If you Build it, Will They Come?


Developing Strategic Marketing Initiatives for a New Arena in Virginia Beach

By Stephen Shapiro, Old Dominion University

In the Summer of 2015, the Old Dominion University Sport Management program partnered with developer United States Management (USM) in Virginia Beach on a once in a generation experiential learning opportunity. The city of Virginia Beach was proposing an 18,000 seat, $210 million arena located at the Oceanfront. So the developers posed the question to ODU graduate Sport Management students: what would you do with this new arena?

ODU Sport Marketing Dec 2015When this opportunity presented itself, I was extremely excited and worried at the same time. I believe experiential learning is a powerful tool. Many times we present cases to students in class that are focused on situations that occurred in the past or fictional scenarios. This situation provided us a unique opportunity to tell students this initiative is actually happening. The work you do will not just be for a grade…if it’s good enough, it will be implemented. At the same time, how do you go about marketing an arena that does not exist? This was the opportunity and challenge presented to students in the graduate sport marketing course during the Fall of 2015.

The city of Virginia Beach was going through the lengthy process of approving and financing a state of the art sport and entertainment venue that would fill a void in the inventory of facilities within the Hampton Roads region. We sat down with USM, facility designer Clark-Nexsen, representatives from SMG Venue Management, and the Virginia Beach Convention and Visitor’s Bureau to discuss marketing a new arena. Six strategic initiatives were highlighted: local sponsorships, marketing premium seating, arena/convention center collaboration, marketing non-traditional events, bidding for sporting events, and strategic analysis of comparable facilities without a major sports tenant.

Students were divided into groups to cover each initiative. Over the course of the semester, we had regular meetings with various arena constituents discussing facility design, economic impact, social issues related to arena development, financing, and general management. This was an excellent opportunity for students to see how a project this extensive consists of a multitude of individuals with differing goals and perspectives. Students had to use this information along with conducting an environmental scan, SWOT analysis, and investigation of comparable facilities across the United States to develop strategic plans.

Group 1Students presented their initiatives to all the individuals involved, including representatives from Virginian Beach City Council and the local media on December 9.  Amazingly, this was one day after the city council approved the development of the arena. Student groups focused on assessing bid requirements for potential events like the USA Gymnastics Junior Olympic Championships, X-Games, and US Figure Skating, which could be hosted at the arena and other facilities in the region. Collaborative and complimentary events between the arena and convention center were suggested, such as a skateboard competitions or a youth wrestling tournament at the convention center paired with a UFC event at the arena. One group focused on the popularity of e-gaming and the connection between these events and our regional demographics.

This was a tremendous experience for our students that has real-world implications.  Although the opportunity to help market a new arena does not happen often, this experience motivated me to search for more opportunities in the local community that allow our students to tackle real-world complex issues in the sport industry. There are so many opportunities for partnerships between sport management programs and sport organizations, which allow students to gain the skills necessary to be competitive in the job market upon graduation.

The “Super Four” Course

The “Super Four” Course: Using Experiential Learning Pedagogy in Mega Events

by Dr. David WalshUniversity of Houston

On Feb. 11, 2016, the city of Houston made it official: 360 days to prepare for Super Bowl LI. In less than a month, the NCAA Men’s Division I Final Four Championship will also play in Houston. This is the first time in history that both of these mega-sporting events have been hosted in the same city within a 10-month period. Situations like these just don’t come around very often…and 35 University of Houston students are set to capitalize on UH super4this incredibly unique opportunity.

UH students from both the Sport Administration and Hotel and Hospitality Management programs are in the middle of a two-year, four-semester course to prepare them to work for “mega events.” They were rigorously selected in the summer of 2015 based on GPA, writing acumen, and credible references. Partnering with the events’ local organizing committee, the “Super Four” course was designed to fuse together both educational and practical experiences. As a result, students will understand event planning, event management, sports marketing and communications, budgeting, project management, facility management, guest services, and sport governance first-hand. A valuable “kick-start” to any student’s career focused on sport and event management. To say the least, students from this course will have “WOW” written all over their resumes…literally!!

Top executives from both local organizing committees wanted a creative outlet to fulfill a major initiative in their quest to create a “WOW” experience for the city of Houston: community engagement. As Sallie Sargent, President and CEO of the Houston Super Bowl Host Committee, said, “…to help Houston prepare for hosting these major spotlight events…(it) takes a community effort.” The University of Houston is an official host institution for this year’s Final Four, and it will also play a role in hosting the needs of the Houston Super Bowl Host Committee in 2017. Student engagement is an important priority in meeting this initiative.

As the Internship Coordinator at the University of Houston’s Sport Administration program, I constantly evaluate how to set students apart from others in the uber-competitive sport industry. If we want to set our students apart, we must not only meet their needs, but we must work with practitioners to meet theirs. I tell my students, when preparing a cover letter, “It’s never about what the organization can provide you with; it’s about selling your value and skills to meet the needs of the employer.” In this case, that’s exactly how we were able to create this program…meeting the needs of the local organizing committees!

