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Hurrdat and Hail Varsity announce strategic partnership

Left to right: Brandon Taylor, Aaron Babcock, Bill Hipsher

Two recognizable names from Nebraska’s startup community have joined forces. Social media marketing firm Hurrdat and Hail Varsity, a media company providing Husker-focused content, announced a strategic partnership effective April 1, 2017.

“We’ve had a client/vendor relationship for at least four years,” said Aaron Babcock, Hail Varsity Founder and CEO. “We’ve danced around different partnership ideas for awhile, and things just aligned. The dominos lined up and fell into place.”

Hurrdat and B2 Interactive, an Omaha web design and development company that acquired Hurrdat in 2014, bring a strong social media and digital marketing component to the partnership.

“We hounded Aaron to do more digital,” said Bill Hipsher, Co-Owner of Hurrdat and B2 Interactive. “He wanted to make a bigger investment in digital, and we’re a partner that can help with the Hurrdat brand and sports marketing.”

Hail Varsity may be best known for its slick print publication and statewide radio show. But Babcock resists being pigeonholed.

“I think there’s definitely a perception that Hail Varsity is primarily print, and that’s how we started,” he said. “But we don’t see ourselves as print-focused. There are a lot of ideas around great content across social, video, podcasts, radio. That’s where Hurrdat and B2 come in.”

The partners expect benefits to be gained by cross-pollinating each other’s client base.

“We don’t work within the traditional realm of an ad agency, and our clients sometimes want to invest some dollars in services we don’t provide,” Hipsher said. “We tell them to talk to Aaron and Hail Varsity. It makes sense for the strategic piece.”

The crossover in the partners’ respective client bases is relatively small, perhaps about 10%.

“When I meet a marketing director that needs a new website or SEO strategy, I’ve always tried to send them Bill’s direction,” Babcock said. “We want to make sure somebody makes them look good. There are just a lot of collisions on the positive side of crossover opportunities.”

Discussions around collaboration took place over a long period of time before the partnership jelled.

“I met someone at Big Omaha who gave me some good advice about key partnerships,” Babcock said. “Never give up on the potential for a partnership. If it didn’t work this year, visit it again next year. That stuck with me.”

Hipsher agreed that the timing was right.

“Timing is everything,” he said. “Had we done something like this sooner it would have been a disservice to ourselves and our clients. Now is as close to good as it could be.”

Still, bringing two teams together can cause struggles and requires adaptation on both sides.

“It’s no different than a marriage,” said Brandon Taylor, Hurrdat and B2 Interactive Co-Owner. “You’ve done your own thing, then you get together and move in and start talking about who’s doing the laundry or project management. You start to figure all those areas out.”

One immediate impact is increased capacity for Hail Varsity.

“I feel like I just quadrupled my business development team, people who can make introductions and be on the lookout,” Babcock said. “People do business with people they trust.”

The partnership also expands the footprint for both companies in Lincoln and Omaha.

“Aaron has more relationships in Lincoln, Brandon and I have 20 years of relationships in Omaha,” Hipsher said. “The exposure for Hail Varsity as a brand really grows the Omaha footprint.”

Babcock feels the Hail Varsity brand stands out in the midst of numerous options for Husker coverage.

“Even as a fan you build a relationship with a brand,” he said. “That’s something that sets Hail Varsity apart.”

And the winner is . . .

“I think the big winner in this is the fans because they will get a chance to be exposed to the content they deserve,” Babcock said. “They win because we’re going to be able to do some really cool stuff producing great content that will reach Husker fans regardless of how they consume it.”

Rod Armstrong is Vice President of Strategic Partnerships for AIM in Lincoln, Nebraska. He is a regular contributor to Silicon Prairie News.