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Posts from the ‘Sport management’ Category

Explaining Sponsorships Using Analogy

By Jesse King, Ph.D. (Weber State University) and Robert Madrigal, Ph.D. (California State University, Chico)

Most sponsorship alignments do not make sense. For example, what does FedEx have to do with the NFL? This sponsorship is incongruent because the brand and property (e.g., events, teams, leagues, etc.) have little in common. In such cases, the brand must explain to consumers how it is related to the property. In a recent article in Journal of Sport Management, we find that using analogies is one tactic for explaining an incongruent sponsorship to consumers.

Understanding an analogy is like solving a puzzle. By highlighting shared associations, analogies provide a creative way for sport managers to explain how the brand is similar to the property. For example, FedEx makes use of an analogy by awarding the “Air and Ground Players of the Year” to the NFL’s top quarterback and running back.  The analogy allows fans to connect the actions of running backs and quarterbacks to ground and air delivery of a package, respectively. The package and football each plays the same relational role in this analogy. Just as a football may be passed through the air by a quarterback or carried by a running back on the ground, a FedEx package can be sent by air via a plane or ground delivered using a truck. Good analogies are useful because they promote a deeper understanding of the sponsor-event alignment. In this way, a sponsorship that once did not make sense to a consumer can explained in a way that links core equities of the property with those of the brand.

Creativity is required for fans to understand analogies and for sport managers to build them.  The goal for sport managers in creating analogies is to help the customer understand common functions in the sponsoring brand and sport property. To build analogies, managers should:

1) Identify Brand Action Words: Identify actions performed by the brand. This can be accomplished by identifying actions in terms of verbs used to describe a core function (e.g., Gillette razor blades shave hair off the body). Keep in mind that there are often many ways to describe the same action. For example, a close shave is achieved through close contact between the razor and few missed hairs.

2) Identify Property Action Words: Consider actions performed by the property that might align with those of the brand. Avoid shared surface traits such as common appearance (e.g., both property and brand’s logos are red) or immaterial detail (e.g., both players and employees wear uniforms). Instead, focus on common patterns of relationships that exist for the brand and for the property.

3) Avoid the Abstract: When creating analogical explanations, avoid abstract descriptors such as “excellence” or “integrity.” If no relevant actions within the property can be identified, the sponsor should work with the property to create something (e.g., award, event) that will serve a similar role to the actions that the brand wants to emphasize (e.g., the turnaround play of the game).

Analogies that explain deeper relationships are likely to be more effective than those that only explain surface similarities. For example, Gillette could explain a partnership with competitive swimming, a sport in which competitors “shave” the hair off their entire body prior to a major competition, by emphasizing shallow similarities associated with shaving hair and shaving seconds from a race time. However, a better fit might be achieved by explaining deeper patterns of shared relations. For instance, Gillette recently explained their partnership with Major League Baseball’s Home Run Derby by emphasizing the relational importance of establishing close contact between a razor and skin as a way of making sure to not miss any hair follicles on one’s face with the importance of a baseball batter making contact with the ball in order to miss fewer pitches.

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Key Takeaways:

In this research we found analogy improves sponsorship fit, relative to other types of explanation. They help because analogies are perceived as creative. Also, short explanations of analogies seem to be equally effective as more detailed explanations.

For sport managers this means that short messages such as “The FedEx Air and Ground Players of the Year Awards” may be as effective as full press release in explaining a brand-property alignment.  Analogies are capable of concisely conveying a great deal of information. Because space and time are often severely limited in a sponsorship message, the use of analogy offers an efficient and creative method for concisely explaining how an incongruent brand is similar to a sports property.

Sport, Twitter Hashtags, and the Public Sphere: Curt Schilling Case Study

Instantly, the hashtag #CurtSchilling became a flashpoint for debate about the issue on Twitter. Thousands of users deployed the hashtag over the following 24 hours, either criticizing Schilling for his homophobia, or castigating ESPN for political correctness. Capturing 10,000 of those hashtags revealed fascinating findings.

