|Publication:||Name: Sport Marketing Quarterly Publisher: Fitness Information Technology Inc. Audience: Academic Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Sports and fitness Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2009 Fitness Information Technology Inc. ISSN: 1061-6934|
|Issue:||Date: Sept, 2009 Source Volume: 18 Source Issue: 3|
|Topic:||Event Code: 540 Executive changes & profiles|
|Organization:||Organization: Duquesne University|
|Persons:||Named Person: Dick, Ronald|
|Geographic:||Geographic Scope: United States Geographic Code: 1USA United States|
Name: Ronald Dick
Title: Assistant Professor, Duquesne University
Education: EdD, Temple University; MBA, St. Joseph's University
Career: Assistant Professor, James Madison University
Associate Professor, University of New Haven
Assistant athletics director for ticket operations, University of Houston
Director of athletics and assistant dean for student athletic programs, Marian College (WI)
Director of sales, New Jersey Nets
Director of group sales, Philadelphia 76ers
You have been on the academic side for about a decade. What led you to make the decision to leave the practitioner side?
During my tenure with the Philadelphia 76ers from 1982-1996, I had the opportunity to wear a lot of different hats in terms of my responsibilities, and one of those was getting out and speaking to college students as the guest professor for a day.
There was a growing curiosity among faculty and students about what goes on in the business side of the sports world, and how a person gets his or her foot in the door. A typical speaking engagement involved explaining how I started with the Sixers, what a normal day was like with an NBA team, and what advice could I offer a young person looking to break into the executive sports field.
Each and every time I came away from the experience feeling good about being the guest professor for the day. I liked it immediately, but the decision to change careers was a gradual one.
What have the benefits been for you as a professor, having worked in the industry for as long as you did?
My 25 years of combined experience in the business and academic side of sports have been priceless in terms of preparing me to be an effective college sport marketing professor.
In class it's important to cite practical real life examples. When students see the connection between the class discussion and what they will encounter in their careers, they pay closer attention and retain the knowledge. When a 24-year-old former student calls me and says the role playing we did in class prepared them for a situation they saw in their current job, I know I am doing my job.
That moment is why I became, and remain today, a college professor.
What was the biggest adjustment coming to the academic side?
The three components of a college professor's job are research, teaching, and service.
Service was an easy adjustment; I was built to work 70-plus hours a week during the sport season. Teaching--the ability to communicate clearly and interestingly--was also an easy adjustment. Once I learned the science of writing a course outline and a class lesson plan, the rest came naturally.
However, the research component was more of a challenge. I remember my first academic conference was in June of 2001, the North American Society for Sport Management (NASSM) in Norfolk, Virginia, sponsored by Old Dominion University. I thought it would be like a trade show or expo. When I saw all the academic research that was being presented, I was floored. It was overwhelming, but exciting at the same time. I wanted to present the following year at the 2002 NASSM conference in Calgary, Canada. I presented research from my dissertation involving marketing techniques used to increase home game attendance that were used by NBA directors of marketing.
That presentation led to a published referred journal article. The articles I write are articles I would like to read as a practitioner. I have been fortunate to collaborate with more theoretically grounded colleagues on projects in which we have attempted to combine their "theoretical" expertise with my "practical" experience and bridge the gap between theory and practice.
There is always the call for more collaboration between the academics and practitioners. What needs to be done to make it happen more often?
Academics need to stop forcing a hypothesis down the throat of a practitioner. Academics need to say, "How can I help you?" Academics need to understand that in the world of practitioners, time is money.
We live in a capitalistic society. So after a three-hour meeting, when an academic says that, "The conclusion is, there is no conclusion, but, ha, we added to the body of knowledge," that type of research is poisonous to a practitioner.
Practitioners can help this process by better explaining what they want from the academic community. Practitioners need to be more patient with academics and understand that many academics have the time and the intelligence to research and think through many business situations.
What was the impetus behind starting Bridging the Gap? Was there and is there a need? What do you focus on?
Bridging the Gap is a company comprised of Dr. Richard Southall, assistant professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Mr. Jim Van Stone, vice president of sales for the Washington Capitals; and myself.
We identified a need for college students in the area of sport sales and revenue production. Many of the students' first jobs are in sales. There are still limited courses in the sport management curriculum. Many sport management professors recognize they may not have sport-sales expertise, but still want to prepare their students for this specialized facet of the sport industry. To address this need we have developed a 2-3 day intensive sales-training academy in which we bridge the gap between theory and practice, practice and faculty, faculty and students, and students and jobs. We focus on sales-skill development. We work for and with faculty and students to give them the edge they need to get a job in the sport industry. The unique thing about Bridging the Gap is we come to individual campuses and individualize each program to address individual faculty members and students' needs.
