Monday, May 3, 2010

Sparking the LA Sparks

By Tana Prosper (SMBA '11)

For the past 4 months, Danielle Arrington and I have had the unique opportunity to work alongside the WNBA’s Los Angeles Sparks to help promote their 1st exhibition game of the season vs. the Chinese National team at SDSU’s Viejas Arena. Throughout the course of these four months, Danielle and I worked on several marketing initiatives to help get the word out about the game. These initiatives included developing and managing lead lists for prospective partnerships and sponsorship opportunities, developing a marketing strategy targeting WNBA fans in San Diego and manning LA Sparks information booths at various events in the San Diego area. During this planning process Danielle and I also had the opportunity to get involved in a couple brainstorming sessions and meetings with the Sparks’ staff, including the Sparks’ Chief Marketing Officer, Lindsay Amstutz; Manager of Ticket Sales, Benny Garcia; and Manager of Strategic Partnerships, Jeri Ramos. We also had the chance to pick the brains of local marketing masterminds, such as SDSU’s own Bernie Schrader.

After months of planning, game day finally arrived. Danielle and I would not only get to see our work come to fruition, but also we’d get to experience another side of the business—the game operations side. A couple of our SMBA classmates (Alyssa Boyd, Krista Washington and Tariq Virani) also volunteered their services. The SMBA crew would be helping with various prep and in-game tasks throughout the day.

The afternoon began with the AVID Student Leadership Conference. AVID stands for Advancement via Individual Determination and it is a 30-year-old, non-profit college readiness system that prepares underserved (predominantly minority and economically disadvantaged) students for college. The purpose of the conference was to provide AVID students with leadership tools via college and career awareness and motivational speakers and activities. The students sat in on a panel discussion hosted by LA Sparks President Kristin Bernert. The panel included Beth Burns, SDSU’s Head Women’s Basketball Coach, two SDSU women’s basketball players, Paris Johnson and Coco Davis, and WNBA owner Kathy Goodman. The panel tackled a plethora of issues, such as leadership, peer pressure, academics, and keys to success. The AVID students also got the opportunity to have a Question and Answer session with the panel. Following the panel discussion, the AVID students moved on to the college fair at the Viejas Arena corridor where representatives from various Southern California colleges and universities were in attendance. The AVID students also got to stick around for the game and got on-court recognition during the pre-game festivities. For the first half of the day, my fellow classmates and I helped with check-in and registration of the AVID conference attendees, ushering the 341 AVID students to their seats and microphone management.

After the college fair, it was game time. This was the moment where our classmates had to prove our value to the Sparks. We assisted with pretty much all the game time activities and events prior to, during, and after the game, including the floor execution of pregame giveaways, the national anthem, assisting the mascot, in-game giveaways, game timeout entertainment, contests, dance teams, and autograph sessions.

It was really interesting to see how all hands were on deck during game day. Everyone in the Sparks’ organization from the President to the Graphic Artist contributed to making sure that all aspects of the game went off without a hitch.

Needless to say, the game day operations were pretty flawless and, more importantly, the Sparks beat the Chinese National Team 78-58. I think that I speak for all my classmates when I say working with the Sparks was a great experience. We all got an up close and personal look at what goes on behind the scenes at a professional basketball game, as well as the business side of marketing. Take heed world, “we got next!”

On a side note, one of the most inspirational moments of Saturday’s game was seeing the Senior Women’s National Team play 3-on-3 basketball at halftime. The Senior Women’s Basketball league is a league for women 50 and older. As they played, Jay Z’s “Forever Young” played in the background. Watching them was truly an inspiration and gave me hope that I can continue to live my Hoop Dreams well into my golden years.

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