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Crossing the great divide between academics and practitioners: The application of autoethnographies in sport (event) volunteer research

By Erik Lachance, Doctoral Student, University of Ottawa

Since my volunteer experience at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympic Games, I have been passionate about sport management and, more specifically, sport (event) volunteers. At the end of the undergraduate studies I took an interest in studying sport (event) volunteers, and conducted an autoethnography about my volunteer experience in a small-scale para-sport event.

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To date, the recruitment of volunteers for the pilot study phase of my thesis, and some of my additional independent research projects, has been challenging as I have been repeatedly asked to volunteer in exchange for being able to interview participants. It appears as if once the targeted organization or event becomes aware of my research topic, they assume that I am more likely to be interested in volunteering. I believe this creates a trade-off in the sense that I would collect data from the volunteers, and, in exchange, I would volunteer for the sport organization or event. Some sport organizations and events have actually declined to participate because I could not volunteer, and when speaking to some of my colleagues, it appears as if this is not a normal request or occurrence when recruiting participants. Although the request to volunteer could present some challenges (e.g., time commitment), it also brings a great opportunity to bridge the gap between academics and practitioners. But, how can this be achieved? The answer is with the incorporation of autoethnographies.

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Compared to traditional ethnographies, autoethnographies can be considered as a combination of autobiography and ethnography in which the researcher’s personal experience is described and analyzed to understand a phenomenon (Ellis, 2004). Recently, autoethnographies have been applied to investigate the sport (event) volunteer experience in large-scale sport events, such as the Olympics (e.g., Kodama, Doherty, & Popovic, 2013; Sadd, 2018), and small-scale para-sport events (e.g., Lachance & Parent, 2017, 2018). Speaking from personal experience, my first taste of research in sport management was an autoethnography, which enabled me to appreciate the value of subjectivity in research, and shaped my current epistemological stance. Investigating my own volunteer experience at a para-sport event also gave me the opportunity to learn more about myself, such as the importance of establishing relationships with others, developing an interest in para-sport, and fostering my passion for volunteering in sport.

The application of autoethnographies benefits both academics and practitioners. Perhaps the greatest opportunity is to bridge the current gap between academics and practitioners. However, a benefit for academics is to gain an understanding of a phenomenon from a front-line perspective. As Ellis & Bochner (2006) explained, this approach seeks to put the researcher back into the study, and values subjectivity (e.g., emotions) in order for rich insight to be yielded from a front-line perspective. Therefore, the incorporation of autoethnographies would benefit academics with rich insight and a greater understanding of the sport (event) volunteer experience (Kodama et al., 2013).

The benefits of autoethnographies are also present for practitioners. More specifically, the collaboration between academics and practitioners during autoethnographies would allow for the transmission of knowledge to occur. For example, the researcher, who is an “insider”, could pass on knowledge from past research, relevant theories, concepts, and cases during the volunteer experience. Having the presence of an academic as an “insider” would also enable practitioners to have access to a valuable resource. Thus, autoethnographies would benefit practitioners with the transmission of knowledge, and having access to a valuable resource (i.e., knowledge and experience of academics) in an effort to enhance organizational capacity, and possibly the ability to succeed (e.g., achieve goals).

This post was inspired from my personal experience doing autoethnography, and of recruiting participants for research on sport (event) volunteers, and discussed the win-win situation that is created for academics and practitioners through the application of autoethnographies. The incorporation of such an approach could increase collaboration, and bridge the existing gap between academics and practitioners. The hope for this post is to spark discussion and interest among academics and practitioners regarding the application of autoethnographies for sport (event) volunteer research.

References:

Ellis, C. (2004). The ethnographic I: A methodological novel about autoethnography. Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira Press.

Ellis, C., & Bochner, A. P. (2006). Analyzing analytic autoethnography: An autopsy. Journal of Contemporary Ethnography35, 429-449.

Kodama, E., Doherty, A., & Popovic, M. (2013). Front line insight: an autoethnography of the Vancouver 2010 volunteer experience. European Sport Management Quarterly, 13, 76-93.

