics marketing.
After three years at OU, I started my own company and called it Old Hat. I will be referring to Old Hat here and there because I’ve spent the majority of the past 13 years of my life either working at or thinking about my company, so it’s important that you know what Old Hat is and why it’s relevant to this book.
Old Hat is a strategic marketing agency dedicated solely to the athletics industry. Since 2004, we have worked with more than 150 sports organizations in the U.S., Canada and France. Our mission is to drive attendance, increase fundraising (on the collegiate level) and improve the game experience for fans. Old Hat has three divisions: Old Hat Creative, Old Hat Sports Branding and Powerhouse. The “Creative” side has been around since 2004 and is primarily focused on the marketing of collegiate athletics. We launched the sports branding division in 2014 to handle athletic organization rebrands consisting of logos, typefaces, jersey design, etc. And finally, Powerhouse is a company that handles what we call “environmental graphics” or “facility graphics” which are anything that can improve the aesthetics of an arena, stadium, building or campus and extend a university’s visual branding to the architectural platform.
I’m including information about my companies here so: 1) you know that when I reference “Old Hat” I’m not just talking about some old dirty ball cap of mine, and 2) you understand that I’ve spent my entire career working in athletics and that on some level, I might be qualified to write a book about it.
I also want to clarify that while I believe sports is powerful on every level, from little league to professional, most of my career has been spent in collegiate athletics. Therefore, the stories in this book are all from people who have worked in the collegiate ranks and much of my perspective is based on what I have witnessed on the university level.
Sport administrators, for those not familiar with the term, are the unsung heroes of athletics. They’re the sports information guys, collecting statistics during the games to send to media outlets, facilitating interviews of our favorite athletes and coaches and getting articles posted on the team website about the events. They’re the marketing and promotions team that write the scripts for the games so the P.A. guy knows when to read certain announcements, the band knows when to go onto the field and the intro video plays at the correct time. They’re the fundraising people that go out and get donations to build new facilities and support student-athletes with scholarships. And they’re the directors of athletics who do their best to keep it all running smoothly.
No one ever starts as an administrator. In order to have the desire to dedicate yourself to a career in athletics administration, you have to have been so struck by the power of athletics that you dedicate your life to giving back to what has given you so much. Throughout this book, you’ll read amazing stories from administrators about the ways athletes, coaches and fans positively impacted them.
Administrators spend their careers doing incredible things from behind the scenes. We don’t hear enough about the positive influence they have on athletes, coaches and fans. They’re not the ones scoring points and they’re not the ones calling plays and doing post-game interviews. They’re not even the ones standing in the bleachers screaming their heads off. They’re the ones standing quietly off to the side, keeping it all going. Their hours are long and their responsibilities are endless. They’re in charge of keeping a few hundred student-athletes on the straight and narrow, they have to run clean programs that follow all the rules and at the same time build winning programs. It’s a tough job that takes a special kind of person.
That’s exactly why I wanted this book to be a collection of stories from administrators. Fans are going to talk about the power of sports from a fan’s perspective. Coaches will talk about it from a coach’s perspective. Athletes will… you get the point. Administrators are the one group that pull from all perspectives and whose stories give us the clearest picture of the depth and breadth of the way sports shapes us. So when you’re reading these stories, keep in mind that you’re not just getting the perspective of athletics administrators. You’re getting stories from fans, coaches and athletes who love sports so much, they dedicated their careers to it.
These stories are phenomenal. Hearing them has truly been a life-altering experience for me, as it has made me realize just how important sports is to the fabric of our lives. I am honored and humbled by the opportunity to be the avenue through which these stories will make it into your life and I hope I do them justice.
In order to gather some fan feedback for various parts of this book, Old Hat conducted a sports fan survey in spring 2017. We sent the survey out to 10,000 people from all over the United States that had previously designated themselves as sports fans. We wanted all age groups, genders, socioeconomic backgrounds and geographic locations represented.
Most of the relevant data from this report will be found in my commentary throughout this book. However, if you would like to view an infographic of the survey results, you may do so at: http://oldhatcreative.com/blog/heres-what-sports-fans-really-think
While my name is on the cover of this book, this would not have been possible without the contributions of the numerous athletic administrators who shared their stories. Rather than simply interview these administrators and use their feedback to help craft the direction of the message, I thought it only fair to share their stories as they told them. For the record, every single one of these stories was provided to me via a recorded phone conversation. We then transcribed each conversation and created a narrative around the story they told. We submitted the stories to each participant with the instruction that they had 100% editorial control over the story and that we wouldn’t print a word of it without their go-ahead. It was important to me that we got their story right and I felt that the only way to do that was to: 1) let each one of them edit their own story as they saw fit and 2) only print what they approved.
I also think it’s important to note (and this speaks to the power of the subject matter of this book) that I ended up asking 59 administrators to participate in this book. You can flip through the pages of this book and count the names of the people you see, or you can just trust me when I tell you that of those 59 requests, 57 of them agreed to participate. And it’s also important to point out that not a single person was compensated in any way for their time or story. They simply wanted to do it because they believed in the importance of this message.
As a thank you to all those who have participated, I will be donating a portion of any profits from the sale of this book to a general athletic scholarship fund. One of the most important themes in this book is the power sports has to educate student-athletes, many of whom would never have had access to an education otherwise. I hope this book helps promote that idea both through its message and through a financial contribution to that fund.
After listening to story after story and realizing how great they are, I decided to turn some of them into a podcast series. The name of the podcast is Stop the Clock and it is available on iTunes and Google Play. So if you’d like to hear some of the stories as told by the individual who lived them, give the podcast a listen. Follow me on Twitter @ZacLogsdon for up-to-date news on new episodes being released and other information about If Not for Athletics and Stop the Clock.