Episode 7: Lisa Campos, The University of Texas at San Antonio

Cody Junot (00:00):
Welcome to A New Gameday, powered by Nevco, changing the game with scoreboards, video displays and scoring solutions. I am your host, Cody Junot, and in this podcast series, we’re going to talk with college athletic administrators and leaders about A New Gameday as we get ready to thrive in a post COVID-19 world. We will discuss what that new gameday is going to look like, what that new gameday is going to feel like, and how athletic administrators are already adapting to our new world. Our guest today is a pass SBJ 40 under 40 honoree, she spent five years leading the department at Northern Arizona, before heading to San Antonio and being named Director of Athletics at UTSA in 2017. I’m pleased to be joined today by Lisa Campos. Lisa, thanks for taking the time here, how’s everyone in San Antonio?

Lisa Campos (00:47):
Hey, thank you so much for having me, life here in San Antonio is probably very similar to life in all parts of this nation. Obviously, all of us feeling the effects since March. March seems like decades ago. But you know, just a few months ago and I’ll tell you, I’m just really proud of higher education. Number one, the way we pivoted in the spring semester to offer online work or school give credit to, I have a six year old, he just turned six, finishing kindergarten and the, the secondary education for them to pivot and offer. And then now as we look at our student-athletes to continue to provide them an experience that they’ll be proud of and services that it’s just been an incredible few months. And again, just really proud of, of leaders in higher education on, on how we have really pivoted

Cody Junot (01:45):
You’re right. It does seem like a quite a while ago when you flash back to the Thunder and the Jazz and, seemingly the world stopping and the NCAA basketball tournament and all the things that have subsequently followed. And, and that has created problems obviously with the pandemic, right. But it’s also created opportunities, I believe. And when the pandemic first hit in early March so many unknowns and we still face tons of unknowns today here, but one of the first kind of questions that you start asking yourself is, well, what does tomorrow look like? And how do I get whatever message that is out to, my constituents, to my fans, to my staff, to my student-athletes. And so, I spent a lot of time throughout this kind of pandemic, these three, four months speaking with leaders like yourself, and one of the common topics has been messaging. So, what has your team at UTSA done from a messaging standpoint to get word out to the community that whenever we come back, hopefully it’s a normal September kickoff, but we’re going to be here. You know, whether it’s season tickets, you’ve got the excitement of a new football coach, you’ve got a $40+ million athletic facility that is getting off the ground. So, you guys have a lot of stuff to tell, about your story, but what specifically has the messaging looked like from you and your team?

Lisa Campos (03:10):
Well, gosh, if you go back to March, what’s really interesting there was a message I feel like every minute, every hour we were constantly putting out and the message was constantly changing that we were getting new information. And so, it was fast, furious at the beginning, thank goodness it has slowed down a little bit, but it’s still the same foundation that was new information there’s new messaging. And that’s all we can do right now is to really utilize the information we have now to inform whether it’s our student-athletes, whether it’s our season ticket holders, our donors, all of our constituents, and we continue to keep them updated not just on COVID-19 issues, but it’s really given us an opportunity to update them on the wives of our student-athletes to update them on how life has changed and how we’re moving forward.

Lisa Campos (03:59):
You know, I’ll keep using the word pivot, how we’ve continued to pivot. And as you pointed out, this has been, and again, I’m so proud of our staff and, and so many others, it has been an opportunity to embrace change and to find opportunity. And very early in this process, I shared a Simon Sinek video with our leadership about, you know, people will be left behind who want to keep doing things as they were, that those who cannot pivot, who cannot embrace change, who can’t look at some innovations will be left behind. And we wanted to make sure we weren’t that athletic department that got left behind. So I really challenged our staff to take this as opportunities and find new ways. And, and we have in a lot of different ways, we have found new methods, new technology just new ways of, of doing our business.

Cody Junot (04:57):
What are some of those new ways that you’ve embraced? Have you guys dived deeper into digital and social media? You know everybody’s doing that, is it looking at a new and creative way to do a Zoom call or maybe is it an old-fashioned grab a pen and paper and write a message, right? The, the handwritten note can go a long way it seems in today’s digital world. So, what are some of the new technologies and new ways that you guys have leaned on to communicate with your constituents?