Lachance, E. L., & Parent, M. M. (2017, June). The volunteer experience in a local para-sport event: An ethnographic approach. Paper presented at the North American Society for Sport Management (NASSM) Conference, Denver, Colorado, USA.

Lachance, E. L., & Parent, M. M. (2018, June). Two phases, two tales: Planning and implementation phase experiences of a para-sport event volunteer. Paper presented at the North American Society for Sport Management (NASSM) Conference, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.

Sadd, D. (2018). Proud to be British: An autoethnographic study of working as a games maker at London 2012. Event Management, 22, 317-332.

Industry: Forging New Partnerships

NASSM and the Aspen Institute Announce Partnership

by Dr. Brianna Newland, Chair, NASSM Marketing & Communications Committee

The new NASSM strategic plan calls for NASSM to build alliances and partnerships with Aspen1jpegother organizations that share similar foci and goals. One of the first to have been completed is a partnership with the Aspen Institute’s Sports and Society Program. You may recall, that Tom Farrey, who heads that program, was the keynote speaker at our recent conference in Denver. As a journalist, Mr. Farrey’s contributions as an ESPN reporter have been thought-provoking and innovative. His book, Game On, numerous articles, and work at the Aspen Institute have explored sport and societal issues and have been used by universities and organizations alike to shape strategy around issues facing sport, especially youth sport. As such, Mr. Farrey founded the Aspen Institute’s Sport and Society program to assemble the industry’s top thought leaders to shape future policy around sport.

The mission of the Aspen Institute’s Sports and Society Program is to “convene leaders, foster dialogue, and inspire solutions that help sport serve the public interest, with a focus on the development of healthy children and communities.” An aim of the program is to provide a venue for thought leaders to explore strategies on a range of issues. One such issue is the state of youth sport. In 2013, the program launched Project Play, a multi-year and stage initiative to develop sport for all and inspire lifetime play for our community’s children. Several key leaders have participated in events and a series of roundtables led to the January 2015 publication entitled, Sport for All, Play for Life: A Playbook to Get Every Kid in the Game 

On January 25, the Aspen Institute will kick off a new quarterly “Future of Sports Conversation Series.” The first in the series is the “Future of Football: Reimagining the Game’s Pipeline.” Speakers in this discussion include Chris Borland, former San Francisco 49er linebacker, and Dr. Robert Cantu, co-founder of the CTE Center at Boston University, among others. For more details and to RSVP, click here.

NASSM and the Aspen Institute have agreed to find ways to work together and to promote each other’s work.  Both parties expect this relationship to be of substantial benefit not merely to NASSM, but also to the development of the sport industry. As Dr. Laurence Chalip, NASSM President recently noted, “Project Play has become the most significant policy initiative for sport development that the United States has seen in many years. It demonstrates the leadership that the Aspen Institute and its Sports & Society Program have taken in our field. The partnership we have formed will be good for NASSM, good for our members, and very good for sport.”

For debate: Is communication the key to student preparation?

The NASSM Blog would like to introduce the ‘debate blog.’ The following is a call for unity among sport industry and sport educators. We welcome your thoughts and comments! And, please, if you have an idea for a ‘debate post’, please contact us!

A Call for Unity: Sport Educators & the Sport Industry

By Carl Manteau, Senior Director of Group Sales, NBA Milwaukee Bucks

With response from Brian Mills, Assistant Professor, University of Florida

The most abundant positions with professional sports teams are in usually in sales. Sadly, the majority of sport management graduates hired into sales positions FAIL to make it through their first year.* They fail as the direct result of their own actions, however, several are almost predisposed to fail because their sport management programs didn’t adequately prepare them for a sales career.

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This is evident in the resumes that hiring managers like me receive, the interviews we conduct, and the actions of some of the sport management students we hire…and ultimately fire.

Recruiting sport management students can be challenging because many are not educated in the art of selling, nor are they provided many opportunities to experience selling or learn from people that sell sports for a living. This lack of a foundation leads students to apply for positions they aren’t suited or prepared for and teams to hire on perceived abilities instead of proven experience. In the end, these students fail to achieve their dream of a career in this incredible industry, the teams lose the time, money, and effort spent on recruiting and training, and the reputations of academic institutions are tarnished.

