Learning Lessons and Breaking Records

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This post is part of the #YPSportsChat Blog Series! This series will give young professionals an inside look at the intricacies of the sports business world and advice on how to navigate it.

By: Morgan Talbot, @MorganLTalbot

Breaking records is never easy, but when accomplished it is always a great feeling. Image via John Hardin

Interning in an athletic department is an incredible experience. When I was first hired at Utah State Athletics, the spring semester of my freshman year, I wasn’t exactly sure what working in sports would entail. Two years later, working for the athletic department has provided me with many great opportunities, that have not only made my college experience one I won’t forget but have helped me with my future careers goals.

Because working in sports offers so many great experiences, I feel it’s important to try and take advantage of as many as you can. To me, this means being open to helping with any task whether its implementing a big promotion at a football game or placing promotional yard signs out around campus. However, it also means to not be afraid to take initiative and to seek greater responsibilities.

Over the last two years of my internship I have had a very well rounded experience, which includes but is not limited to, running video boards at football/basketball, executing promotions, playing music, touring an NBA arena, and even assisting with coordinating a helicopter flyover for a pregame show. However, there is one experience that stands out from the rest, being the lead over my very own sport.

A little over a year into my time at Utah State Athletics I was given the opportunity to be a Lead Marketing Student Intern and to oversee women’s soccer. The summer before the fall semester began I spent almost every day in the office preparing a marketing plan for the upcoming season. This meant collaborating with the coaches and meeting with a full-time staff member of the athletic department. After meeting with the coaches and discussing it with the Assistant A.D. of Marketing, we decided this was going to be a big year for women’s soccer and that we were going to attempt to break the single game attendance record.

After these meetings, I was very excited for the upcoming season, and had a lot of ideas that I wanted to create and implement. It was around this time that I learned how difficult it could be to develop a marketing plan with a small budget. However, I also learned how effective marketing isn’t determined by the amount of money you spend, but by the strategic plan you implement and execute. After carefully allotting the budget to various giveaways and promotional items, the season long promotion of, “Freebie Friday” was created. “Freebie Friday” is where the first one hundred fans to every home Friday game would receive a free item, which varied each week. Over the course of the season this helped incentivize women’s soccer fans to attend our games.

The first game of the season was against our in-state rival, the University of Utah. Naturally, this was picked to be our target game to break the attendance record. Leading up to the game, we executed several marketing campaigns to achieve this goal. First, we approached incoming freshman during their orientation class and invited them to come because they were on campus before the rest of our student body. In addition, we had an athletics staff and student athlete barbecue in one of the parking lots prior to the game. Once everything was counted, we ended up breaking the attendance record! Even though it was the first game of the year and there was still much left to do, it felt like a great accomplishment from the hard work that I had put forth in the summer.

After the first game, my mind immediately switched to the rest of the season and the tasks that were ahead of me. With State having a smaller staff, many of the major marketing elements fell on me. From overseeing the marketing standpoint of the social pages to designing video board graphics and even writing the PA scripts and even implementing game day promotions, I hand my hands full throughout the season.

Looking back, I have never worked harder in my life than during this year’s women’s soccer season. I quickly learned how much effort and time is put into creating a good fan experience and executing marketing plans. Not only was I able to see my own work come to fruition, but I was able to learn so much by confiding in my co-workers and the full-time staff for advice and assistance. While it was one of the most challenging things I have ever done, it was also one of the most fulfilling.

Overall, I am very proud of the goals we accomplished during the women’s soccer season. We increased overall attendance by 48% and broke the single game attendance record not once, but twice. The team had a successful year, and noticed how much more support they were receiving from the fans in the community along with students. While the season was not without its challenges and mistakes, I learned so much from this experience and I am continually grateful I was given this opportunity. I advise everyone who works in an athletic department to never quit looking for these opportunities, and if you’re ever given the chance to assume more responsibility, take it.