Yale has hundreds of extracurricular clubs. It has scores of varsity and club sports. But until this year, Yale never had any clubs about sports — and that’s where hockey goaltender Billy Blase ’10 comes in.
Last summer, Blase went about filling this void, founding the Yale Sports Entertainment Society (SES) with other Yale athletes’ help.
The goal of the society, he said, is to offer a gateway through which Yale students can be introduced to the opportunities offered in the sports business world.
“We hope that, aside from learning more about this enormous field, we also open doors for Yalies and Yale University in the future,” Blase said in an announcement for the club.
The goaltender hopes to have a speaker from the sports business field come to Yale every month. While it may be a small group with a specialized interest, the society is already bringing some big names to the Elm City.
Blase says that later this year, the group will welcome Tony Ponturo, the former chief marketing officer of Budweiser, which typically spends more on sports advertising annually than any other company. NBC sportscaster Bob Costas is scheduled to visit next fall.
Blase said it was not difficult for the society to attract speakers.
“To tell you the truth we really didn’t do anything special,” he said. “I just sent a bunch of letters out to these guys and made sure the letter looked formal with our society letterhead. I just asked.”
The society held its inaugural event on Monday, as Lisa Murray, the executive vice president and chief marketing officer of Octagon Worldwide, gave a presentation on Octagon’s sports marketing business. Octagon provides marketing and sports agents for professional athletes and everyone from the Duchess of York to musicians Il Divo.
With the help of a PowerPoint presentation, Murray detailed the various aspects of the sports marketing world to the audience, giving three specific case studies of the business in which Octagon is involved.
First, Murray explained the difficulties in getting NASCAR fans to accept Sprint — and not the traditional sponsor Winston — as the sport’s exclusive sponsor, causing the famous Winston Cup to be renamed. One way Sprint overcame this obstacle was by making cell phones that looked like the cars of the sport’s most popular drivers — a move that proved to be a fan favorite.
Murray also explained the success that the company has had in making Michael Phelps one of the most recognizable Olympic athletes ever.
“Our goal is to turn fans into cash for our clients,” Murray said to summarize the sports marketing business.
While varsity swimmer and captain Alex Righi ’09 — the other senior board member of the society, along with Blase — does hope for a larger attendance at future events, he saw Murray’s presentation as a great way to establish the group at Yale.
“She is incredibly dynamic and a very interesting person,” Righi said. “I don’t think we could have asked for a better opening speaker for this group.”
Blase added, “I think it went great. I think that with each subsequent person we will get more people, and I think it’s just going to get better from here.”
The society’s mission, however, goes beyond the scope of the sports marketing world, as it is also concerned with helping Yale athletes further their own athletic careers.
It is this part of the society’s mission that is very important to many of its founding members, including Righi, who nearly made the Olympic swim team last year and is considering trying to become a professional swimmer after graduation. Other members of the society are interested in the NHL (Blase and Dave Inman ’09) and the ATP Tour (Josh Lederman ’09).
Despite their interest in professional sports, the society’s members emphasize that the society is open to any Yale student interested in making a living in sports — whether on the field or off it.
“It is a great opportunity for people who might not get that much exposure to the sports culture to come out and see what it is like for people involved in that industry,” Righi said.
Murray said that the program is headed in the right direction.
“Anytime that you learn what’s out there and what’s happening, that’s great,” she said.