So how do we, educators and industry practitioners, come together to address this?

There are a multitude of ways but one of the best places to start is with better communication.

The more knowledgeable professors are on the ever-evolving roles and responsibilities in this industry, the better equipped they will be to prepare students for successful careers. First-hand knowledge is the best. To this point, there has been a pretty sizable effort in recent years of sales managers proactively seeking working-relationships with local educators…but we still have a long way to go. Our outreach will continue but we also encourage professors to contact us. It really can be as simple as picking up the phone or connecting on LinkedIn. Even sitting down for a cup of coffee can open up a new world of understanding and possibilities!

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A fantastic development has been teams and sport management professors/programs collaborating to host one-day sales events (the Mount Union Sport Sales Workshop is widely regarded as one of the best). Over the past few seasons, my team (the Bucks) has implemented a one-day Sales Academy, a Night Sales program, a more robust internship program, and a couple of the sales managers now serve on advisory councils with local universities. Programs like these expose students to the sales cultures of professional sports teams and the chance to network with industry executives. They also allow professors to observe the inner-workings of a professional front office. Finally, they provide teams with the opportunity to find the next generation of sales superstars and leadership development experience for aspiring sales managers.

Better communication doesn’t have to result in large projects or events. At the very least, honest discussions will greatly reduce some of the common misconceptions that continue to be shared with students (one of the most prevalent being, “Sales is a good way to get your foot in the door”).

Other simple collaborations can include sales projects being integrated into curriculums and inviting sales reps and managers to be guest speakers. It was a guest speaker in one of my classes that ultimately paved the way for my career. I’ve also been very humbled to have a few people say that one of my guest lectures had the same effect on them. These experiences would not have been possible without educators and practitioners having solid relationships.

My fellow sales managers and I have the utmost respect for educators and the awesome responsibility you have in shaping the futures of your students and the entire industry. Thank you for what you do and we look forward to working with you soon!

The opinions expressed in this article are my own and may not reflect those of any organizations mentioned. 

*I don’t have any industry data to support this statistic. The figure is taken directly from my 15+ years of experience in sales with two NBA teams, one NHL team, one WNBA team, one AHL team, one AFL team, and one NBA D-League (now the G-League) team. It’s also supported by some of my colleagues managing sales teams in the NFL, NHL, and NBA.

The following response was prepared by Brian Mills, Assistant Professor, University of Florida

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Let me start with 3 propositions.

Proposition 1: Sport Management (SM) programs – as with MBA programs – are not job-specific skills training mechanisms.

Proposition 2: SM programs have a responsibility to provide value to tuition-paying students, often related to expected future earnings potential.

Proposition 3: Industry has a responsibility to provide its workers with appropriate job-specific skills training to both support their employees’ career trajectory and increase their productivity in their current job.

None of these statements is specific to SM – indeed, higher education is dealing with this existential question as a whole – but applied fields are under particular scrutiny to meet these career-specific expectations. As academics, that can sometimes be a difficult proposition. We seek to ensure that our students are equipped with skills in critical and independent thinking, problem-solving acumen, the ability to find, synthesize, and communicate information, and to be intellectually flexible and work well with others. These skills allow them to learn other more specific training quickly and apply it in ways that contribute positively to the firm and society.

To exemplify where these skills are valuable, in consulting roles I have heard comments such as, “We know you have to be ethical in your profession, but we need your estimates to be higher,” and, “We’ll move forward with [that result we like], even though it’s probably spurious.” This is precisely what we want our students to avoid. In spite of the need for immediate action in a fast-paced business environment, a central part of our jobs as instructors is ensuring students know that making decisions with bad information can hurt your business. They should leave here as critical consumers of information.

By its nature, this foundational training is going to spend less time ensuring students know all the acronyms and jargon, proprietary sales operations processes, or be instant experts working specific sales software. Higher education will certainly not ingrain a “sell at all costs” culture in our students’ minds.

And so follows the indictment of our programs.

