In this episode, Stacy sits down with CEO and founder of Old Hat Zac Logsdon to discuss how understanding fan science will ultimately reverse declining sports attendance across the nation.
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Stacy Jones: 00:00
- Welcome to Marketing Mistakes And How to Avoid Them. I’m Stacy Jones, the founder of influencer marketing and branded content agency, Hollywood Branded. This podcast provides brand marketers a learning platform for topics first to share their insights and knowledge on topics which make a direct impact on your business today.
Stacy Jones: 00:16
- While it is impossible to be well-versed on every topic and strategy that can improve bottom line results, my goal is to help you avoid making costly mistakes of time, energy or money. Whether you are doing a DIY approach, or hiring an expert to help. Let’s begin today’s discussion.
Speaker 1: 00:31
- Welcome to Marketing Mistakes and How To Avoid Them. Here’s your host, Stacy Jones.
Stacy Jones: 00:36
- I’m so happy to be here with you all today. I want to give a very warm welcome to Zac Logsdon, who’s joining us to discuss his extensive experience working in sports marketing. Over the past two decades, Zac 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.
Stacy Jones: 00:53
- Zac 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, having grown it 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.
Stacy Jones: 01:13
- Additionally, Zac has written two books on the topic of sports and entertainment marketing and hosts two podcasts on the subject, as well.
Stacy Jones: 01:20
- Today, we are going to talk about the ways in which attendance is dropping in sports and entertainment venues across the country and what stake holders can do to change it. Zac will talk to us about the science of fan behavior and what current marketing tactics just aren’t working. We’ll learn what’s worked from his experience, what maybe could be changed and where other brands are missing the mark. Zac, welcome.
- Thank you so much for having me. I’m glad to be here.
Stacy Jones: 01:40
- Super happy to have you. 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.
- Yeah, absolutely. Thank you. So I grew up a big sports fan. I grew up 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, with my brother. Those memories have lasted a lifetime and I’ll take them to my grave. Some of 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.
Stacy Jones: 03:41
- That makes perfect sense and it certainly is something people feel a lot of passion about.
- Absolutely. Sports runs in our blood, doesn’t it? There are very few things that people get as excited about as sporting events.
Stacy Jones: 03:57
- Or competitive about as well.
- Right, exactly. Sure.
Stacy Jones: 04:01
- Seeing that I’m from Texas and you’re from Oklahoma.
- Oh, wow.
Stacy Jones: 04:07
- We have a little bit right there, right?
- Uh oh. I didn’t realize that.
Stacy Jones: 04:07
- We won’t get into that.
Stacy Jones: 04:09
- There you go. So it’s not just sports, it goes across entertainment venues, it 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 and audiences are dropping.
- 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, even 20 years ago, 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.
- Movie theaters, you know, 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 of quality product, a lot of times, as attending.
Stacy Jones: 05:56
- Maybe we’re just, not lazy, a little bit, but we’re overwhelmed with the different opportunities that are out there. There’s only so much time in the day.
- Right. We have more options for entertainment than we ever have, so I’m going to keep drawing on my own experience, but when I was growing up, I grew up on a farm in Oklahoma. My options for entertainment on a Saturday were pretty limited. It was either go to the OU football game or not and that was about all I had. Now, like you said, we’ve got too many options for entertainment, so many things competing for our time and unfortunately it’s all at our fingertips. 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?
Stacy Jones: 06:47
- Sure, with a perfect view of a screen with no heads in front of you. No conversations that are taking away from whatever passion is holding your interest.
- Absolutely. Yeah.
Stacy Jones: 06:58
- And damaging your experience.
- Right, absolutely. It’s not hot, it’s not too hot. It’s not too cold. There aren’t sticky floors. There aren’t the obnoxious drunk person next to you. It’s just the home experience has trumped going to events, unfortunately, now.
Stacy Jones: 07:16
- It’s a lot more affordable.
- Right. Absolutely.
