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Archive for April, 2013


Apr 01 2013

10th Annual SEME Conference – The Scoop

by at 1:05 pm

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So, on the 22nd and 23rd of March I had the great opportunity to be part of the Sports Events Marketing Experience at Nationals Park, in D.C. This was the 10th time the conference had been held at Nats Park, and was once again sold out. Given that the conference featured a wealth of influential sports executives from numerous leagues, sports and companies (including the NBA, NFL, MLB, UnderArmour, Red Bull, ESPN, the USOC…etc), this was an absolute goldmine for networking potential. And as the adage goes for someone trying to get a job in professional sports;


“It’s not what you know, but who you know”


The SEME conference was a student-run event, hosted by Georgetown University’s Sports Industry Management program. I made the very wise decision to be part of the social media team, given that once each executive had finished giving a speech or being part of a panel, I was afforded additional one-on-one time to interview them-once they had successfully passed through the gauntlet of eager audience members seeking their advice and business cards.


And no wonder why. My first interview was with the Chief Marketing Officer of the NFL, Mark Waller. As a fellow Brit, I wanted to ask Mr. Waller about the global impact of the NFL, as well as potential plans to move an NFL team overseas. Whilst he didn’t mention any teams in particular, Waller was quick to point out that every preseason and regular season game that has been hosted at Wembley Stadium in London has sold out, including the two scheduled for the 2013-14 season, with the Steelers and Vikings playing on September 29th, followed by the 49ers and Jaguars on October 27th. Taking these sell-outs as a clear indication of the popularity of the NFL in Europe, Waller said that it may not be too hard to imagine a franchise being moved overseas in the near-future.


But how could they compete with the Premier League? The iconic and most recognized soccer league in the world has a cult following in England, television rights worth $4.5 billion, and is home to the world’s richest sports team, Manchester United. In London alone (where any potential NFL team would surely be based) there are currently 5 Premier League teams, each having games on either a Saturday, Sunday, or during the week. How could a new team break into this market, sell tickets, and generate fan loyalty?


The NFL has slowly tried to make their game a familiarity overseas, so when the time came, a team in Europe wouldn’t seem so foreign (every pun intended here). This started with the American Bowl, a series of pre-season exhibition games held across Europe, as well as Japan, Canada and Mexico, where in 1997, the largest crowd in NFL history (112,376) attended a game between the Dallas Cowboys and Houston Oilers. There was also the unsuccessful attempt to implement a league abroad, NFL Europe, which operated from 1991 until 2007 when the NFL announced a shift in international strategy to focus on presenting regular-season games at international locations.


There is no doubt that to compete with the Premier League would me a monumental task, one that I believe could never be achieved. However, as Waller pointed out, the popularity for the NFL in England (and Europe) has clearly grown, and having a new team in London would certainly be a commodity and provide a new experience for sports fans across Europe. In this sense, I do believe that the NFL is on to something, but the basic questions of which team would move and when are still very much up in the air. For now, Europe isn’t going anywhere. The NFL may very well be.


Following my interview with Mark Waller, I had successive interviews with Peggy Frazier-Senior Director of Global Acquisition and Onboarding at UnderArmour, and Jenner Richard, Athlete Marketing at Red Bull North America. Obviously, both individuals are with internationally renowned companies, and both spoke of the growing trend of the sports industry to utilize social media, as well as have a major presence internationally. Red Bull, of course, needs no help to market themselves. Their list of accomplishments, sponsorships and affiliations is endless, but to suffice it to say that owning two Formula 1 teams, an MLS team, sponsoring numerous X Games athletes as well as a mental German who jumped from space means that the brand speaks from itself. As Mr. Richard said, Red Bull’s potential is endless.

As for UnderArmour, they are also a global brand (sponsoring Tottenham Hotspur from the Premier League), but without the recognition that Red Bull has garnished. Nevertheless, Ms. Frazier spoke with excitement about the potential that UnderArmour has to become the leading sports company in the next 10 years. Their most recent campaign, with the tag line “I Will”, shows a runner at the end of their T.V. commercial, wearing athletic clothing with technology embedded that shows their heart rate and can change the color scheme of their clothing. The voiceover adds that although the next big thing in sports technology isn’t available yet, it’s being developed at UnderArmour, RIGHT NOW!. The excitement Peggy Frazier has for the company is perhaps well founded, if UnderArmour is indeed brewing up something special that will ‘change the game’ as we know it.

My final two interviews were with Buffy Filippell, founder and President of TeamWork Online, and Bobby Goldwater, Principal of The Goldwater Group and a professor in the SIM program at Georgetown. With these last two speakers, I wanted to know more about what skills we as applicants and they as employers will look for, and what can make us stand out in our applications to get a career in the industry. According to Mr. Goldwater, if there was one key skill that he would value more so than any other, it would be the ability to write well. This is a skill that is highly valued in any organization, Goldwater said, and is becoming a rarity within our generation and those younger than us. Ms. Filippell also provided an excellent piece of advice, in regards to making yourself stand out from the thousands of other applicants yearning for a position. When applying, a cover letter that catches the eye of a potential employer such as Ms. Filippell contains knowledge of the company and their efforts, but also provides suggestions for new ideas or avenues that could benefit the company. This was the case for one intern amongst the thousands who applied for a position with TeamWork online, who suggested an idea to display a scoreboard style feed of the latest sports job openings on the website, and ended up getting the position.

So, these were my personal highlights from the 2013 SEME conference. I certainly learned a lot, and my time spent speaking with these sports execs was certainly invaluable. If you have the opportunity to either volunteer at next year’s event, or attend a similar one, I would highly recommend it. The people you meet and the tips you learn could end up landing you your first job in sports.

























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