But is that the goal of higher education? If students leave our programs with the necessary skills to get an entry-level job, and no more, we have failed them miserably. Further, our student body ranges widely, and catering to this specific subset of our students would be an enormous disservice to the majority of them.

Academia certainly needs to think about the educational role it will play in society over the next 20 years. But criticism from industry often lacks an understanding of what faculty do on a daily basis, what universities expect them to do, or what challenges they face in getting students up to speed with many basic skills when they arrive on campus. There is also a need for accountability from industry with respect to training their own workforce, particularly as college graduates continue to be hired into short-term unpaid or extremely low paid positions that often skirt labor and minimum wage laws.

Further, industry sales professionals need to communicate to faculty not only that sales skills are needed, but what they are and why they will allow our students to meet future career development and advancement goals. Most faculty view education as a public good with a duty to prepare students to leave here with the skills to make positive societal contributions. Tie the profession to values it creates not just for your firm, but for others, too.

Without a quality sales pitch of the what and the why, faculty will likely continue to view sales as the art of convincing people to buy what they did not want in the first place: an activity rife with welfare loss and societal waste. We as faculty are of course quite familiar with the importance of revenue generation in the survival of a business. Many of us study how business structures and product characteristics drive revenue, and others study the psychology or economics of business in ways closely related to strategy and CRM through analysis of complex consumer data.

Most faculty in our programs are also social scientists, and therefore will be skeptical of the societal value of sales as traditionally viewed. I suspect this is not the version of sales you do, nor is it what you want our graduates to do. Rather, salespeople can indeed be a valuable resource in finding useful solutions to problems, and leading clients to these solutions using the tools available to them. Faculty have some work to do in communicating the value that some of our courses and programs provide to these goals. In particular, we need to be clear how these skills are more valuable in the face of technological innovation that changes what the most valuable specific skillsets are.

On the other hand, many departments are increasingly resource deprived. Industry professionals should understand the demands upon faculty that include research and other service, and be proactive in offering resources to create workshops and other opportunities on college campuses without treating them just as an easy way to find cheap labor. Industry would also be well served to increase investment in their own workforce, have some patience with very specific skill development, and find ways to take advantage of skills our students do gain while they are here. I suspect their ability to solve problems facing the sales team will surprise you as they grow comfortable with the basic tools of the trade.

Industry: Engaging with Leaders

Dr. Kihl discusses the reasons for hosting leaders from different Twin Cities sport organizations, which included learning about the challenges they encounter in this respective sport market, forecast opportunities, and explore potential research collaborations to address specific areas of concern.

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T&L: Casework

The McCormack Case Collection: Bringing Industry-Relevant Issues into the Classroom

By Will Norton, UMass Amherst

As many of us involved in sport management are aware, any practical knowledge that students can gain in the classroom will only better prepare them for their future careers in sport. While this knowledge is frequently obtained from experiential learning projects, it can also be acquired from case studies that encourage critical thinking and address ‘real world’ issues that sport entities have faced.

Sport management educators have utilized case studies as course assignments for years, valuing how they push students to apply what they have learned in the classroom to a practical scenario. Oftentimes though, the case studies we use are dated. The problem with dated case studies, of course, is that students will be best prepared to enter the sport industry by understanding the nature of the way things work today. And in today’s fast-paced world, today seems to become yesterday even quicker.

With this in mind, the McCormack Center for Sport Research & Education (MCSRE) created McCormackCenter.com, a digital education resource housing sport management case studies and other collaborative learning opportunities from across the industry. The vision is for this collection to be sourced from a collective of academics with valuable networks and experiences within the industry; thus, the endeavor will serve to diversify the in-class experience of students and pull back the curtain on issues otherwise inaccessible to the future leaders of the sport management industry. The website launched on July 1st and was constructed with careful consideration of the evolving digital landscape impacting educators and consequently, students. The online hub will focus initially on providing relevant, timely, and professionally developed case studies spanning a variety of disciplines and available for educators and students.

