Marketing Students Make Major Push for Minor Leagues
A beautiful outdoor stadium, firework shows, giveaways, top baseball talent and an affiliation with the 2010 American League Champion Texas Rangers -- the Round Rock Express minor league baseball team has a lot to offer college students. Only, the trouble is, the closest university is 17 miles from the stadium and plenty of college students don't even know the team exists.
A group of marketing students at McCombs decided to turn that lack of awareness and proximity into a revenue-generating opportunity for the team.
The students tackled the challenge for Herb Miller's upper-division marketing class, but their approach and the implications are very much rooted in the real world.
“We really wanted to pick a project that we felt passionate about,” said Jessica Li, a freshman finance major who worked on the team. “Baseball is America's favorite pastime and the Round Rock Express is based in Austin. The team offers a great flexible ticket package that appealed to us.”
The Flex-Plan offers fans a $99 nine-ticket package that can be used by any person for any game and became the cornerstone of the group's marketing strategy recommendations, which they presented to team officials along with a 31-page report.
“Being members of the target market made it easier to strategize,” said government senior and project manager Charles Stephens, who petitioned McCombs to get into the course. “We were able to think about our own lives and what solutions might be effective. We were also able to easily contact other members of the Austin college community to get input.”
If You Discount It, They Will Come
Li and Stephens, joined by senior Arianne Snyder and sophomore Jenna Rapp, surveyed college students about their awareness and interest in the team, spending habits and other recreational activities. They also researched the Express' current marketing strategy and budget, developed a new plan with promotions, advertising, sales and direct marketing and outlined a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis and a financial justification.
The group estimated the market size of money spent by college students on entertainment annually in Austin is $289,125,000, and they identified UT Athletics as the Express' biggest competitor. Their plan aims to increase Flex-Plan sales by 50 percent by framing Round Rock Express games as unique experiences that, with fireworks, concerts and other extras, go beyond just baseball. The plan recommends advertising on websites such as Facebook and ESPN fantasy sports and in-person promotions at sports bars. Their research showed another key to reaching college students would be to offer food and drink coupons and Flex-Plan discounts to student organizations.
“The students clearly spent a lot of time and effort in their research, and I feel they know the product and the Express fairly well, which is extremely important,” said vice president of marketing, Laura Fragoso. She said the team was particularly excited about the idea of advertising on in-store televisions of campus-area HEB's, a store the Express already has a partnership with. They're also eager to try seasonal online advertising directed specifically at students.
“The experience is phenomenal for the students and it gives corporations an idea of the quality, competence, and skill sets of McCombs students," said Professor Miller, adding that this team exceeded expectations and put together a comprehensive report that he feels corporate executives would be excited about. "These types of projects also address Dean Gilligan’s charge to the faculty to become more engaged in local businesses in order to help to solve current business problems."
There's No 'I' in Team
Much like baseball itself, with its sacrifice bunts, steals and hit and run plays, the team thrived by piecing together the strengths of the individuals, representing various ages and backgrounds.
"Students are from different disciplines like marketing, finance, management and MIS, and have unique skill sets,” said Miller. "Bringing these different backgrounds into the project allows them to incorporate their diverse abilities to identify and help solve a marketing problem."
“As the team leader, I tried to foster the development and strengths of the underclassmen,” said Stephens. “They didn’t have as much experience with case studies or partnering with a company. So it was rewarding to see how they grew and what we were all able to accomplish.”
The students say the experience has been beneficial to them personally and to their future careers.
“Our research skills, presentation abilities, and our collaboration experience were enhanced through doing the project,” said Stephens. “I think conducting this type of research will add value to our résumés and provide us with tangible work experience to present to potential employers.”