Karan Popli: I was always against pursuing an MBA, but in 2011 I was shortlisted for an interview at IMG Consulting and at the end of the interview I had asked the hiring manager if he had any advice for me, and he said that I should pursue an MBA. I was talking about it to Ravishankar Pathanjali, who is working with IMG in India and happened to be alum of this program. He recommended this program and helped me choose from various progams in the U.S.A and U.K. Ravi along with Mahek Vyas (another alum), who I met before the Indian Grand Prix (Formula One race) in New Delhi, played a huge role in helping me choose this program. I have cousins and friends spread out in different parts of USA so I knew that I could always talk to someone or receive advice, and there’s nothing to worry about.
AF: You were selected as Student of the Week for your extensive participation inside and outside the classroom. What was your favorite experience, guest speaker or project thus far?
KP: Favorite experience – I always wanted to be involved with the sponsorship side of sports business and two such instances which provided these experiences during the program which I loved were the sponsorship proposal given to us by Jack Tipton and experimenting with the sponsorship valuation tool by Navigate Research thanks to Matt Balvanz.
Guest Speaker – It’s a bit difficult to single out one particular speaker, but Mike Kitts, Jack Tipton, Aldo Kafie and Michael Rolnick were my favorite speakers so far.
AF: What would say was your biggest challenge when you moved to the United States?
KP: Initially some of the challenges were to manage everything by myself (I had never lived by myself before coming here) and cooking food, but now that seems like history though I still take instructions from my mom via Skype/Google Hangout when I want to make my favorite curry here.
I think right now my biggest challenge is not having a car due to which I’m dependent on my classmates to travel every time. This also restricts me from being able to take advantage of many internship and networking opportunities in Carlsbad/Los Angeles where most sports marketing firms have their offices.
AF: Prior to coming to the Sports MBA Program you worked with Red Bull and the NBA. What did you do with them and how have those experiences been beneficial for you in the program?
KP: I have worked with various PR consultancies in India, and both NBA and Red Bull were our clients. NBA had a tie-up with Mahindra, a leading auto manufacturer in India, to start a recreational basketball league and help grow the sport at a grassroot level. I used to coordinate with the media for interactions, pitch stories about the recreational league, draft press releases, and create newsletters to keep the Indian media informed about all the season/playoff games that took place here in USA. While managing PR for the NBA, the one thing I learned was the importance of Google Alerts and planning in advance. Google Alerts would help us track what is being spoken about in the media and keep track of all the latest happenings in USA, without having to get up every morning at 5 a.m. just to catch the game (Twitter wasn’t a big thing back then). Since we had to coordinate with people at the NBA’s head office in New York due to the time difference and time taken to approve anything that had to be shared with the media, it helped me learn the importance of planning in advance, so if there was a newsletter about all the results of the playoffs that had to be shared with the media on a Thursday, we would share the newsletter for approval on Tuesday, so it could be approved in time for us to share it on Thursday.
While with Red Bull my experience was completely different. Digital was at the core of everything Red Bull did, and due to this we would work closely with their digital agency for everything, which helped me learn the importance of content marketing and what works on social media. Red Bull believes in doing some crazy events and many a time these events involve a lot of last minute changes. There have been instances where an hour before the event we wouldn’t be sure if we would be able to pull off an event, but with Red Bull, you just need to stay positive, give your 150 percent and believe that everything will be fine.
AF: You are currently working with Learfield Sports. What are you doing and what have you learned so far?
KP: Dwayne and I are managing social media for Aztec Gametime, which is a property used by the athletics department at San Diego State for fan engagement and to promote any sponsor-related activity. I think for me the real learning was learning about college football and the kind of in-game promotions that keep fans interested.
AF: What are you ultimate career aspirations after graduation from the program?
KP: My career aspiration is to work for a sponsorship consultancy; working with Just Marketing International, the largest motorsports marketing consultancy would be like a dream come true.