Stacy Jones: 07:19
- So what can people do about this?
- That’s a great question. That’s a question that we try to answer. My book that I’ve written, and it’s a question we help organizations to answer on a daily basis. That’s what we do. 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.
Stacy Jones: 08:11
- 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.
Stacy Jones: 09:11
- Sure. Does that also include needing to, not just market differently, but actually to have on site experiences that are different?
- 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.
Stacy Jones: 10:28
- Yeah. Now we were just talking with my team the other day and someone’s a Giants fan and we live in Los Angeles, right, so we’re Dodgers.
- Mm-hmm (affirmative). Right.
Stacy Jones: 10:36
- Ah, you live in Los Angeles, you should convert. It doesn’t happen.
Stacy Jones: 10:40
- But it came down to stadiums. You know San Diego has an awesome stadium. The food is great. The alcohol is great.
- Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Stacy Jones: 10:48
- Giant stadium. Awesome. Dodgers Stadium? Old.
- Right. Yeah. So that’s another thing. Places are fighting because you have to have that amazing venue and with suites and club seats. That lends itself to there are two main, we’ve done a ton of research on this topic and there are two main reasons people attend events, versus staying at home. Doesn’t matter what the event is, whether it’s sports or entertainment. There are two reasons they go. For the experience, which we’ve talked about, and for the social aspect of attending. If you ask fans or attendees of anything, those are the two main reasons they go out.
- Well, we’ve built these venues. A lot of places have built venues that allow one, the great experience and two, the opportunity to be social. If you put your fans in the stands, on these bleachers, the only people they can be social with are the people sitting right around them. A lot of times you don’t want to be social with them. They’ve created these clubs, and these loge boxes, and these suites, and all these opportunities to be social. If you look, that’s where people are. Those are sold out. Across the board, by in large, that’s what’s selling. It’s the bleachers seats we’re having trouble getting people in so again, creating that amazing experience with great venues and so forth, but also providing the opportunity for people to socialize.
- It’s hard because you sit down and what’s in front of you is all you have so you have to figure out ways to create that social interaction digitally somehow. There are a plethora of ways you can do that but simply saying, hey we have a game going on, come sit and watch it, is not enough anymore.
Stacy Jones: 12:45
- Sure. Now I think even the Ritz has a hospitality program. A friend of mine’s business does it as well, where the NFL is now hiring, trying to actually train concierge service to the food vendors, to their security, to all the different people there so they can have a plussed up experience.
- Yeah, absolutely. That’s brilliant. That’s what it’s going to take is treating our sports venues and entertainment venues like they’re high end hotels. Providing that first class experience across the board, because if you, again back to the home experience, you can make whatever you want in your kitchen or order it now, from Uber Eats, and it shows up at your door. You go to the stadium and they have three options at the concession stand that are nine dollars for a bad cheeseburger and you have to wait in a long line to get it. Why am I going? Why would I do it? So I hadn’t heard that, but that’s brilliant.
- I do talk to a lot of athletic organizations that we’ve worked with have done the whole Disney World, I don’t remember what it’s called, but where you go the Disney World University basically and you go learn it all and they’re trying. Thankfully, the industry is trying and realizing there is a need for that kind of thing. But it’s going to take a lot. It’s customer service, venues, as you mentioned, the pregame has to be amazing, the halftime has to be amazing, the video board interaction has to be amazing. If it’s a concert, same deal. Everything about it has to be amazing.
Stacy Jones: 14:25
- Then there’s also the various generations, right? So your Baby Boomers are reacting differently, your Gen X differently to your millennials, and your Gen Z’s are wanting to stay home and watch something on their phone and interact with their friends while watching the concert and not leave the house. They don’t even have driver’s license in a lot of cases anymore.
