He Shoots, He Sells!

by Amanda Keys

Attention, sports fans: ESPN SportsCenter is coming to Hankamer. Well… not quite. However, the new Sports Sponsorship & Sales Center will look a lot like that famed television studio, with an academic twist. Instead of serving as a forum for sports fans arguing about the latest controversial call, Hankamer’s version will be designed for Sports Sponsorship & Sales (S3) majors to use in preparation for their careers.

“We offer the only university program that is anything like this,” Kirk Wakefield, associate professor and chair of the department of marketing, said. “This facility will allow us to teach the classes the way they need to be taught.”

Indeed, the S3 major has several unique needs. From the beginning of the program, students are taught that the foot-in-the-door job in sports sponsorships is inside sales. As lecturer Darryl Lehnus so eloquently puts it, that means headset-monitor-cubicle. To that end, part of the facility will be devoted to a call center, equipped with the aforementioned tools.

“Our advisory board has told us that it makes all the difference in the world for people to walk into the job the first day and say, ‘where are the phones?’ instead of asking, ‘ohh, I have to work phones?’” Lehnus said. “This is the foot-in-the-door to work up to corporate or outside sales.”

But the training S3 offers is not just practice. The call center will be used for real-life purposes, as students in one of Lehnus’ classes sell Texas Rangers tickets each spring. At the Rangers’ office, they keep daily tabs of the top sellers on the wall for all to see, and working on the phones helps students hone their selling skills so they can be at the top of such a wall. The S3 program works with its advisory board, which consists of executives from all of Texas’ major league teams in addition to a few other teams, as well as corporations that are athletics sponsors, to guarantee internships to all S3 majors. The new Center will ensure that every student is prepared to be among the best salespeople at these teams and companies.

“We know the teams look for someone who knows how to do the job—they aren’t as concerned that you know the sport well,” Wakefield noted. “These jobs are about selling entertainment, and they want to know that you have that interest and capability in sales.”

A SportsCenter-style desk will be incorporated into the more traditional classroom area of the S3 Center, providing space appropriate for role-playing activities that will help students learn how to build the relationships that result in high sales numbers. Sports memorabilia provided by some of the S3 advisory board will decorate the Center, reminding students of what they are working toward: a career that provides the lifeline for professional athletics. Sponsorships and ticket sales are key to success in the sports business, and the new Center will provide students the groundwork they need to prosper and work their way up in sports sales.

“All of the different facilities in the new Center will improve every student’s ability to go out in the work force and be successful,” Todd Pollock, an S3 senior from York, Maine, said. “In addition, it will enable the program to have its own identity in the business school and certainly be the most envied of all majors.”

Though the major only began in 2004, with its first students slated to graduate in August 2006 after completing their internships, the program is quite sought after and boasts the highest GPA average in the School of Business. After applying the spring of their sophomore year, only 20 students are accepted each year. Students take all of their S3 classes together, providing them with a close network of colleagues that will be crucial to success in an industry quite dependent upon business relationships and connections.

“People often are hired by who they know in sports, so students in our program get a shot that others don’t,” Wakefield explained. “Sponsorships are about relationships—hoping the affinity the fan has for a team transfers to the sponsor. That’s an intangible, and we are trying to make it more tangible through our work at the S3 Center.”

In addition to making concrete the relationship between sports and sponsors, the S3 Center will cement its place in the industry.

“Baylor clearly is a leader in this field, and we need something that shows our leadership,” Wakefield said. “We really need facilities that match the quality of our program.”

The School of Business plans to juxtapose the S3 Center alongside the new Southwest Securities Financial Markets Center on the Cashion Academic Center side of Hankamer, giving visitors an impressive view of Baylor.

“The Sports Sponsorship & Sales Center will serve as a prominent fixture for the program for years to come,” Pollock said. “It will be a great attraction to potential Baylor students, and it will serve as a great academic learning device for students in the program. It is something that is vital and will be outstanding for the university.”

Baylor Business Review, Spring 2006

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