The Catholic University of America

April 20, 2010

Sports Marketing Students Go Out to the Ballgame at Nationals Park

  John Buehler gets advice on careers in sports marketing from Nationals Park marketing staff.

From the time he was 12, senior John Buehler from Cincinnati, Ohio, knew that his dream was to become general manager for the Cincinnati Reds.

“Sports is not even a passion of mine,” he says, “it’s an obsession.” During Christmas break, Buehler sent a job application to every professional sports team in the country.

This semester, Buehler, a marketing major, is one of 40 students taking a class that he hopes will further his dream: Sports Marketing, one of the required classes for CUA’s new sports marketing minor.

“Sports marketing and sports management is a rapidly growing business in the U.S. and around the world,” says Andrew Abela, chair of the Department of Business and Economics. CUA added this minor in sports marketing because, he says, “Our job is to prepare students for careers they are interested in and that are relevant in the business world today.”

As part of the course, Adjunct Professor Steward McHie invited CUA almnus Dan Evans, owner and managing partner of Beyond Sports, LLC, of Leesburg, Va., to share insights on opportunities in sports marketing. In March the class visited ESPN Zone to learn more about spectators and consumers. On April 19, the class visited Nationals Park to learn more about corporate sponsorships.

Visitors to Nationals Park encounter the Exxon Strikezone, the Geico Presidents Race, the Harris Teeter Fan of the Game and the PNC Diamond Club. But how (and why) do these companies become involved with a stadium, McHie asked his students.

After taking a tour of Nationals Park students met with Nationals’ marketing staff who talked about different types of sponsorship deals there and why the companies, and the Nationals, are interested in these partnerships, and how they work together for the benefit of both team and sponsor.

Professor Stewart McHie talks to students about the Exxon Strikezone at Nationals Park.
In the case of ExxonMobil, a sponsorship that McHie negotiated during his tenure with the company as brand manager, one of the company’s core values is energy efficiency, and Nationals Park is the first LEED-certified baseball stadium in the United States. Both entities’ energy-conscious ways are highlighted in the Exxon Strikezone.

Students also learned from the marketing staff about how they got their jobs in sports marketing.

Following the formal presentation by the staff, Buehler was able to talk one-on-one with Allison Ginham, director of partner service, and Whitney Dedon, representative of partner service.

“This is an incredibly difficult business to get into,” he says. “Any time I can meet people in sports and get a feel for what they do and how they do it — this has been a great opportunity for me.”

Buehler said that while some students might be reluctant to talk to executives, “I’ve got nothing to lose. They’ll tell me how to be successful and I’ll take that any day of the week.

After class in a suite, students headed down to the stands to watch Monday night’s game, which featured two double plays — more precisely, two Flippin Pizza “Flippin Double Plays,” — helping the Nats win over the Colorado Rockies.