Editor’s Note: This post is the second in a series of entries chronicling a recent study tour by first-year MBA’s from the Warsaw Sports Marketing Center, who spent the first week of spring term visiting the offices of nine major sports properties in San Francisco. The San Francisco study tour is an annual Warsaw Center trip that exposes students to a variety of sports agencies, teams, corporations and product companies in the Bay Area, providing excellent opportunities for experiential learning and networking.
Following an action-packed first day in San Francisco, we were allowed to sleep in just a bit as we prepared for another event-filled day in the Bay. After meeting in the hotel lobby at 10:15, we headed over to nearby AT&T Park, home of the reigning World Champion San Francisco Giants. We arrived a few minutes before our meeting was set to start, which gave us time to pose for photos with the Willie Mays statue in front of the beautiful waterfront ballpark.
At 11 o’clock, we were greeted by a Giants representative, who led us inside the park and into one of the press rooms, where we were greeted by Tom McDonald, Executive Vice President for Consumer Marketing, and Jeff Tucker, Vice President of Sales, both University of Oregon alumni. Tucker began with a presentation on the Giants’ dynamic ticket pricing strategy. Back in 2009, the Giants teamed up with start-up software company Qcue to test out a pilot program of 2,000 seats in the View Reserved and Bleacher seats. Given the success of the test run, they went on to dynamically price the entire venue for the 2010 season. The Giants turned out to be trailblazers in this respect, as many other professional teams across various sports have moved to this model since then.
After Tucker’s presentation, we heard from McDonald, who talked to us about the Giants brand marketing campaigns, using the similarly themed slogans from the past few years, “Together We’re Giant”, “Together Again,” and “Together We’re Champions”. He discussed the concept of the club not only as a baseball team, but as an entertainment company, and explained how they have been able to leverage their two World Series wins by taking the trophies on nationwide tours. He highlighted their commitment to customer service and how everyone in the organization views the club as a “community trust”, to ensure that they serve the best interests of the entire community. To wrap things up, he showed us commercials from this season’s marketing campaign, which uses players to communicate the club’s strategies.
We climbed back into the vans for a drive down Highway 101 to Redwood City, home of video game giants EA Sports. We were welcomed by the President of the company, Peter Moore, and a trio of Warsaw Alums in Dave Rosen, Director of eCommerce Partner Marketing for EA, Tabitha Hayes, Director of Online Marketing for EA, and Tyler Vaught, Product Marketing Manager at Sony. The main topic of discussion circled around the changing platform of video games, as they move from chips to digital and focus more on in-game add-ons to enhance the digital experience. They provided several examples of this within their own games, including the “Origin” platform, which is the new name of their online store, and the popular player trading cards in FIFA 2013, which allows video gamers to build a dream team of soccer players from around the world.
We then headed further south to the HP Pavilion to meet with Malcolm Bordelon, the Vice President of Business Operations for the San Jose Sharks, who gave us a well-rounded view of the club’s front office operations and touched on a current public relations issue within the organization. That very morning, the team had traded for Raffi Torres, widely known around the league for his tough guy reputation and previously despised by Sharks fans for having injured a couple of the team’s players. It was an intriguing real-time opportunity for us to see how a professional organization deals with such matters. Following our discussion, Bordelon presented us with San Jose Sharks hats, key chains, and “Sharks Territory” placards. We then moved from the offices to the stands to watch the Sharks take down the Minnesota Wild, 4-2, in an exciting game. Worn out from the long day, we loaded up the vehicles once again and headed back to San Francisco for a quick night’s rest as we prepared for another day of visits on Thursday.