It’s hard to believe that almost a year has passed since I shared my news with you about landing the sports marketing internship in my university’s athletic office. Yet we’ve already wrapped up football, soccer, and volleyball seasons. Men’s and women’s basketball competes for the last time at home this coming weekend, which made me think about what I’ve gained from this experience. In no particular order (and because you know I love lists), here are 10 silly, serious, surprising, and sweet things I have learned through my sports marketing internship:
1.) People will do almost anything for a free t-shirt.
Marketing is in charge of the giveaways, half-time games and prizes, and student incentives. Do not underestimate the persuasive power of school-spirited sunglasses. When we promote games through social media, flyers on campus, or email blasts, we always include what special item the first 100 fans will receive. And you best believe that fan #101 is basically heart-broken over their denial of a rally towel.
2.) Freshmen are a unique type of sports fan.
Seriously though, freshmen are the best target market for home games because A.) they are under-21 and looking for weekend social activities, B.) are pretty excited to be experiencing college sports for the first time, and C.) provide shameless entertainment for the rest of us.
3.) Working in an athletic office will result life-long friends.
You will work with people who live in the same area, have the same marketing degree, have the same career goals, have the same passion for sports, love good smack talk, and are equally enthusiastic about new polos. Work buddies become friends real fast when you spend 8 hours together at home football games.
4.) No two days are ever the same!
During last Saturday night’s game, the marching band sang “Pretty Fly for a White Guy” and a fan ATE HIS TICKET live on the jumbotron for the “Smile Cam.” You never know what is going to happen.
On the morning of our homecoming game, the director of marketing’s (AKA my boss) office literally caught on fire. 6-foot flames left his wall and carpet with a blackened reminder to never over-charge blimp batteries. We have a sponsor who flies a small blimp around our indoor stadium during halftime as advertising. The blimp uses a remote control and special large batteries. My boss had the batteries plugged into his wall charging as we met to go over game-day preparations. As I stood at the door of his office, I heard a POP followed by smoke. Then like a movie, flames burst up and hugged his wall. The fire alarm went off, the dome was evacuated, the fire department came. Point of the story: we still won homecoming ;)
5.) If you thought you’re arts n’ crafts days were over, think again!
Sometimes you realize that you need a sign to direct traffic and only Crayola’s will do! Along these lines, a lot of an intern’s duties on game day come up as we see a need. We pay attention to the overall event and respond to situations that come up. If the crowd is losing energy, if the weather is crappy during tailgating, if the mascot is sick, if a sponsor needs help with their promotion, then we work to find solutions!
6.) When printing on pink paper from the office printer, make sure to refill with white paper when you are done.
Very first day working in the office – I was asked to make copies of flyers in the color of my choice. I selected a neon pink paper (surprised?). I finished making my flyers and left to do something else. Few minutes later, the Athletic Director walks out of the copy room with a memo she printed….bright pink paper in her hand. “Is there are reason we’re printing on pink paper?” Oops! This is not the time to pull an Elle Woods moment.
7.) Always take advantage of a personal bounce house:
The business side of the sports industry is historically male-dominated. Nowadays, though, women are prevalent in almost all areas. At least, they are in the region I work in. I only have experience in the southwest so I won’t make generalizations about American sports as a whole. From my own experience, we have a female Athletic Director (AKA the boss of the collegiate athletic department), females in the compliance, marketing, media and development aspects of the department. 50% of the interns are female, and the same can be said for the graduate assistants. The sports industry is typically seen as masculine, but you might be surprised by how many women are planning and organizing the behind-the-scenes of it all (in heels and bows no less!) :)
9.) Marketing can enhance the game day experience, but what truly determines a fan’s satisfaction is winning vs. losing.
In marketing, we have our detailed schedules, our spreadsheets, game-day scripts, and pre- and post-game meetings. We are organized. Yet the biggest thing we cannot control is the outcome of the game. Our efforts are to enhance the experience for the fans. As much as I’d like to think that our amazing half-time show can save the game, the deciding factor between a fan walking away satisfied or disappointed is if the team won or lost.
Though free pizza coupons can soften the blow (see #1 above).
10.) Lastly I learned that sports marketing might not be exactly the career path I am set on. It’s a fantastic field and a perfect combination of athletics and entertainment; however there are other areas of business that I don’t want to rule out either. This internship has taught me not to be so narrow-minded about my goals. Sports can be a glamorous industry, but the workplace environment is really one of the most important factors in finding happiness with your job :)