Lisa Campos (05:26):
Yep. And I’m sure you’ve heard this. It’s just, somehow this has all made us be more connected. Right. And it is I think about previous to working from home, a lot of our athletic administrators, coaches, we were in separate buildings and we felt like that was such a barrier. And all of a sudden, we’re all in our own homes, separated by miles, but we have become so much closer because of Zoom calls, because of team calls that we have found a way to even be more connected to reach out to one another. So that’s been a positive and fun change that where we thought being a building away was a barrier to now, we’re so connected. And to your point, it’s funny, the other day I was trying to do a team call and, and someone was having some connection issues. And I said, you know what, let me just do it the old fashioned way, I’ll call you on the cell phone.

Lisa Campos (06:20):
And that is become an old way of doing things to, to use the cell phone, to make a phone call, but with our constituents, again, then think about even just with recruiting, our coaches have pivoted and found a new and innovative way of recruiting. And that, to your point, it has really utilized our, all of our digital media folks, our creative folks, our video folks, that they are a hot commodity right now. And they are being thrown so much work. So many ideas not just from our coaches, but for the rest of our staff. How do we communicate with again, our season ticket holders, our donors. So I’ll tell you that if you haven’t had a chance to talk to, you know, graphic designers to video videographers, to they create a folks in athletic departments, I’m sure they’re telling you they are drowning right now with work, but they’re also having such a great time being very valued during this time.

Cody Junot (07:21):
Is that a change in any way, for the way in which you guys were operating and in leaning so heavily into that digital space?

Lisa Campos (07:29):
You know, we were really transitioning to that. Just over the last year and a half, we’ve really built our creative team and added more staff restructured and really put an emphasis. Cause we know that’s the world where this world is headed. But it just accelerated right, and I think we were, we really had a great foundation over the last year and a half, that group Charles (Davis) who leads that group really had great plans. Now it’s just a lot of requests are being thrown at him, a lot of ideas and it’s just being really accelerated for sure.

Cody Junot (08:05):
So, taking that and to your point, that’s where things were headed. You can almost equate it to the new arms race in, in college athletics. You guys are in the process of putting up, I mentioned a little bit earlier, a $40 million athletic facility that’s going to help recruit student-athletes and give them a world class facilities and places to train. But the other side of that in the ultra-competitive world of college athletics is the graphic design space. The creative team is almost seemingly the next kind of barrier. So keeping that in mind, the fact that you guys had already started to, to pivot that way, when we think about A New Gameday and you know, whether it’s for this year in 2020, when, when hopefully we kick off in September, you know, maybe into 2021 where we’ve got some limited capacity or we’re full capacity, right? Whatever it may be, you guys in Texas is looking like a 50% probably, but how can you take what those folks are doing in the products that they’re producing on that digital side and maybe incorporate them into the gameday in ways that you hadn’t before? Because the reality is it might not be feasible for you to run up into the stands and find somebody to participate in the fourth quarter kick for cash competition.

Lisa Campos (09:23):
Right? Absolutely. I think you know, again, we were moving in that direction and when you look at very successful sports organizations, they are in that space. And I think even probably about a year ago, we read some really great articles about the NBA has been leading in this space and recognizing the generations and how there’s many generations who are very connected with social media and that’s what they want during games. So I’ve really challenged our staff to continue to read those articles, to reach out. We’re very fortunate to have the Spurs here in San Antonio and have a great relationship with that organization and to learn more from them. So it’s already an area we were looking at, but again, things are being accelerated. And for sure, this football season other seasons, we will very much utilize more social media connecting our fans, having in game experiences. And that’s where a lot of our fans want.

Cody Junot (10:19):
Yeah, you talked about those end game experiences, right. And the millennials, sometimes they get a bad rap. Maybe sometimes we deserve it, but it, you know, it’s being connected at all times. So, is that a brand-new frontier or is were you using small elements of that last season and or do you look to build upon that moving forward?

Lisa Campos (10:41):
Yeah, we had incorporated some of that already again, just really learning about how to best do that. And you know, this year it’s really amazing. We’ve only had football for, this’ll be our 10th season. So we are a very young athletic program. We’re a very young institution, really and a young football program. So, we were very excited and still are about celebrating our 10 years of football this season. And we’re definitely going to incorporate that in social as we move forward.

Cody Junot (11:19):
Taking that and building upon maybe the traditional game experience revenues, you read the headlines, you look across the country, whether it’s furloughs, it’s you know, budget cuts, everybody’s tightening the belt and some places, unfortunately we’re seeing some downsizing whether that’s with academic or athletic teams or you know, athletic staffs. So, revenues, when you combine that with the cuts from the NCAA, are going to be at a premium and all time important, right. They’ve always been important, but it seemingly when you look at 2020 is going be as important as ever. So, what are some of the new revenue opportunities that are presented in this new gameday, again, going to have to do some things differently, but with some differences, some challenge comes some opportunity. What are some of the, maybe the different revenue opportunities or new revenue opportunities, or maybe new ways you’re looking at old revenue opportunities as you get set for 2020?

