Students in Gannon University’s sport management and marketing program have hit the big leagues.
As part of the 2014 College Ticket Sales Training Program, they’re collaborating with the Cleveland Indians to gain practical knowledge and a shot at a job in the Major League Baseball industry.
At the beginning of the semester, students in two classes – principles of sport marketing and sport facility and event management – were divided into teams of four and tasked with selling 500 Indians game-day tickets.
Eric Brownlee, Ph.D., an assistant professor of management and the instructor of both courses, said that he chose to get his students involved in the program because he saw it as a unique opportunity. Brownlee also said that although he can teach fundamentals in a classroom, nothing substitutes for firsthand experience.
“This project is not only a great real-world learning experience,” Brownlee said, “but it forces students to step outside their comfort zone and get experience with a Major League Baseball team that they can put on their resume.”
He said it’s crucial that students understand current trends in the industry and be able to interact with professionals.
“For instance,” he said, “MLB is instituting dynamic ticket pricing that changes ticket prices based on real time factors like matchups, star players, ticket availability, etc., and students get to see this firsthand with this project.”
To sell as many tickets as possible, students are utilizing a variety of platforms and techniques, such as social media, direct selling and group sales. They’re concentrating primarily on company outings, which often take place at sporting events and have been shown to foster productivity among coworkers.
The group that creates the most effective strategies – and sells the highest number of tickets – will earn interviews with the Indians’ own sales department.
Gannon is one of 10 colleges represented in the program, along with Mercyhurst University, Lake Erie College, Kent State University and others in the region.
On Saturday, 21 Gannon students visited Cleveland’s Progressive Field for an advanced training session, where they attended panels that focused on breaking into the sports industry. They gained valuable knowledge and made contacts for future internship and job possibilities, Brownlee said.
Alex O’Donnell, a junior business administration major and student in the principles of sports marketing class, said the project has been extremely rewarding thus far.
“Selling tickets for a minor league sports team would be a very difficult task due to the limited market,” O’Donnell said, “but selling tickets for an established brand such as the Cleveland Indians has made selling much more exciting and diverse.”
He said he’s been picking up new sales tactics and having fun in the process.
“As a sports fan, I look forward every time I pick up the phone or contact a client and sell the experience of a professional sports game,” he said.
In fact, O’Donnell said he wouldn’t mind accepting a full-time position with a big-name team like the Indians.
“It would be a dream come true to work for such a recognizable team such as the Cleveland Indians,” he said. “Meeting some of the sales staff of the Cleveland Indians and hearing their testimonies really inspired me to pursue a career in sports business, whether it be sales or some other aspect of business.”
O’Donnell said he plans to earn an MBA at Gannon before pursuing an internship with a professional sports team or an NCAA Division I college team. He said he hopes his involvement in the Indians’ ticket sales program will help him develop a more well-rounded business perspective.
“Working directly with sales has helped me understand real-life situations and challenges that you must overcome to succeed,” he said. “I hope to learn how to be a more efficient salesman and learn more in depth how to break into the difficult industry of sports marketing.