GVSU Students Marketing Thunder

June 5, 2006
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GRAND RAPIDS — Students in John Rumery's sports marketing class at Grand Valley State University are playing with the big boys.

They will be testing their creativity on the Grand Rapids Thunder, a semi-pro football team that for the past two years has made it to the national championship game.

The students, who are from various majors including marketing, were divided into groups and assigned the task of developing a marketing campaign for the team.

As a two-year-old semi-pro team, the Thunder does not have the same resources and sponsorships such as teams like the Grand Rapids Rampage, the West Michigan Whitecaps or the Grand Rapids Griffins, so the students had limited resources with which to work.

Rumery said the students were to develop a sales pitch on behalf of the team, identify businesses that may be interested in sponsoring or working with the Thunder, and then make contact with those businesses.

"Sports are another way of getting names out in the marketplace," Rumery said.

Daimond Dixon, Thunder team captain, said he was impressed with the students and with their presentations, which were part of the class grade.

"I definitely think we're going to work with the class again," he said.

Dixon said one of the suggestions he liked was to have the team members tour the area while wearing their jerseys to spark interest in the team.

"It's a great idea to get awareness out," he said.

With no budget to work with, Dixon said the students thought outside the box and were able to get creative with marketing.

"They weren't thinking in terms of dollars and cents; they were being very creative," he said. "It was a great partnership, because out of it we got something where they helped us come out with so many ideas to move our team forward."

Rumery said the project was to help students understand how to customize a marketing approach for a specific client.

"The idea was to get students thinking about what would make sense for this particular niche," Rumery said. "I'm looking for the fact that they qualified some accounts for Daimond."

Dixon said the students were successful in getting the name out, giving him 30 contacts to call and discuss different marketing and sponsorship opportunities.

Rumery said the new marketing class, which just finished its first semester, will be back in the fall, and he hopes the class will become a permanent offering.

"It's a very appropriate class for Grand Valley to be involved with, with our connection to the community," he said.

The students gain a project for their portfolios as well as learn how to work as a team; they also gain client feedback about the project, Rumery said.

The experience also may help students make a connection that will keep them in the area. There have been several Grand Valley students placed as interns with the local sports teams, something Rumery said he would like to help expand and continue.

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