Academics

Applying Learning from the Classroom: Partnering with UVA Athletics

When most people think of brand management, the first thing that comes to mind is famous brand names that we consume or use every day. I’m typing on an Apple computer, drinking Starbucks coffee, and feeding my puppy Blue Buffalo dog food. I never thought much about the intricacies of managing a brand until I started taking “Brand Management & Integrated Marketing Communication Strategy” with Professor Carrie Heilman as part of the Marketing & Management Track.

Marketing & Management Track students practicing presentations.

When most people think of brand management, the first thing that comes to mind is famous brand names that we consume or use every day. I’m typing on an Apple computer, drinking Starbucks coffee, and feeding my puppy Blue Buffalo dog food. I never thought much about the intricacies of managing a brand until I started taking “Brand Management & Integrated Marketing Communication Strategy” with Professor Carrie Heilman as part of the Marketing & Management Track.

This spring semester, we worked with UVA Athletics to strategize ways to increase ticket sales for football and women’s basketball games among various target audiences, including local Charlottesville families, UVA employees, and students. At the beginning of the course, we met with members of the UVA Athletics staff to discuss their recent internal branding project. These meetings would ensure that any future recommendations aligned with UVA Athletics’ new brand. I had previously thought ticket sales were driven simply by having a winning or losing team, but it is far more complex. Though team performance is a large part of the equation, one has to consider other factors, such as competition, desired experience, and team loyalty.

Todd Goodale headshot

Todd Goodale, Senior Associate Athletics Director for External Affairs

Our group assignment was to help UVA Athletics improve its brand image and ultimately its attendance numbers for one of these two sports. We met with Todd Goodale, Senior Associate Athletics Director for External Affairs, and his colleagues, who gave us data and information on our target markets. We then used the information to develop surveys, plan focus groups, and interview different audiences. After the information-gathering phase, our team identified specific issues and then brainstormed recommendations based on those findings.

My team worked closely to analyze survey results, hone recommendations, and develop our presentation. We had benchmark reports due throughout the semester, each building off the previous to keep us on track. First, we had to digest the current macro trends around attendance for UVA Athletics and specifically our assigned sport. Second, we conducted quantitative analysis by interviewing our target market at events held during the semester. My group interviewed professors, students, and Charlottesville residents. Last, we sent out a survey we built based on quantitative analysis that we then leveraged to create our final presentation. At the end of the semester, each team presented before Todd Goodale and other members of the UVA Athletics department. What’s really cool is that we later learned the department will actually implement one of our recommendations in the future!

This project has been an invaluable experience that I will leverage in my future marketing career. I now have experience conducting focus groups, designing surveys, running quantitative analyses, and pitching recommendations to executive leadership. The fact we were able to gain hands-on experience with a real-life consulting project for a client like UVA Athletics was so beneficial. I know that “Brand Management” and the M.S. in Commerce Program have set me up for professional success and that I am now better prepared for the workplace!

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