11 high school seniors from the Bryan/College Station area were given a weekend of hands-on experience in the sports marketing field as part of the Center for Sport Management Research and Education’s (CSMRE) inaugural Sport Marketing Summit.
Dr. Gregg Bennett, professor and director of the CSMRE, developed a curriculum based on branding theory with a specific focus on sports brands. The students were split into groups to work on a case study throughout the summit involving Brycol, a website celebrating high school athletes in the Brazos Valley. They were given three tasks including a website redesign, creating a new hashtag and organizing a summer event. The ideas were presented to the group and a panel of judges at the end of the summit.
“I was real pleased with the young people the superintendents and principals picked. I thought the students did a tremendous job and they were eager to learn,” said Dr. Bennett.
During the summit, the students also heard from several leaders in the sports marketing field. Jason Cook, Senior Associate Athletics Director at Texas A&M University, served as the keynote speaker. He talked about the role of marketing in college athletics and lessons he has learned during his marketing career. Cook says it is important to think about the future, not just tomorrow. “A brand isn’t built overnight, it’s built over a series of events over time.”
“Even though I am a really big A&M fan, his presentation had many facts and details that I never knew before listening to him talk,” explained Alex Miller, a senior at College Station High School. “He gave us a feel for the exact process the university went through with the major transition to the SEC and how Texas A&M is very different as a brand now compared to five or six years ago.”
“A lot of people at this age have an interest and want to get involved in athletics but they don’t know where to go, they don’t know where to start or what areas to get involved in,” said Cook. “That’s what is great about events of this nature because they get to see all of the different opportunities that exist in college sports and get to meet people, get to do some things over the weekend, and hopefully it can spark a passion that can lead to a course of study in college and maybe even a career.”
Another highlight of the summit was Aggie alum Lee De Leon. He graduated from A&M in 2005 with a master’s in sports management and spent the last 10 years working in college athletics. In 2014, he was named as Abilene Christian University’s Athletic Director, one of the youngest in the nation.
De Leon told the students one of the most important lessons he has learned through the years is to develop great mentors, no matter their career choice. For him, having a mentor in sports marketing was life-changing. Several years ago, De Leon called Baylor’s athletic director, Ian McCaw, and asked him to be his mentor. It paid off when ACU was looking for a new athletic director and McCaw recommended him. De Leon was hired just a few months later. “Find a champion. Not just someone that answers questions and gives you advice, but someone that will go to bat for you and believe in you.”
“He had a lot of insightful advice that not only would impact sports marketers but also anyone else pursuing a career,” said Garrett Peters, a senior at A&M Consolidated High School.
The summit also featured Ivan Licon, the director of creative media for Aggie Football and the man behind AggieFBLife as well as Dr. Natasha Brison, assistant professor of sport management.
“I thought this was a great thing for our center, our department and our division to be doing,” explained Dr. Bennett. “It was great to serve our community and take what we have knowledge of and sharing it with local kids.”
“This experience, in speaking to the students, involved thinking on their feet with good strategies shared by all the groups,” said Ernest Reed, athletic director at College Station ISD. “Sports marketing has become one of the most effective of all marketing strategies and this opens the eyes in a different way for our students that participated.”
The hope is to expand the summit this summer to a national audience with 40 students taking part in a 10-day event. The goal is to partner with a corporate entity that has a stake in all of the students’ home towns to sponsor each student to attend the summit.
“It’s a cool thing for that brand because that brand is seen as producing good will. It also allows us to expose our program to those students. It will be a great recruitment tool,” explained Dr. Bennett.
For more information about the summit, visit: smsummit.tamu.edu