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By Liz Warren-Pederson

The Sports Marketing Management class at the 2010 Fiesta Bowl in Glendale, Arizona.

The Sports Marketing Management class at the 2010
Fiesta Bowl in Glendale, Arizona.

Students in adjunct instructor David Vinturella’s MGMT 355 Sports Marketing Management class dug into two substantive, real-world projects during the fall semester.

Vinturella, a Phoenix-based sports marketing professional, met with representatives from the Phoenix Suns and Tostitos Fiesta Bowlbefore teaching the class. “I asked them to tell me about a business need they had,” he explained.

With these two business needs defined, Vinturella’s 70 students split into two groups to take on the projects. The students met with representatives from the Suns and the Fiesta Bowl and then jumped in.

Jason Butler (BSBA Business Management ’11) headed the Suns team, which was challenged to sell 1,000 tickets to 20 games scheduled November-January.

“Our entire team found out just how hard it is to sell tickets, and we had to keep changing our game plan to get more orders in,” said Butler. “The games we were selling did not include big ticket nights like the Lakers, Heat, and Mavericks, so many of the games were hard to market.”

Initially, there were two competing Suns sales teams, but they combined efforts mid-semester. “Before the combining of the teams, we had only made a total of about 150 sales after more than half the semester,” Butler said. All told, by semester’s end the team had sold close to 1,300 tickets.

“Our Suns rep told me that he did not really expect us to sell 1,000 tickets, and that was just a number he thought up that the Suns would be happy with,” Butler said. “They were overwhelmed with the success we had.”

Taylor Heinlein (BSBA Marketing and Entrepreneurship ’11) headed the Fiesta Bowl team, which analyzed and made recommendations for the event’s website and developed a social media strategy. “Even with a large team of 15 people, we were able to find key roles for every single team member, in which they were able to contribute to the overall success of the project,” Heinlein said. “With such an exciting project with a real-world client, it was easy to keep the team motivated throughout the semester.”

Halfway through the semester, the Fiesta Bowl team traveled to Phoenix to present its initial results.

“Not only did this give us the chance to get to know our classmates better, but it also gave us the opportunity to practice our presentation skills and deliver our preliminary project ideas,” Heinlein said. “We were very surprised to find that within a week of our presentation, the Fiesta Bowl was already in the process of implementing some of our ideas. This gave our team a lot of motivation to make our final presentation even better.”

Fiesta Bowl staffers traveled to Tucson for the final presentation. “At the conclusion of our presentation, they expressed their gratitude for all of our hard work throughout the semester and let us know that they planned to implement some of our ideas in the future,” Heinlein said. “It was nice to know that all of our hard work paid off.”

Heinlein said her biggest takeaway from the project was the real-world experience, and Butler agreed.

“Most school projects do not allow you to actually go out there and try to sell a product or service, but only deal with ideas, planning, and what-ifs,” Butler said. “We were essentially unpaid Suns employees for the semester. For me, being the team leader really gave me an insight to how management positions work in a company. You are always going to have group members or employees who work hard and others who do not, so you will need to find ways to become more efficient and work out the kinks in order to succeed.”

“It was an honor to be able to work on a project for a client such as the Fiesta Bowl,” Heinlein said. “I have been able to discuss this project in recent job interviews, and I feel as though it helps to distinguish me from other students across the country. This project gave me the ability to improve my teamwork, presentation, and leadership skills as well as put to use the education I am receiving here at Arizona in a very relevant setting.”