Engaging with younger audiences is a whole new ballgame for professional sports leagues and franchises, and Generation Z (people born in 1997 and younger) are a key demographic for Major League Baseball (MLB). To continue their goal of connecting with Gen Z, marketing executives invited six Linfield students to participate in a panel discussion during the 2019 MLB Club Marketing Meetings in Portland.
Molly Danielson ’20, Elazar Konsker ’20, Brooke Snyder ’20, Amanda Reser ’21, Keaton Wood ’20 and Jacob Calo ’20 discussed their social media habits, how and if they watch broadcasts, where they read news, video game usage, opinions on the stadium experience and more during a 45-minute conversation with Barbara McHugh, MLB’s senior vice president of marketing.
“Our marketing executives across the league gained honest, candid, genuine feedback from the students on how they consume content, what makes them interested in following a player or team or sport and what they enjoy about a live sports experience,” said McHugh.
The students are sport management majors as well as student-athletes, but only one, Konsker, is part of the baseball program. MLB wanted insights from a diverse set of sports fans, such as Reser, who described herself as an “aware, non-consumer” of the league’s content.
The opportunity to speak to more than 100 league and team representatives came from an inquiry to MLB by Natalie Welch, assistant professor of business, who offered the students’ to volunteer and help out at the meetings. Though that was not needed, McHugh suggested the students attend and share their perspective through a panel discussion during the league’s final day of a three-day meeting at The Nines Hotel in Portland.
“I feel like a proud mom,” said Welch, who was hired in August to teach sport management courses. “Being able to help with this experience is awesome. I loved seeing them share on-stage and network afterwards. They have thoughtful insights on customization and the experience of attending games.”
Welch, as well as students Cole Hoskins ’22 and Lori Cimmiyotti ’20, also sport management majors and student-athletes, sat in the front row and engaged with the attendees following the on-stage discussion.
“Even though I wasn’t a part of the panel, the executives spent time with me afterwards, and that was pretty cool,” said Cimmiyotti.
The audience asked students about their involvement in content creation at Linfield and how they purchase tickets.
“I thought it was refreshing that they want to change and that they want to have us impact that change,” said Snyder.
The experience to share their unfiltered opinions was appreciated by McHugh and the attendees.
“Any time you can get first-hand feedback from your target audience, it’s a win,” said McHugh.