by Darryl Lehnus – March 2013
The AT&T Challenge: The Beginning
The AT&T Challenge is the brainchild of Eric Fernandez (BU ’94), then Director of Corporate Partnerships for AT&T. Working in collaboration with Eric and AT&T’s partnership with the Dallas Mavericks, the Sports Sponsorship & Sales (S3) students developed sponsorship activation strategies in a team competition to see who could be the most creative and effective in reaching partnership objectives.
Since 2007, S3 students have had the privilege of working with a variety of sports properties including the Dallas Stars, San Antonio Spurs, San Diego Padres, AT&T Cotton Bowl, Baylor Athletics, and this year’s partner Circuit of the Americas. Tom Hughes (S3 Board Member, Director of Sponsorship Marketing & Promotions, Reliant Energy) helped grow the program while at AT&T. Eric continues to lead the way in developing the process.
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We’re constantly looking for fresh, innovative ideas. As a marketer, it’s easy to fall into a “tunnel vision trap” because you live and breath your brand every day.
The S3 students provide a unique point-of-view unconfined to traditional “corporate” thinking and challenges us to be more creative.
Relevantly connecting with 18-24 year olds is a priority for any brand.What better way to do this than a group of college students providing their points-of-view on what’s interesting and meaningful to them? The students’ ideas are creative, compelling and provide insight into how best to connect with them. [/dropshadowbox]
The AT&T Challenge is real world immersion for students. The structure and process is basic to how sponsorships work. AT&T, currently under the leadership of Bill Moseley, selects a current or prospective sports property partnership relationship. The steps mirror industry practices:
- Sponsor goals: AT&T presents the objectives and goals of their marketing strategy and how the sponsorship fits within that strategy.
- Property assets: The sports property identifies the resources, inventory, and assets available in packaging the partnership.
- Probing/exploration: Representing the property, students ask questions and explore creative opportunities for the partnership.
- Preparation: With the goals and asset inventory available, S3 student teams create unique customized partnership proposals. Over the next six weeks, students participate in conference calls (assisted, of course, by AT&T) with the sponsor & property with clarifying questions and applications to ensure package elements are available and can be delivered.
- Presentation: Student teams compete to see which of their partnership proposals best meets the needs of the partners.
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Baylor University continues to provide the finest sports marketing experiences for its students of any university I have seen. The AT&T Challenge was a tremendous opportunity to see Baylor’s students articulate a sports sponsorship and to see the young talent that ultimately could work for an NHL team like the Dallas Stars.[/dropshadowbox]
S3 students know they will face the evaluations of a panel of national leaders in the sponsorship field. The pillar of strength in this process is the ever-present Eric Fernandez. Eric interacts with our students during the process to review, advise, and critique each team’s ideas and concepts.
The panel includes five members:
- Dan Migala, Property Consulting Group and Editor of The Migala Report,
- Eric Fernandez, Senior Vice President, Medialink
- Travis Dillon, Vice President of Activation & Property Management, The Marketing Arm, the agency of AT&T,
- The sponsorship partner from the property, and
- Bill Moseley, Innovative Marketing Communications Director, AT&T.
Bill Moseley ultimately decides if the proposals meet the AT&T objectives. A productive outcome of this project is the proposed ideas, concepts, and promotions are frequently implemented by AT&T and the various properties.
“The AT&T Challenge is mutually beneficial to all involved,” explains Moseley. “Students get experience and develop needed skills. The innovative ideas from these outstanding young people is a value-add to our partners. And, like most of us who’ve had someone help us, we love giving back to help the careers of these students.”
Always looking for more
Students in the S3 program participate in ticket sales projects each year, generating revenue up to $25,000 for teams and events such as the Houston Astros, Texas Rangers, San Antonio Spurs, Houston Rockets, FC Dallas, Mastercard Colonial, Valero Texas Open, Houston Shell Open, and the Alamo Bowl. Students call from our AT&T 24-seat call center and students in the S3 CRM-track manage the database tracking calls and notes through Microsoft Dynamics.
The S3 program is expanding opportunities to engage in more activities like the AT&T Challenge. S3 students operate in agency teams as part of the new S3 Sponsorship Incubator (SI). In two weeks time, SI teams present creative activation approaches suited to the needs of a partnership. You can join Pizza Hut and the Houston Dynamo, the first two clients of the new SI service, by contacting me by email or calling 254.710.6189.
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The S3 program is grateful to AT&T for their trust and investment of time into the preparation of the next generation of sports sponsorship leaders. In particular, we honor in memory the contributions, friendship, and the life of Jason Simpson to the S3 program. Jason passed away December 18, 2012.