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The McCormack Case Collection will span academic topic areas that mirror the curriculums of many of the leading sport management programs, in an effort to further develop management case offerings specific to the world of sport business. Each case study in the collection will come with a teaching note for instructors and tap into real-time industry trends, promoting case content that is structured from a ‘real world’ issue or challenge and retrofitted for the classroom.

In addition to providing educators and students with relevant and timely content to learn from, the case study collection also serves as a means to blur the boundary between academia and industry by leveraging what is happening in practice to educate students. Commenting on the collection, Dr. Janet Fink, Professor and Chair of the McCormack Department of Sport Management, stated, “Mark McCormack (founder of IMG) would undoubtedly embrace this collection of case studies, each one designed to place future managers of the sports industry in real-world scenarios and challenge them to apply common sense, strategic business insights, and critical thinking to arrive at smart recommendations and solutions.”

Recognizing the value in incorporating the wide-ranging knowledge and expertise of sport management educators and practitioners across the world, case development is not limited to McCormack faculty. Any and all professors, lecturers, adjuncts, or practitioners who wish to contribute a professionally researched and edited case study and teaching note are invited to do so. Case authors to date include faculty from the University of San Francisco, UMass Amherst, Rutgers University, and Griffith University (Australia). The reach of each individual writer will be shared in the spirit of learning from critical case analysis.

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The initial case launch, consisting of nine case studies, is available for Fall 2017 curriculum adoption. The cases cover a range of topics, including sport marketing, sponsorship, governance, law, economics, finance, ethics, and diversity. Events and organizations included in the initial case studies include the Olympic Games, Super Bowl 50, and FIFA. Author payment per case ranges depending on the length, rigor and assigned price point of the case. Any questions regarding potential case study submissions can be emailed to the Director of MCSRE, Will Norton at wnorton@isenberg.umass.edu.

T&L: Game Scripting

Teaching Game Scripting In Class

By: Rick Smith, Assistant Professor of Sports Management Marietta College

From my days in college athletics, I remember spending hours writing, planning, and mapping out a game script for every home football, basketball, baseball, softball, volleyball, and soccer game. More and more, we are seeing college athletics trend towards a focus on the fan experience at the game instead of concentrating on wins and losses. Game scripting is an art, and it is made easier by software programs like TSE ScriptPro from TSE Services, LLC.

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Rick Smith works with his students in Marietta College’s ScriptU program.

Working with TSE, Marietta College was able to create a unique partnership, ScriptU, which is designed to help college students learn game scripting in relevant classes, such as sports facilities and event management, sports sales and promotions, and sports marketing. Over the course of five class periods, my class met in a computer lab to learn how to write PA scripts for sponsors and how to “time” the game so that videos, music, and PA reads didn’t run past a timeout. The students were able to use their creativity to plan what they thought was a good “game flow” and balance between PA reads, videos, and on-court fan promotions/games in order to make the fan experience worthwhile.

In terms of the specific software that the sports management program at Marietta College uses, the following provides a brief background on TSE ScriptPro and some of its features:

  • It is used by hundreds of sports teams and organizations across the country, including professional sports teams and events, minor league baseball organizations, and college athletics departments.
  • The software allows multiple people to view a game script live – and make updates live on everyone’s script – through a secure internet portal. This becomes useful when a fan is chosen from the stands for an on-field/on-court contest and one person can type their name and update the script so the PA announcer in a different part of the arena can see the update in real-time on their screen.
  • Users can create multiple viewing boxes on a screen so that the “game producer” can see everything at once (e.g., what the PA announcer is saying, what audio file is next to play during the upcoming fan contest, etc.), all while allowing the PA announcer to automatically scroll to the next part of the script after they are done reading the announcement.
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Assistant Professor Rick Smith and a student discuss the TSE ScriptPro software.

When teaching my course, I heard the usual questions like, “Why do we have to learn this?” from some students. I quickly responded with, “It’s the same reason graphic design majors learn design software, or accounting majors learn spreadsheet software: if you are going to work in sports game production, you will use this software somewhere along the way.”  One student in particular, a senior majoring in marketing with a sports management minor, returned from a job shadowing experience at a Division I school a few weeks after asking why she had to learn the scripting software in my class. Upon her return from job shadowing, she told the class, “The school used ScriptPro.” It was a moral victory of sorts for me as a first-year (and at that time, a first-semester) instructor at Marietta College.