What traits do you look for in an aspiring sport marketer/sales person?
The questions I'm asking an applicant are: Have you had a sports internship? Do you have a college degree? Are you open minded to relocating? Will you work long hours without complaining? Do you believe in yourself--meaning all things being equal would you bet on yourself?
Can you and will you do the following: Renew former customers, create new customers, sell more products to current customers, solve problems and provided service for current customers, build relationship marketing, provide marketing research data, both formal and informal, for the company? And, will you canvass--the physical act of going out into an area to search for new clients?
What advice would you give to a practitioner out there who is considering becoming a professor?
First, I would go to the local university or college and seek out the dean in the School of Business. I would introduce myself and present my cover letter, vitae, and references.
The practitioner should be an adjunct professor. In many cases, the dean will be excited to have a practitioner on campus. If teaching the course results in a win-win-win situation for the practitioner, students, and university, it will work.
Then get a doctorate. The doctorate is the terminal degree. A practitioner will not be fully accepted by certain academics until he or she has the terminal degree. Remember the rule of thumb, it normally takes two or three teaching positions until the practitioner finally finds the right academic fit. I am living proof of that theory.
When you were at James Madison, you initiated a bullpen for sales with your students for football and basketball tickets. How did you get buy in from athletics? What did athletics get out of it? What did your students get out of it?
I was a season ticket holder for James Madison University football and basketball. There were many student-athletes that were sport management majors. I could speak the athletic department language. The associate director of athletics for marketing in the athletics department wanted to increase ticket sales, but did not have the resources to add a bullpen telemarketing campaign.
I signed a contract with the athletics department that provided 20% commission on all sales that would be used to pay for the use of the 15 phones that were part to the development department of JMU and academic sport conference traveling budget.
The athletics department received more than $10,000 worth of new ticket sales in our 10 days of calling. The calling occurred in late May and June when historically the athletics department sells very few tickets.
Most importantly, the students gained real life learning that they could place on their resumes. Many of the students were surprised that so many potential employers asked them about their sales experience in the "bullpen."
Many students come to college knowing they would like to work in sports, but they do not know what department. After the bullpen experience, everyone in the room has a taste of sport sales. Some students liked the taste, while other students didn't.
Most importantly, everyone has learned something about himself or herself. There is no doubt there is growth in the area of thinking, reading, writing, and speaking. But with the "bullpen" the growth was quick and we witnessed students morph right in front of us. It was a very satisfying experience.
What are some of the trends you see emerging in the sport marketing field in the next 10 years?
I think the price of tickets and players' salaries will flatten out. Technology will continue to grow with the NFL, NBA, and NFL embracing StubHub the same way MLB has used it.
We will see a dip in the construction of new arenas and stadiums after 2010. All of the sports teams will continue to market their product globally through television, apparel, and games played in other countries.
You were in the NBA more than 25 years ago. What has been the single biggest change you have seen in the marketing of the teams and league?
The salaries of the players, coaches, and value of the teams have exploded. The 80/20 rule was in effect. Eighty percent of our revenue came from 20% of our clients, which were four full season ticket holders. With the season ticket base eroding, the marketing of group sales and individual ticket holders will have to increase.
The single biggest change has been the marketing of the NBA globally with more players who were born outside of the United States.
You have done some interesting research on promotional strategies, consumer behavior, etc. Of the research you have done, what study do you think would most benefit a sport organization and why?
In the NBA, we studied the most effective techniques that were used by the directors of marketing. The most important information was that sports are cyclical. There are good and bad years for all sport franchises. It is important not to sell out all of your seats with season tickets, even if you can. Pull some seats back for the group sales leaders and individual buyer at full price. This idea of selling to other consumers who cannot afford the cost of season tickets will broaden your fan base. You will need these consumers/fans during the down cycle of your product/team.
Who are the innovators out there in sport marketing? I believe there are a lot of vice presidents of marketing and sales who are doing great jobs. In the recent recession, the challenges to reach sales goals have been more difficult than ever. Some of the innovators and rising stars in the future are as follows: Scott O'Neil, president, Madison Square Garden; Jim Van Stone, vice president of sales, Washington Capitals; and Scott Loft, vice president of tickets sales and services, Miami Dolphins.
If you were offered the chance to go back to the practitioner side, what would the position be and why?
I would not return as a full-time practitioner. I enjoy the opportunity to work with young people, training them how to sell, and further their careers as a sports executive with our company, Bridging the Gap. I have the best of both worlds!
Interview conducted by Dr. Matthew Robinson, University of Delaware
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