Vegas Baby! SEAT Conference 2016.

After a week-long trip to the Dominican Republic, and a week of 8-16 hour days working the 2016 MLB All-Star Week in San Diego, a group of five SMBA ’17 students ventured to Las Vegas to intern at the 2016 Sports & Entertainment Alliance in Technology (SEAT) Conference. For five days, these students rubbed elbows with industry leaders, C-level executives, athletic directors, and countless other sports executives from virtually every facet of the sports world. In total, they worked 80+ sessions, workshops, case-studies, and round-tables, including a night at Las Vegas’ hottest new sports and entertainment venue, T-Mobile Arena. SMBA alumni Aileen Berran (SMBA ’11) and Danny Roach (SMBA ’14) were also in attendance as guests of the conference.


SEAT Conference is an event built on relationships, intimacy and open collaboration. Conversations centered around six central themes via a series of collaborative round-tables. These themes included:

  • Venue Technology, Infrastructure & Security
  • Collegiate Industry Leaders
  • CRM / Database Marketing, Loyalty & Analytics
  • Digital Marketing, Social Media, Analytics & Mobile
  • CXO Strategy, Revenue & Sponsorship
  • Game Day Presentation/Broadcast & Video Operations

Below are thoughts from the five SMBA ’17 students that interned for the conference.

Sean Bell (SMBA ’17):
SEAT Conference came highly recommended through conversations with previous alumni, and boy, did it live up to expectations. One major takeaway I took from the conference was that the sports industry is being driven by data. Data collection, data analysis, data warehouses – you name it, the sports industry is finding ways to improve that process. Customer Relationship Management (CRM) was a major touchpoint on several panel conversations. It was fascinating to learn how industry professionals across all departments – sponsorship, digital, community relations, email marketing, venue engineers, etc. – are relying on central database platforms such as Salesforce or Microsoft Dynamics to better help them understand their fanbase. The more a sports organization can learn and listen to it’s audience, the more that team can engage on a personalized, one-to-one level. Teams across every league are unifying data from surveys, social media, fan loyalty programs, email open rates/click throughs, ticket usage, concession point of sales, merchandise point of sales, and more to transform their business into a ROI-driven platform. The Cleveland Browns have specifically developed a proactive outreach model targeting their season ticket holders to best decide when to call, email, or leave be those fans during the NFL season. Overall, SEAT Conference 2016 was time well spent. Thank you Christine and Haylee Stoffel, BJ Scott, and the rest of the SEAT staff for the opportunity!

Cole Cook (SMBA ’17):

Carlos Martinez (SMBA ’17):
“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” That was one of the many takeaways from the SEAT Conference that the SMBA students came away with. In an industry where the strength of one’s personal network will take them far in their career, the conference provided the opportunity to build the connections and relationships needed. With every team represented across the four major leagues, SEAT set the stage to immerse oneself with the most talented individuals in sports business, and in such a natural setting. That was the most unique part about this experience – every individual in attendance was eager to learn and listen, and it made for authentic conversations and easy networking. From closed-door NFL meetings, to panel discussions regarding the latest trends in CRM, sponsorships, fan loyalty programs and more, to designated networking sessions, SEAT gave the SMBA crew an invaluable experience.

Grady Millikan (SMBA ’17):
What stuck out to me most at the SEAT Conference in Las Vegas was the openness and communication that sport organizations and companies had with their colleagues. The panel discussions and close door meetings certainly provided an opportunity for industry leaders to share their thoughts, concerns, and ideas for the future with one another. In such a competitive industry it was great to see colleagues and industry leaders helping one another. My favorite idea that I saw in the exhibit hall was created by WaitTime which is based out of Detroit, Michigan. Their technology allows for cameras to track fan movements in concourses up to ten times per second. This information can then be viewed through a mobile app which shows up the second wait times for bathrooms and concession stands throughout the arena. This system has only been installed at The Palace of Auburn Hills but has only been on the market for ten weeks. Seeing the newest technology and where it may head in the future definitely makes me excited for what lies ahead!

Jessica Washington (SMBA ’17):
The SEAT Conference was a fabulous experience. The thing that resonated most with me was the friendly, collaborative environment at the event. The steering committee did a great job of creating an atmosphere where students and people early in their careers were not intimidated to speak directly with C-level executives in attendance. The panels featured speakers from very diverse perspectives and were very relevant to current trends and emerging technologies in the sports industry. I personally made some exceptional connections that have already begun to convert to future opportunities. SMBA ’11 alumna Aileen Berran was in attendance at the conference and was especially helpful in guiding the SMBA ’17 students during the event and connecting them with her colleagues. Aileen is the current Manager of Email Marketing for the NHL and has been an invaluable resource.

Post Written By: Sean Bell, Cole Cook, Carlos Martinez, Grady Millikan, and Jessica Washington.