Lisa Campos (12:15):
I would say, first of all, the best revenue opportunity is, is cost-containment as well, right? That, that you can do add some efficiencies. And I look back even and not necessarily hard dollars, but efficiencies and streamlining processes. And again, to your point of millennials and others wanting content very quickly. And I think about how last year, even we started instead of putting real long post game notes, it was a very quick interview with the coach at the end of the game to recap the game for us. And, you know, so the time spent the be to be able to not have to travel our communication folks that, that the coach can do a very quick video to recap. So those are things that add efficiency which, again, to me, it is revenue producing but then also from working with Learfield, our Road Runner Properties, they are definitely, always looking at opportunities to produce revenue through sponsorships and, and digital media, social media.

Lisa Campos (13:27):
That is something that is very appealing. And I would say, and I’m sure you’ve heard this from others, is the ability, again, you’re looking at efficiency is the ability to use social media, to connect with your fans, to sell season tickets, to do new ticket pricing. Last year, we introduced a mobile app, you know, it’s for that fan who just wants to show up to the game. They don’t care where their seats going to be. It’s a last minute decision, but making it very seamless for them to, to purchase a ticket very quickly. So there’s a lot of different ideas that there are a lot of different ways to create revenue. And then also add efficiencies.

Cody Junot (14:09):
I think it’s a great point you bring up cause we do often forget about despite the cuts in revenues and distributions because of the pandemic, right, Recruiting was restricted, you were saving money, traveling, doing those things. I think that is a great point. But with that being said, when you look at those new revenue opportunities and you talked about Road Runner Sports Properties and your team there and their job is to go out and sell how receptive have those partners been? Have they approached you with new ideas in ways to get creative and thrive in this, this new gameday environment?

Lisa Campos (14:46):
Yeah, what’s so great about all of our partners is that they have incredible marketing folks as well, right? Who are driving this and we can always share ideas. And I know again, Bobby and his staff are continuing to have conversations but any ways again, that, that they can have fan engagement, that they can showcase their organization, their company, they are so willing to embrace that. And again, it is now helping us look at, at doing things in a different way,

Cody Junot (15:18):
A collaborative effort, something I think we often forget about, I think it’s a great point that yes, those companies, most of the time have marketing teams with their own and it’s working together. So everybody wins right. You get the UTSA message out and whatever that partner’s message may be and running those things together. Lisa, the last thing I want to, I want to chat with you here about today is, so we’ve talked about messaging, we’ve talked about revenue opportunities. We talked about the new lean into social media and how you can incorporate some of that in the gameday. But when you’re speaking with fans, with players, with the coaches, family, what’s the message that you’re driving home about 2020 and where we’re going. And while we don’t know what that might look like, you know, the possibilities in the hopes for a for an air quotes, regular season as possible, what’s the message that you’re driving home.

Lisa Campos (16:15):
Yeah, absolutely. The number one message is that we’re going to do everything with the community, the fan base and the student-athletes top of mind that we want to make sure that all of our guests, all of our fans, all of our season ticket holders, our student-athletes are going to be in an environment where we have tried to mitigate, you know, all of all the uncertainty and mitigate you know, the things that they may be worried about. So that’s number one that we have been working very, very hard with. You know we’re a little bit unique that we play our football games in a city owned facility in the Alamodome and they have just been so fantastic to work with. And so that’s our number one message. And then second is that, you know, here in Texas folks are ready for football to be back and the other sports with particularly football. So we are preparing for a full season. We’re preparing for right now, 50% as the governor has, has put that guideline together. And we want fans back, our student-athletes cannot wait to be doing the thing that they love doing in front of as many fans as possible. So those two messages is that we want to keep their safety in mind. We’re ready to play football and the other sports and that we just can’t be more appreciative for the fans who have continued to support us through all of this.

Cody Junot (17:43):
Yeah. I think everybody’s chomping at the bit to get out there and hopefully we can navigate the next couple of weeks and, and make it to a, a, an early September kickoff. Lisa really appreciate you taking the time joining us here on A New Gameday, it’s been a, it’s been a great pleasure to chat with you and listen to you and learn about some of the things you guys are doing there at UTSA.