- That’s true. Unfortunately for marketers, we have more generations to try to market to now than ever. You mentioned Baby Boomers and unfortunately especially on collegiate athletic side, the Baby Boomers are the ones that are writing the big checks, donating the money, so there’s this balance of how do you make them happy by having the tradition and the nostalgia and the marching band playing, and appeal to the millennials and the Gen Z or the Gen Xers that maybe want music playing and a loud, exciting environment. Then you’ve got the Gen Z’s that who knows what’s going to bring them in. I referenced this in my book and I’ve talked a lot about it. Gen Z apparently, we have seven seconds to grab their attention which is down from fifteen seconds with millennials. How do you? Seven seconds to grab somebody’s attention before they’re on to something else? I coined the term the squirrel generation from that movie, Up, where the dog sees the squirrel, every sound, thinks it’s a squirrel. They’re that distracted.
Stacy Jones: 15:57
- You’ve got one product that you’re selling, but you have to market it four different ways to four different generations and it’s not easy. It’s not easy.
Stacy Jones: 16:11
- So 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?
- I think one comparison I always use when I’m talking about this, because most of what we do is in the sports world. 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. You do this for a living too. I don’t have to convince you. Marketing works, but you gotta 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.
Stacy Jones: 18:23
- It’s just different so you got to do the research. You got to dig in and invest in the proper amount of time and money in the research side.
Stacy Jones: 18:35
- Okay. What would you say are the biggest challenges there? Besides time and money.
- It’s convincing the people with the purse strings, that are controlling the purse strings, to do that. The information is out there, you just got to go get it and then dedicate yourselves to following a plan that’s based in that research. Again, I say this like it’s easy. It’s not. It’s not easy. But we have to do something. College football attendance has been on a steady decline for seven years straight. We had the worst attendance in 2018 than we’ve had in 34 years. Something has to be done, as we’ve talked about, it’s not just sports. It’s everything. People are not coming.
- I could talk about examples all day long of things we’ve seen that have been really cool and I think are headed in the right direction. SMU turned their student section into a party deck, which I thought was brilliant. They’ve had some missteps with it, but they’re working through it and they’re getting it right. A thousand students on a party deck looks really, really cool and fun and on camera, looks great. A thousand students in a five thousand seat section doesn’t look very fun and appealing. The tailgating experiences are amazing. You show up for the tailgate, you’re there you might as well go into the game.
- University of North Texas held a professional wrestling event. They brought back former professional wrestlers like from when I was a kid. Hacksaw Jim Duggan and Junkyard Dog and the Von Erichs, these people who most people listening probably have never heard of, but I’ve heard of because when I was eight, I watched professional wrestling. On the field they had a professional wrestling event. It’s stuff like that, crazy ideas like that that are going to reverse this trend and get people there. As we’ve discussed you’ve got to give them an amazing experience so they’ll keep coming back.
Stacy Jones: 21:11
- Right, even the Superbowl, two days ago, for anyone who’s listening, this we’re dating our podcast right now.
Stacy Jones: 21:18
- But they had, they’re saying, at least a decline of about five percent, I think, in viewership overall. There wasn’t anything super special to bring people in.
- And that’s the tough part is you rely on the people, the opponents, a lot of times, determine viewership. People who are not excited about the Patriots being in another Superbowl.
Stacy Jones: 21:41
- A lot of times it’s out of our hands. Which even drives home the point even more that there are so many things we can’t control about the event. So control the things you can, and market the things you can control because ultimately, all my career, my book is called Winning is Not a Strategy. I’m not trying to plug my book over and over here. I’m just pointing out that Winning is Not a Strategy is the name of the book because all my career, I’ve heard if you’ll just start wining games, attendance will take care of itself. Well, even if that’s true, which it’s not, the data does not support it. But even if that’s true, why would we even say that? We have no control over whether or not the team wins. We have no control. If you own a concert venue, we have no control over how good the performance is going to be.
- No other industry ever says, well let’s wait until the product gets good and then we’ll market it. We don’t even have to because it will sell itself at that point. It’s crazy talk to even say those types of things but that’s what you hear in sports and entertainment is let’s wait til it’s good, and then it will sell itself and we as marketers, we don’t have to do anything anyway.
