SMBA ’19, reporting for duty!
By Jessica Luttrell & Ryan Huckabey
The Sports MBA Class of 2019 got off to a quick start as an amazing volunteer opportunity presented itself during the first weekend of the semester. After attending SMBA orientation earlier in the week, 14 members of the cohort traveled north to Los Angeles to volunteer during the Major League Soccer Media and Marketing Tour.
This gave us a hands-on opportunity to become “Player-Handlers” in which we assumed responsibility of a players media and marketing schedule. We were each appointed one of the top performing players in MLS and were responsible for escorting them to sit-down interviews with top of the line brands and networks, promotional video and photo shoots, product modeling sessions, and much more! Along the way, we had a unique opportunity to converse with our appointed players and get a better idea how such a big event could be carefully and tactfully executed over a two-day span.
In addition to our player handling responsibilities on day one, some of us were tasked with staying with our assigned player for more promotional work on day two, while the remainder performed additional duties such as monitoring the players lounge, ensuring players were prompt with their time and schedules, and taking inventory with new MLS apparel for the 2018 season. We even had some time to work on accounting homework!
The Women of SMBA ’19 were represented well.
Below, you will find some brief recaps from those in our cohort who were able to attend:
Pete Abels –
I was amazed by the set-up and careful coordination that went into scheduling the players to the various media platforms. I found it interesting on how they figured which players would be made available to each media outlet and how they selected players for that specific marketability. I admired the event director and her leadership in coordinating the player volunteers – she managed to keep player handlers calm and confident in what they were doing, meanwhile she essentially managed the entire operation herself.
From the player perspective, I believe it is important to note their professionalism when it comes to the media. Now more than ever players have to be conscious of the league image, the team image and their own brand. Clubs must prepare players through extensive media training and attempt to reduce the risk of negative publicity that may arise as a result of poor media (and social media) relations.
Barde Eseyin – Justen Glad, Real Salt Lake
Justen gave very polished interviews with the various sports networks in the circuit, and even showed charisma and knowledge of Spanish when joking with the Fox Deportes crew. He was extremely enthused about his session with EA Sports where they took detailed images for the new FIFA video game which he said he enjoys playing. Justen handled his media obligations with professionalism and charm, and noted that he has great expectations for himself and Real Salt Lake in the upcoming season.
Chelsea Devine – Christian Hernandez, Minnesota United FC
Following Minnesota, and National Team, star, Christian Hernandez, I was able to see just how close the MLS group is. Christian was repeatedly greeted by players, staff, media, and marketing teams by familiar smiles and hugs at each stop during his tour. The tour had a very positive atmosphere and there was even a palpable sense of camaraderie among rival athletes as they interacted throughout the day.
Johnny Weng – Albert Rusnak, Real Salt Lake
MLS media and marketing day was a fascinating insight into the behind the scenes of an athlete’s multimedia portrayal. With all the daunting and often redundant interviews and shoots he had to do, Albert was a great athlete who put forth his best efforts in the grueling, draining process of media day.
Lauren Rojo – Tim Melia, Sporting Kansas City
My biggest take away from the event was definitely something I would have never guessed. My time spent with Tim reinforced the fact that professional athletes are human just like you and me. We chatted about our lives, our families and even our favorite restaurants. He gave me career advice, and was just an extremely down to earth guy. I will carry that experience with me for the rest of my life.
Jessica Luttrell – Juan Agudelo, New England Revolution
I was appointed to work with Juan Agudelo, who is also a member of the USMNT. There was national team camp on Saturday so a good amount of MLS players arrived later in the day. As player handlers, we made sure they were wearing the appropriate attire and were on time to each station, whether it was for an interview, photo shoot, or video segment.
Greg White – Diego Valeri, Portland Timbers
Working with Diego Valeri, the current MVP of Major League Soccer, I was able to observe the media responsibilities of high-profile athletes. MLS is a growing league, and it was amazing to work with a player leading its development.
Ryan Huckabey – Jordan Morris, Seattle Sounders
I really enjoyed the opportunity to work the MLS Media and Marketing Tour because it gave us an opportunity to work directly with various facets of business, timeliness, and professionalism in a small block of time. Ensuring we stayed on schedule with our player when various outlets wanted to run later was difficult, but it tested us to be stern and professional with other professionals in the industry. It was also enlightening to see the marketing perspective of how each network and/or brand positions itself with the player.
Brandon Sim – Tim Howard, Colorado Rapids
Working with Tim Howard was a complete pleasure and an awe inspiring experience. As a US Soccer legend and veteran of the media scene, he showed off an innate ability to nail each media task. Although the day was grueling, he would flip a switch and meet each duty with pure professionalism. The two days were a great lesson in how to conduct yourself in a professional setting even if you would rather be elsewhere.
Carl Dyer – Tyler Adams, New York Red Bulls
I had the extreme pleasure of being the player handler for the young Tyler Adams. He is an 18-year-old up and comer in MLS playing with his hometown club, the New York Red Bulls. Tyler is humble and kind person and seems like he has a bright future ahead of him.