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Sport Management Majors Advise AT&T on Entering eSport Arena

Published: November 09, 2018

James Weiner, assistant professor of sport management, was at the Sport Marketing Association (SMA) annual conference Oct. 24–26 in Dallas with a group of three UT juniors, Nic Freiri, Brett Felton and Brad Luther. They were all there to network, but also to compete in the Case Study Bowl for undergraduates.

Sport Marketing Association case study competition
Brett Felton ’19, Nic Freiri ’20 and Brad Luther ’20, along with faculty member James Weiner, assistant professor of sport management, attended the Sport Marketing Association (SMA) annual conference Oct. 24-26 in Dallas, TX.

The morning after the group’s competition, where they had performed strongly but didn’t advance to the finals, Weiner texted them to meet up for breakfast, thinking they’d be ready for a low-key day after weeks of nonstop preparation for the competition.

“They said, ‘We're watching the winning group right now and taking notes,’” Weiner said. “I told them, ‘You had a good time, you worked hard, you haven't slept in two days.’ I had told them to just relax, sleep in, get some food, enjoy the conference. Now they can relax and exhale. And they didn't. They got up and watched all the winning groups, took notes on them and are going to come back and win next year.”

Freiri, a sport management major of Los Gatos, CA, said they wanted to learn as much as they could to strengthen their own presentation for next year.

“We take pride in representing UT and want to do the best job possible.”

It just made sense to do that, said Luther, a sport management major with a minor in marketing, of Palm City, FL. They are competitive and want to improve.

“It would be ridiculous to be content with losing and allow no room for growth and development,” Luther said. “Being our first year competing, we had a lot to learn, and there are things that we could polish and add for next year. By watching the winners, we were able to gather notes and resources, so we will be in a position to bring the trophy to UT next year.”

The Case Study Bowl, presented by the Aspire Group, asks undergraduate students to apply the concepts learned in their sport management classes to solve real-world problems. The topic of this competition was on AT&T’s recent acquisition of the eSport company ESL. AT&T worked with SMA to create a case study focused on helping AT&T understand the eSport space and how to align ESL with the company’s entire portfolio.

“This was a real problem that they had, and they gave our students a chance to try and tackle it,” said Weiner, noting that the panel of judges for the competition included executives from Complexity Gaming, one of the premier eSport organizations, sport marketing firm Wasserman, a vice president of AT&T and some of the premiere eSport researchers in the field.

“Everything we've taught them in class — Dr. Margaret Tudor actually teaches them marketing — everything she's taught them about consumer behavior and branding and marketing, they're going to remember forever through this case study,” said Weiner.

Sport Marketing Association case study competition
Freiri, Luther and Felton, who toured the Dallas Cowboys practice facility, were so impacted by the case study challenge that they plan to return next year to bring the trophy back to UT.

It was UT’s first time in the SMA competition, competing against larger schools such as the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Indiana State University, the University of Texas, the University of Massachusetts and Southern Methodist University, to name a few of the 13 schools represented, both nationally and internationally.

Jason Simmons, former UT faculty member now at the University of Cincinnati, who is vice president of student affairs for the Sport Marketing Association, said the students represented UT well.

“The University of Tampa team was very impressive, both from a case presentation perspective and from a professional point of view. The team received high marks in creativity and originality from judges representing the eSports industry in the Dallas area,” said Simmons. “Beyond their performance though, the UT students were active participants at the conference, sitting in on the case study bowl finals, attending scholarly research presentations and sitting in on practitioner best practices sessions. They networked with faculty and students from other schools and made connections with sport industry professionals.”

To receive funding for the conference fees and travel, Weiner approached the Office of Undergraduate Research and Inquiry, as well as the dean of the College of Natural and Health Sciences, Paul Greenwood, who he said “was so enthusiastic and so supportive of this. The commitment that he had to allowing our undergraduate students to have this experience was amazing. I'm blown away at how supportive and energetic and easy it was to get the opportunity to do this.”

The experience, including a tour of the Dallas Cowboys’ state-of-the-art practice facility, will leave imprints both academically and professionally.

“This was a great professional experience in regards to networking, presentation skills and knowledge acquired from listening to the presentations that the conference offered,” said Felton, a sport management major of St. Louis, MO. “Personally, it was just a fun and exciting opportunity getting to be in that atmosphere and getting to experience some of what the Dallas Cowboys had to offer.”

 Sport Marketing Association case study competition
“This was a great professional experience in regards to networking, presentation skills and knowledge acquired from listening to the presentations that the conference offered,” said Felton, right. “Personally, it was just a fun and exciting opportunity getting to be in that atmosphere and getting to experience some of what the Dallas Cowboys had to offer.”

The plan is to compete in Chicago in next year’s SMA competition, but they also are considering how to start a sport management case study team as a student organization to be able to compete at multiple competitions throughout the year.

“This team highlights what makes our sport management program unique here. The program has one of the strongest commitments to experiential education I've ever seen,” Weiner said. “Between our internships, our practicums, the volunteer opportunities that we provide, the trips that we provide to go on tour and network with industry professionals, it’s unbelievable how effective and how strong this department’s commitment to experiential education is.”


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