High School Sports Business Seminars

The first official homestand of the 2012 Cougars season is in the books. And it was a fast one, just three games long. Why else was it fast? Each of the three games was a daytime affair, including a series finale this morning…that’s right, morning…featuring a first pitch of 11 a.m. Keep that coffee black.

I enjoyed hosting the first two dates of our spring High School Sports Business Seminars at the park as well.

Both yesterday and today’s games featured a pre-game seminar for area high school business and marketing students. A “field trip”, for lack of a better term, these students took part in a morning seminar to get a better understanding of the business and marketing side of the Cougars organization, and learn about career opportunities in the sports and entertainment industry. Once gametime hits, it’s their chance to enjoy the game and (hopefully), see some tangible evidence of what is covered in the presentation.

This is the third year we’ve hosted the program. Each of the past 2 seasons we’ve welcomed 1,000 students to the ballpark, and we’ll have another strong turnout this spring.

New this year, we asked classes to create a between-innings promotion in the classroom and we’d pick a winning promotion to be featured on the field at their game. We received many, many great and creative ideas submitted to us through YouTube and online media. Yesterday’s winner was Naperville North HS, who created a uniform relay race that you’ll see below. And today’s winner was Stevenson HS, who put together a “Finish the Lyric” contest for a lucky contestant.

I really enjoy having a dialogue with the students both during the presentation.

Here are some of the concepts I cover with the students.

– As time has passed, a second generation is now attending Cougars games. In our early days in 1991 or ’92, when a fan was brought to the ballpark at age 9 or 10 by Mom and Dad, it’s interesting to note that THAT child is now Mom or Dad, bringing their children to a Cougars game for the first time. That generational cycle is evidence of the brand recognition of the Kane County Cougars and the family-friendly fun blueprint we’ve followed for 22 years now.

– Cost of Goods Sold, aka “COGS”. It’s lost on many people the cost of a hot dog, for example, to an organization. What’s the cost of the hot dog? The hot dog wrapper? The hot dog bun? This is a good concept for them to know. Everything costs something. Same goes for souvenirs. If our Merchandise Manager purchases 5,000 foam fingers and we move only 200 of that inventory this season, two things happen. 1.) We’re left with a lot of foam fingers to sell for the next 30 years, and 2.) using the “COGS” principle, that is money that could have been better allocated to something else, whether that’s other merchandise items, advertising, ballpark improvements, etc.

– For the amount of energy we devote to marketing the “baseball” side of our organization, we are marketing also to people who might know nothing about baseball. For as many baseball fans we have at Cougars game who are hoping to catch future Major League talent before their very eyes, we have so many fans who don’t know there’s 9 innings in a game, who don’t know that the Cougars are affiliated with the Kansas City Royals, and couldn’t tell our third baseman from our right fielder. Simply put, we’re marketing to people who want to have fun, laugh, smile and enjoy a “County Fair Experience”…a little bit of something for everyone.

– We also want fans to “participate” in the fun at Cougars games, and that’s a large part of our marketing as well. That can include dressing up in Harry Potter garb for a theme night, or dancing to the YMCA during a pitching change. It certainly includes running the bases after a game. Being an observer and staying put in your box seat while watching 9 innings is possible, but our goal is to have YOU be part of the fun as a participant, not only as a spectator.

– If you’re still think that Facebook isn’t a viable marketing tool, I’ll hit you with this. I came across a statistic last week that indiciated the following: 18% of people check their Facebook page…in the morning…while in bed…before they’ve even gotten out of bed.

When the presentation wraps up, a few students typically find me and ask about how they can get their foot in the door of the sports industry. I’m honest with them when I stress the importance of internships. Cast a wide net when you’re a high school senior or while you’re in college. Your first internship may be unpaid. It may be in Topeka, KS at a minor league lacrosse team (just a hypothetical…no confirmation that such team exists in the heartland). But if you work hard, are reliable, and show your supervisor those qualities throughout the internship, there’s a good chance that door may open for you to jump through.

There’s certainly no tougher time than now to do so, as more and more people are unemployed or holding firmly onto the jobs they currently have. That’s why I sympathize with high schoolers so much. For a lot of reasons, it’s the most difficult part of life to go through. Couple that with the challenges of entering the working world, and it’s safe to say that being in high school is as stressful as it’s ever been.

Hopefully these sports business seminars can help them hone in on a career and shine some light on working for a sports organization.

And hopefully another Minor League baseball team can offer a program similar. I enjoyed presenting this topic at last fall’s Minor League Baseball Promotional Seminar in Myrtle Beach, and several teams expressed to me that they were going to replicate this idea at their own organizations in the coming season. I’m anxious to catch up with them this fall and see how their inaugural year of seminars went.

Thanks for reading, and thank you for attending a game if you did so this week. It’s good to be up and running again.



Thanks to the students from Naperville North HS for creating this cool between-innings promotion, which featured 2 contestants racing to put on a Cougars uniform.



About Kane County Cougars

The Kane County Cougars are the Class-A Affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks.
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