Smith, Huhn, Zaragoza TSE resizedThe main goal of teaching the software in class is to have students understand the software program to make them more qualified for entry level positions in sports marketing and sports event production right out of school. But like any assignment, there are measurable college-based assessment goals, too, such as critical thinking, communication, and integrative learning. Because of TSE’s vast array of clients, I also hope that our students can use their network of contacts in the industry to help secure internships (required for the major) while they are in school and jobs right after graduating.

Smith Wallace TSE resizedLooking forward to future semesters, I plan to teach different aspects of the script program in different semesters, such as writing PA reads and creating the game script in a first-year course called Sports Management, and then teaching the students how to manage a live game using the program in subsequent courses such as Sports Marketing or Sports Facilities and Event Management. Eventually, I hope to create a partnership with our athletics department to have students produce the game using the script program, and maybe a little longer-term, work with minor league baseball teams in the area to allow our students serve as their staff for a game or two to showcase their work in front of potential employers.

Research: Aruban Sport

Conducting research on a small Caribbean Island: How I went about getting a grant from the Aruban government

by Bob Heere, University of South Carolina

aruba[1]As part of a partnership between the University of South Carolina and the University of Aruba, I was asked to collaborate with the local faculty there on research projects during my stay teaching a course. This mandate presented a couple of challenges. The faculty at the University of Aruba had no background in sport management, and had very little affinity or interest on research in sport. Thus, any collaboration would have to be initiated by me, and more importantly ‘sold to them’. Second, it was unclear to me what role sport played on the small Caribbean island and I was hesitant to start a project that Arubans had no interest in whatsoever. This was not the first time in my career I ran into this issue. Three years earlier, my idea to do a large study in Brazil had met with polite indifference from local scholars when I flew down to meet with them. Identity was not really an issue for the Brazilians. I went home empty handed. I wanted to develop an idea that would speak to the Arubans, and one that would make a real impact on the island. For any researcher who wants to conduct a study in a different nation, I can only advise to do the same.

awcarib[1]Aruba was not a blank page for me. While it is independent, Dutch is still an official language on the island it once colonized. I also knew the island depended on American tourism. I expected a Caribbean island that would have both Dutch and American influences. It made me curious to the sport culture in the nation though, as the Netherlands and the United States could not be more different in their views on sport. One favors sport for skill development, the other favors sport for community and health. Upon arrival I realized that Aruba was indeed the best (or worst) of both worlds, in terms of food, media, and sport. In one thing Aruba was definitely more American than Dutch: obesity levels. Aruba is among the nations with the highest obesity levels, an honor it shares with the United States. Thus, I started asking what the sport participation rates were in Aruba, as they might contribute to the obesity levels. Nobody could give me an answer. Thus, my research question became: what is the role of sport on the island, and how is it used to maintain health among the population?

cruise7[1]During my stay, I was asked to provide a seminar to the industry, which contained a mixture of sport officials, government officials, and business people. I decided to compile a lecture on sport for health, and in my presentation I used both the United States and the Netherlands as benchmarks. I realized that I had been able to find a subject that I was uniquely qualified to study. I had in-depth knowledge of both nations and the subject of sport itself. It reminded me: remain true to the self. The presentation was a success, and afterwards the Director of the National Institute for Sport and Movement and the secretary of the NOC approached me. Both women were excited by the presentation and gauged my interest in establishing a project to explore sport participation on the island. I realized that this was my ‘in’ and immediately set up meetings. I also was able to recruit a University of Aruba faculty member (Kimberly Greaux) to work with me on this, who was finishing her PhD in the Netherlands in Public Health.

cruise3[1]I spent the remainder of my time on the island meeting people, and I was glad I did. Everybody was excited about doing a baseline measure study to sport participation, but nobody had money to pay for it. The estimated budget forecasted about $28,000 to do the study. Had I not met with everyone, this project would probably have died. Fortunately, one of my contacts was able to set up a meeting for me with the Minister of Health, Welfare and Sport, who had funding available (final tip: build a solid foundation of stakeholders for your research project, you will need them). Six months later we received the money to start our project and have now collected over 1,000 surveys and conducted about 10 focus groups. We are excited to work with the government of Aruba on this, and we can’t wait to publish our results.