Stacy Jones: 23:00
- Do you think that it is almost insurmountable, as far as the deep collapse of attendance? Is it something that, with the massive amounts of content we’re all being exposed to, we’re being grabbed from every direction, all over the place, is this something that is just going to be a continuing trend? Can people figure it out? Can events figure this out to fill the seats?
- I think it’ll level out. I think there is a point at which there will be, just like there are enough people to support everything out there, we always have more people and they always want something to do with their time, so even though there are tons of options, there are still going to be enough buyers of that product. I just think, that especially in sports, we’ve got so spoiled and we were expecting 60, 70, 80, 90 thousand people to show up and that’s probably past the point of expecting that every time, unless you’re in Michigan or Alabama. Setting the expectations a little bit lower, generating revenue in other ways. I don’t think it’s insurmountable. We definitely can’t stop trying because then it all goes away and we don’t have Major League Baseball anymore. We don’t have college football anymore, whatever it is. So no, I can’t sit here, I make my living convincing athletic programs and entertainment venues to hire us to help them drive attendance, so I certainly wouldn’t sit here and say that it’s insurmountable. I do think the industry has to change its expectations, though, maybe get accustomed to. There are stadiums that are reducing their seating capacity. Converting those stands and bleachers into suites and club seats, like we talked about, to provide those social opportunities. To answer your question, no. This is a trend we can reverse but we have to change our expectations.
Stacy Jones: 25:27
- Okay. Is there any other insight that you can share about the direction this is going?
- Oh, man. Probably. Let me think. For so long, we relied on emotional marketing tactics. So one thing we promote pretty heavily is getting away from the emotional reasons to attend an event. Showing a TV spot or a piece of print collateral or a billboard, promoting or having it with an athlete that’s larger than life, or in the commercial example, slam dunks, or three pointers, or big hits, or touchdown passes. Everybody’s got it. Every football team has touchdown passes. Every basketball team makes three pointers. Simply, showing that as the excitement, well everybody’s got that, one. Two, as we see in so many examples of sales and marketing, emotional stuff wears off. Just like in everyday life, if you get really excited about something, it wears off quickly. The rational, the logical reasons to do something, that sticks around. That is something that we have really tried to promote to our clients is focus on the rational, the logical, the factual reasons people should attend your events. Stop focusing on the emotional stuff because like I said, one, everybody’s got that. Two, that wears off.
- I always compare it to if you’re at the checkout line, and you see the M&M’s, your emotions get fired up and you want to make that impulse buy. Well, either you buy it and you regret it and you gobble them up and regret it or you don’t buy them and you don’t regret it. Either way, five minutes later, that’s gone. You don’t have those emotions anymore. You don’t want the M&M’s anymore, right? Well same deal, you see a TV spot that has that emotion, five minutes later, that’s worn off. If you focus on that rational, logical reasons to attend, whether it’s family value, taking your kids to a game day, or whatever it is, those other reasons to attend beyond the emotions, I think that’s the sweet spot.
Stacy Jones: 28:15
- Okay, so focusing on things that actually have greater value to people versus the intrinsic, I need it now.
- Right, exactly. Yeah, absolutely.
Stacy Jones: 28:26
- Okay, that makes sense. Is there any other advice you want to share with our listeners today?
- Good question. 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.
Stacy Jones: 29:12
- It absolutely does. So I think our listeners might have a clue that you’ve written a book.
- Yes, sorry. I’ve probably plugged that way too many times. That was definitely not my goal, but the book is called Winning is Not a Strategy. It is available on Amazon and then you can follow me on Twitter at Zaclogsdon, at Z A C L O G S D O N.
Stacy Jones: 29:37
- And that will be in our show notes as well.
Stacy Jones: 29:40
- Zac, thank you so much for being on today.
Stacy Jones: 29:42
- Really loved hearing all things and we will talk in the near future.
- Well, thank you. Thank you so much for having me.
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