Gaining relevant hands-on experience is a necessity for students to sell themselves. Providing students with incredible opportunities to learn and showcase their worth is a necessity for sport management programs. And, finally, the sport industry is simply better when students’ expectations match the industry’s demands. That’s the hope of this course: to set a new trend for students, teachers, and practitioners in experiential learning pedagogy. Truly, a WIN-WIN-WIN!!!

photo by Richard J. Carson

Student Corner: NASSM Doctoral Grant Winners

Checking in with the 2015 NASSM Doctoral Research Grant Recipients

 By Andrea Geurin (Story idea submitted by Stacy Warner, Eastern Carolina University)

Established in 2012, the NASSM Doctoral Research Grant supports student research in the sport management community. At last year’s NASSM Conference in Ottawa, three student projects received funding totaling nearly $5,000. We thought we’d check in with the 2015 grant recipients to report on their progress to date:

Jesse Mala and Michael Corral, University of Connecticut PhD Students

Jesse and Michael were awarded a grant to assist with a research project on the impact of a sport-based authentic adolescent leadership program on school climate. According to the uconnresearch team, who are both in their second year of the PhD program and expect to graduate in May 2018, they ran a pilot program last spring and have since begun running their program as an in-school intervention. They currently work with 20-25 students in 6th, 7th, and 8th grade. At the beginning of the school year, they conducted pre-test surveys to measure school connectedness and authentic leadership. In just a few months they will conduct a post-test of the same survey, as well as focus groups with the students and teachers.

After completing his PhD, Jesse hopes to secure a tenure-track faculty position at a research institution, where he said he hopes to, “continue in the field of sport-based youth development and continue to examine its impact on youth, schools and communities.” Michael hopes to work in a policy and programming-related role at the state or district level for a K-12 public education system.


Bradley Baker & Christine Wegner, Temple University

 Bradley and Christine were awarded the doctoral research grant to aid their research on the role of group-level characteristics in facilitating the retention and satisfaction of templevolunteers. According to Bradley, they’re working with “adult volunteers who lead a running-based intervention program designed to encourage development of healthy exercise habits and career and academic mentoring among at-risk youth.”

Thus far, the research team collected its initial data from 189 volunteers in January, and they plan to conduct a second round of data collection in May, at which time they will test their hypotheses. Their goal is to present their findings at the 2017 NASSM Conference and to submit a manuscript to the Journal of Sport Management.

 Bradley is currently working on his dissertation and expects to earn his PhD in the spring of 2017, at which time he hopes to pursue a career in academia. Christine is also in the process of finishing her dissertation, and recently accepted an Assistant Professor position at the University of Florida, where she will begin in the fall of 2016.

Gashaw Abeza, University of Ottawa

Gashaw received a grant to help fund his multi-stage study focusing on social media in relationship marketing. According to Gashaw, the grant allowed him to purchase the NVivo qualitative data analysis software package, cover the transcription costs of uottawainterviews he’s conducted with professional sport teams’ senior managers, purchase gift cards for his focus group participants, and travel to present his research at a conference. He currently has one manuscript relating to this research project under review, and has submitted two abstracts from this research to academic conferences. He also plans to submit one additional manuscript to a peer-reviewed journal.

Gashaw is in the process of completing his PhD and hopes to finish within the next few months. He’s currently teaching courses in the sport management program at Southern Methodist University. He said, “My hope as a researcher and teacher in the field of sport management is to contribute to both the advancement of the body of knowledge and the development of academic infrastructures in sport management.”

For any students interested in applying for the 2016 Doctoral Research Grant, more information on the award and application process can be found here. Please note that applications are due on March 25, 2016.


Student Board Update 3/2016

Update from the Student Board

The 2016 NASSM Conference is just around the corner and the Student Board is very excited for this year’s student initiatives! A few changes this year, so keep your eyes open for upcoming emails about the Student Elections, Faculty-Student Mentor Program, as well as social media for additional details about the Student Social Night and Student Symposium.

Important changes:

The Faculty-Student Mentor Program will move to a more flexible schedule to provide more time for students and mentors to engage in conversations. Students and faculty interested in participating in this initiative should contact Kyle Rich. Look for additional emails describing this change in the coming months.

The student representatives position elections will move online this year!

Additional Notes:

The Student Luncheon will take place at the hotel and students will be provided with free lunch. Come hear who will be your 2016-2017 student representatives and NASSM student benefits. Also, enjoy a free lunch and structured opportunities to grow your peer network.

The Student Social Night will be held at the Exile Restaurant & Lounge right across the street from the Florida Hotel from 8pm – 10 pm on Friday, June 3rd. Come meet your peers in a casual setting, perfect for a deep conservation about theory, sharing tips on the hiring process, or friendly school rivalry banter. For those interested, karaoke starts at 9pm! Watch for updates concerning food and drink specials on social media, particularly Facebook (NASSMstudents).

The Student Symposium will be “Moving from research idea to research agenda: How to develop your research road map as a graduate student.” A group of accomplished researchers will participate in the panel discussion to provide insight for students at the beginning of this exciting but difficult topic for graduate students.

Always feel free to reach out concerning these initiatives and other issues! There are a number of changes happening this year, and we are excited to continue developing student programs. See you in Orlando.

Student Board:

Natalie Smith 

Allison Musser 

Kyle Rich 

Kylie Wasser