Industry: Branding

Branding Matters

By Jason W. Lee & Elizabeth A. Gregg, University of North Florida

Earlier this semester, the Journal of Contemporary Athletics (JCA) announced an upcoming special issue addressing School Athletic Branding and Visual Identity.”  The purpose of the special issue to provide a forum for the dissemination of insightful articles addressing the nuances associated with educational institution branding. Academic institutions, in both the higher education and secondary schools, offer thought-provoking points of discussion regarding effective brand management. This special issue is intended to provide a forum for the academic examination of higher education and high school institution brands, including visual identity and other related marketing components associated with school-sponsored athletics. Beyond the scope of intercollegiate sport, branding considerations impacting higher education institutions are prevalent.

Every school has a unique story, as do sport management programs. Visual identity is the visible part of the story that sport management academic programs tell. Some programs have catchy names or make use of eye-catching acronyms. For example, Miami University is home to SLAM (Sport Leadership and Management). Other programs may include the names of noted individuals (i.e., founders, benefactors, notable partners) or other defining characterizes associated with the institution or program. Most programs, however, have a basic naming structure that is comprised of discipline-specific names that simply encompass the academic programs represented within (i.e., Sport Management, Sport and Fitness Management, Sport and Recreation Management).

Places are Distinct… and so are Brands
Programs should focus on guiding principles such as institutional, departmental, and program goals and missions. Program brands are to build off of strengths that exist within the structure of existing university brand strengths. Programs should be mindful of who they are, where they are, the audience they are trying to reach, and the communities that they serve. Building on institutional resources is key. Factors such as a unique geographic location, access to desirable internship sites, and opportunities for experiential learning embedded in coursework should be considered as branding opportunities.

Your Reputation Precedes You
Programs must be mindful that their reputations are a product of identity and image elements that have been developed and presented historically. Sport management programs can benefit or be viewed negatively through associations with the institution at large, a given university’s administration (and other influential decision-makers affiliated with the institution), program faculty, students and alumni, partners from the sport community, and institutional elements such as a university’s athletic program. Prospective students and other stakeholders may make associations with academic programs tangentially through experiences and perceptions of characteristics such as an athletic department’s visibility and reputation. Program faculty and those in charge of programmatic branding efforts should be cognizant of the following core program visual identity elements.

Name. Various programs carry names that were established at a time when institutional goals and programmatic focus were different than they are at present. In order to have brand strength, it is critical for the program name to be included in that of the department in which it resides. While this can be a difficult issue that involves practical and political involvement, change, and potentially financial cost – schools should nonetheless be thoughtful of program and department name attributes while considering important characteristics such as distinctiveness, fit, and description.

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UNF Sport Management Program’s Department Name (on the College Homepage)

For examples, at the University of North Florida, the department was renamed Leadership, School Counseling, and Sport Management in 2009. Program leaders believed it was critical for brand and degree awareness to include the name of all programs housed in the department.

Logo. Does your program have a logo? Some programs have logos that do not convey the proper quality of institutional visual identity guidelines. If the logo is not congruent with the visual identity of the larger institution, university administration could object to such fig2implementation, as it can result in a lack of brand uniformity and therefore visibility of the program.

Tagline. Taglines are statements that can send a compelling message, and generally are in use for an extended period of time. In the case of an academic program, including taglines could be useful in reaching desired publics. Programs that currently utilize taglines may want to assess quality and see if it still fits the desired goals and intended purposes.

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UNF’s Institutional Tagline

Note: The submission deadline for the special issue JCA is Friday, May 12th. Inquiries and submissions are to be sent to the special issue’s guest editor, Dr. Jason Lee.

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