An ongoing research-focused collaboration provides current West Virginia University Sport Management graduate students with the opportunity to work directly with sports industry specialists. Students highlighted real world business challenges as identified in the marketplace and used data and problem-solving solutions to overcome market environments, financial concerns and other complex issues.
“The relationship is designed to support students entering the industry with hands-on experience they can use to further their career path. It’s amazing that these industry mavens graciously contribute their time and expertise to guide our students throughout the process. The students take ownership and have learned immensely. I credit their transformation to the mentors and their patient, direct engagement and support,” Floyd Jones, associate professor, College of Physical Activity and Sport Sciences, said.
The Mentor Angle
Now in its second year, the project was inspired by CPASS Sport Management graduate and sport industry expert, Alex Brucki, director, partnership marketing, BSE Global, who invited a group of colleagues to join in helping students grow as leaders. “In collaboration with Dr. Jones, we developed a vision to provide current WVU Sport Management graduate students the opportunity to interact with industry professionals who are facing real world business challenges in the marketplace,” he said.
Brucki says the applied experience is important for those entering the industry to help them further their career path. “Chris Morales, Raj Batheja and Marc Charles are three industry executives who have had an incredible impact on my career path and were gracious enough to dedicate their time to support the education and development of future industry leaders from WVU,” he explained.
“As a WVU Sport Management alumnus, it’s my goal to inspire WVU students to pursue a career in the sports industry. I am fortunate to have an opportunity to align my two passions in life: to help grow the next generational leaders and leave the world better than I found it. That’s what is driving me today,” Brucki added.
Genesco Sports Enterprises Vice President and General Manager Chris Morales says the value of the partnership focuses on the exposure that students receive. “In the very near future, they’re going to be part of the workplace. Their ability to interact and understand some of the nuances to the industry are amplified because of their contact with industry professionals,” Morales said.
Morales explains that the project has mutual benefits. “It’s nice to give back and provide, teach, coach and help develop the next generation. Plus, it doesn’t hurt to see the students’ perspective, learn from them in a different way and perhaps find a candidate for a future opening within our organizations,” he said.
The mentorship’s Mountaineer connection runs deep. “A few years ago, I hired a bright young man named Alex Brucki. Alex and I worked together for a couple years and continue to stay in touch. Alex is a WVU alumnus and has continued to stay involved in the program. Like my mentorship with Alex, I enjoy working with students on their personal and professional development as they enter the workplace and life after graduation,” Morales said.
Charles, senior vice president, group director, Momentum Worldwide, explains how collaborations mutually benefit participants. “These types of partnerships allow students to focus on real-world situations that prepare them for work challenges they will face after graduation. For mentors, it allows an examination of work scenarios from a longer-term academic research perspective,” Charles explained.
“My goal is to support the WVU Sport Management students, so they have an outlet in the industry that serves as a sounding board or provides guidance whenever necessary. Students need to learn critical skills to succeed in a sports industry career: tenacity, attention to detail, a desire to learn and passion,” Charles said.
“This is my second year in helping the program. Ironically enough, while I did not have an opening on my team, a young lady and WVU alumna who was in my group in 2020 stayed in touch and ultimately started her career here at Genesco a few months ago,” Morales added.
The partnership has allowed students see beyond the ‘glamour’ of the sports industry. “The students are beginning to understand this is truly a business with many layers to it. I’ve simply enjoyed having the conversations about the current state of the industry and predicting the future of the sports business world. I find the students’ opinions interesting about emerging technology as they are privy to communication and social media platforms that we, as a different generation, are not as accustomed to,” Morales said.
“To those willing to take the leap for a career in the sports industry, there are three characteristics that I believe bring success: Have an intellectual curiosity of learning, be a great teammate and work unreasonably hard. All three of these values I have were embedded from my time at WVU and my industry mentors,” Brucki added.
Sport Management master’s student
It was such a great experience being able to work with the industry professionals over the past semester. My group and I worked with Alex Brucki, director, partnership marketing at BSE Global. We researched the economic impact that COVID-19 had on the NBA. Working with Alex was extremely rewarding. It helped me get a feel for what it is like to work in the marketing field and with a professional sports team. The connections we were all able to make with our mentors can really be beneficial in the future, especially when it comes time to look for a job after graduation.
Sport Management master’s student
My group and I worked with Chris Morales, vice president, general manager of GSE. We researched the topic of consumer activation post COVID-19. Chris was a great mentor for our group. He was full of real world, applicable knowledge that helped us further our thinking and possible alternatives for our research. He also helped us understand sports and the climate we will experience after graduation. It’s awesome that Professor Jones was able to utilize his network of industry professionals to help us broaden our knowledge of sports marketing research and to become better professionals in general.
Sport Management master's student
Throughout the duration of the semester, my group and I tackled the daunting question regarding the process of the return to sport as it pertains to the live fan experience. We were delegated with finding a solution based on academic and consumer behavior research. This process taught me how to critically analyze data and literature in a way I had never done before. In addition to collaborating on a large scale with participatory surveys, I gained professional insight on the business industry. Our mentor, Marc Charles, VP, director of marketing at Momentum Worldwide, provided us with personal development skills and a glimpse into the greater industry of marketing. The most valuable information he provided us dealt with the creation and representation of a brand. As I face graduation, this class has presented me with the skills to successfully be a dominant player in the sports industry as a young professional.