Football fans know the anticipation of a new season well, longing for that moment when summer fades into a football-filled fall. That moment, though, has a precursor, a tip-off to the exact time when the season kicks off. For football season ticket holders, that moment comes in the mail.
When those sheets or books of season tickets arrive, fans unveil the look of a season, the design of a team. Those tickets set the tone for the entire year. “They are the jumping off point for the entire season (of design),” says Chris Modarelli, Cleveland Browns’ head designer.
Football Ticket Design: Cleveland Browns
This year, in Cleveland, Modarelli needed a dynamic feel to meet the anticipation that came with the addition of rookie quarterback Johnny Manziel and skyrocketing season ticket numbers. An aggressive, clean design was the answer. “It’s not just random paint splatters, but shows a little bit of movement and peeling away from the page,” he says. “I wanted to be in your face and tough-looking.”
To elevate the look, Modarelli adds in plenty of extras, such as an orange foil—also a security measure—and, for this season, a sculpted embossed look. “The players are three-dimensionally sculpted and pop off the page,” he says. “It’s not just a flat emboss. You can feel the wrinkles of the jersey and facemask and player’s face. It is very textured, very tactile.” To polish the emboss, Modarelli hit the tickets with a high-gloss varnish.
“That, plus the foil and the design, it all works together,” he says. “It is something you have to hold and look at to fully see.”
Designing for Football Fans: University of Oregon
While fans in Cleveland will enjoy holding and feeling, the 40,000 season ticket holders at the University of Oregon can take things an additional step: They can smell.
“I think we’re just trying to be innovative and fun,” says Craig Pintens, Oregon’s senior associate athletic director for marketing. “Any time we have the opportunity to do something a little different, we want to take advantage.” A scratch-and-sniff sticker fits the bill. “I’m not sure everybody could have pulled that off, but we ask ‘why not?’”
Each Oregon sheet of seven season tickets includes a sticker sponsored by Carl’s Jr. Finding the right smell, though, took time. While Jason Harris of the Oregon ticket office championed the idea, the ideal smell wasn’t so obvious.
At first, Oregon wanted to add the signature smell of Autzen Stadium. But a venue with artificial turf—not grass—didn’t have any. Then entered Carl’s Jr. as a sponsor. With the hamburger joint on board, the smell narrowed to a milkshake, a hamburger or buns.
“If we try to put a different scent on each ticket, you’ll get a potpourri of yuck with a combination of every flavor,” Pintens says. “For those well educated in the science of scratch-and-sniff stickers, if you get too many in one place, they don’t smell very good.”
The hamburger was eliminated—it just didn’t smell so yummy—and the buns took on the marketing focus.
Being the first to add scratch-and-sniff to season tickets shows off Oregon’s desire to try something others haven’t, Pintens says. In the past, Oregon has introduced foil, textured tickets and holograms. His personal favorite, though, remains the foil, an element also included via the helmet on this season’s scented tickets.
Designing for the Season
Modarelli says that while he can have all the fun he wants with foils and embossing, he can’t lose sight of the fact that the ticket must have easily viewable information to get fans through the gates.
“It is something you absolutely have to pay attention to,” he says. “For me, personally, I want to design a dynamic ticket so fans go to the game and want to keep the ticket as a piece of memorabilia, not just tossing it or disregarding it.” Now in his ninth season in Cleveland, that’s the approach he takes every time.
Cleveland, which has eight regular-season and two pre-season home games, creates a ticket book with the tickets running vertically. The slightly larger suite tickets run horizontally, and the club tickets feature a different background color than the general admission tickets, all to distinguish the varying levels of season tickets.
With each Cleveland ticket alternating between a player in a white and brown uniform, Modarelli says finding the right player off the management-approved list, in the perfect position wearing the correct uniform was tedious. “It’s what I do to myself that is the challenge,” he says.
But every small detail, some taken from comments by the head coach or even the feel of the city—a blue-collar, gritty city proud of the tough-nosed tradition of football in the cold and mud—goes into eliciting an emotional response from fans when they receive their season ticket package. He wants that anticipation of a new season to prove worth the wait. A season ticket starts it all.