Akron Zips Back The Zips Campaign

For the 2013-14 men’s basketball season, the Akron Zips wanted a campaign that would extend across multiple platforms, and create brand ambassadors for Zips Basketball.


  • Connect with their fan base
  • Increase attendance
  • Motivate brand ambassadors
  • Develop a unique looking campaign that would stand out from the crowd
  • Create a comprehensive and cohesive campaign that would brand all aspects of the program


  • Photo shoots
  • Video shoots
  • Custom website design
  • Poster design
  • Magnet schedule design
  • Schedule card design
  • Billboard design
  • Campus banner design
  • Public and student bus ad design
  • Intro video
  • Custom graphics package
  • Custom video board animations
  • Newspaper ads
  • Trading cards
  • Group ticket flyers



We worked with Akron’s Athletic Department to develop a comprehensive marketing campaign that would drive attendance and stand out from the crowd. We didn’t want a campaign that was going to blend in, so we recommended utilizing a style that was simple, had attitude and was unique, compared to campaigns that they had done before. We also studied other marketing efforts by various teams, universities and companies throughout the area to ensure that we created a distinctive look and feel for the campaign.

The team had recently gotten popular new black and white alternate uniforms, so we chose to play off of that theme, and created a black and white theme for the campaign that was clean, simple and different than the typical style that you see on advertising in northeast Ohio.

We also wanted to give the basketball program a voice and a personality, so we developed portions of the campaign to allow the program to build its own voice, as opposed to just conveying generic messaging.

Demetrius Treadwell Posing With A Fan

This photo was captured at one of the shoots that we did with fans and student-athletes.



Since one of the main goals of the campaign was to give fans the opportunity to have one-on-one interactions with the team, the first part of the process was setting up four photo shoots at various campus events that would give fans the chance to have their photo taken, standing back-to-back with their favorite student-athletes. This photo concept tied in nicely not only with the “Back The Zips” slogan, but also played off the fact that the Zips were coming off back-to-back MAC championships.

One of our photographers set up and captured the images at each of the events, working with the players and fans to ensure a fun and interactive atmosphere for everyone involved. As a result, many unique images were captured that would be used throughout the campaign. In all, over 200 fans took part in the photo shoots.

We also had a separate one day shoot with the team at James A. Rhodes Arena. Since we know that the key to a good campaign is having good materials to work with, we put careful thought into creating design concepts for the marketing pieces, as well as storyboards and scripts for the intro video in advance, so that we could effectively work with the team to capture all of the elements that we’d need throughout the day, utilizing different photo and video stations.

As an additional form of fan engagement, the Zips also invited all season ticket holders with perfect attendance at home games during the previous season to attend the shoot, and get a behind-the-scenes look at the process, which was a great experience for everyone. Fans were allowed to choose their favorite student-athlete to take their picture with, and those photos would be featured on their own version of a schedule card.

Capturing The Dramatic Shot

Jonny, our Director, works with one of the student-atheletes for a shot that would be featured in the intro video.



BackTheZips.com was a microsite that we designed and created with our web partner, Studio Ace of Spade, which would be the online home of the campaign for the year. On this site, fans were not only able to get information on upcoming games and promotions, but also get daily updates on how many tickets were remaining for some of the biggest games. This helped drive demand and advance purchases.

This site was also where fans who attended the photo shoots could see their pictures with their favorite players. Each photo was given the style treatment of the campaign and processed into three sizes: a social media profile picture, a Facebook cover photo and a high-resolution 8×10 image.

Fans were able to easily locate their images and download them in any of the three formats. This gave them an easy way to share their images online and become brand ambassadors to help spread word of the campaign.

BackTheZips.com Homepage

This is the homepage of the campaign-specific microsite.



POSTERS, MAGNETS & CARDS: We carried over the black and white campaign imagery to the poster and magnet schedules, thousands of which were distributed throughout the Akron area. Wanting to highlight the entire team, posing in the familiar back-to-back pose, the poster and magnet schedules were designed to have a shorter height, but longer width, making them stand out because of their unique size. As a way of continuing to engage some of Akron’s most loyal fans, 10 unique versions of pocket schedules were created, each showcasing a season ticket holder who had perfect attendance at Zips home games during the previous season.

BILLBOARDS: For the billboards, we wanted to create a concept that was edgy and stood out. Because the overall look of the campaign used simple black and white imagery, this gave us the chance to create a design that was simple, impactful and driven by the messaging.

We created a series of bold taglines for the different billboards that were very different than anything the Zips had done previously. The messaging was crafted so that it gave the team a voice and attitude to the public that matched the campaign. These emphasized the team’s recent success, their local ties and also the demand for tickets for the upcoming season.

BANNERS: The posters and magnet schedules were geared towards putting game information into the hands and homes of fans, but the Zips also wanted that information displayed as a constant reminder to students on campus. To accomplish that, we took the concept from those designs and made it into a giant 38 ft. wide x 13 ft. tall design, that was printed as a banner to display on the UA campus. This stayed up throughout the season so students were walking by reminders of the upcoming games on a daily basis.

BUS ADS: We carried many of the concepts from the billboard campaign over to public transportation ads on busses throughout the Akron area. The exterior ads ran on the sides and backs of buses. Interior ads were also created for the inside of the buses, so that they were also seen by commuters. A separate campaign of bus ads was created for the university’s buses, which transport students around campus and the surrounding area. These were designed to feature attention-grabbing messaging, which was specifically geared towards students.

MISCELLANEOUS DESIGN ELEMENTS: As in all multi-faceted campaigns, little details and consistency are key. To help ensure that the “Back The Zips” campaign maintained a consistent look and feel, we also created various pieces to match the same look. These included newspaper ads, group ticket flyers and trading cards, all of which reinforced the style and messaging.



Using the footage that we captured at the video shoot, we created the intro video for the 2013-14 season. This video continued with the black and white theme, and showed of some of our favorite shots from the video shoot, as well as highlights from the previous season.

This video ran not only before home games at James A. Rhodes Arena, but also was shared on the web and social media to further spread awareness of the season and the campaign.



In order to make the in-arena experience at Zips home games cohesive with the campaign, we created a custom graphics package for use on the James A. Rhodes Arena video boards. We used our experience in live production to build a series of templates that their internal staff could utilize all season long. This proved to be a valuable tool, as it empowered their production team to build content that changed at each game and would mesh with the look and feel of the team’s other marketing pieces.

We also created campaign-specific animations that ran on the video boards and courtside LED boards at each game.

Back The Zips Logo Animation

This is a still from one of the main board animations that we created.


The campaign was an overwhelming success in terms of fan feedback. It also produced huge ticket sales numbers. Season ticket sales shattered program records, with 499 new season tickets sold. The new season ticket base totaled 1,472, a 34.2% increase over the previous record.

In addition, season tickets in the lower level of James A. Rhodes Arena were completely sold out for the first time in the history of the program. This campaign amplified the excitement around the program to new levels and resulted in sales figures that eclipsed department projections by nearly 15%.

The campaign also received critical acclaim, winning an ADDY Award for some of its marketing pieces. This was the first campaign by Akron’s Athletic Department to ever receive this type of honor.

A Packed House At James A. Rhodes Arena

Big crowds were the norm for the Zips during the 2013-14 season.

Back The Zips Campaign Overview

This video shows all of the design elements that we created for the Back The Zips campaign.

2013-14 Intro Video

This intro video ran on the video boards before each home game at James A. Rhodes Arena.

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