Most sports fans rarely question their passion for sports, but this is a vital part of Lisa Murray’s job.
In front of a group of about 25 Yalies interested in careers in the sports industry, Murray, executive vice president and chief marketing officer of the sports marketing company Octagon Worldwide, spoke at the Ray Thompkins House about why people become sports fans — and how companies can capitalize on those motivations in their marketing.
At the event, organized by the Yale Undergraduate Sports Entertainment Society, Murray said Octagon — which represents celebrity athletes such as Olympic gold-medalist Michael Phelps and major companies such as American Airlines — tries to understand why different types of sports fans become passionate in order to advise companies on the best way to reach out to particular fan bases.
For example, Murray said the company tries to target various factors that it believes drive sports passion. One such factor is nostalgia, she said, which is a common motivator for baseball fans. Murray said MasterCard decided to air a “Priceless” advertisement showing a child going to a baseball game with his father as a result of Octagon’s research.
Moreover, Murray said markets in different geographic locations are unique. She cited the Beijing Olympic Games as one example.
“In Beijing, [the Chinese people] were really about nationalism and pride,” she said. “It was not the competition itself — it was more about nationalistic team devotion. They were very proud of their country and their teams.”
American sports fans, she said, particularly like sportscasters who tell players’ personal stories during sports broadcasts. As a result, Murray said NBC’s sports commentators put a strong emphasis on player vignettes in their broadcasts.
Jim Torney ’10, a member of the men’s heavyweight crew team, said he decided to attend the event because he has always been interested in sports and is considering a career in sports management.
“I thought it gave some good insight into the business itself and how to get into the business as a junior or senior looking for a job in sports management,” Torney said. “[I thought it was interesting] how broad the spectrum of sports that [Octagon] covers and how broad their coverage of fan appreciation for sports is.”
Questions from Yalies ranged from how to get an internship with Octagon to how Murray was able to succeed in the sports entertainment industry.
Billy Blase ’10, the president of the Yale Undergraduate Sports Entertainment Society and a goaltender on the men’s hockey team, said hosting Murray was an effort to fill a void that has existed at Yale for students seeking careers in sports entertainment.
“Yale didn’t really have a way to give all its athletes, even non-athletes, who are interested in sports any information on working in [the industry],” Blase said. “I started this society to give athletes and non-athletes some insight into how to work in sports.”
Blase started the society last year, during which Murray also spoke, along with Tony Ponturo, former vice president of global media and sports marketing for Anheuser-Busch, and David Checketts, founder of Sports Capital Worldwide, a company that improves sports franchises and refurbishes sporting venues.
Blase added that the Yale Undergraduate Sports Entertainment Society is close to bringing in renowned NBC Sportscaster Bob Costas as its next speaker.
“Student interest has been good too,” Blase said. “It seems like almost half [athletes] and half [non-athletes attended the event], and that was the demographic I was shooting for … It’s not just for varsity athletes.”
Correction: Feb. 3, 2010
An earlier version of this article incorrectly reported that the sports marketing company Octagon Worldwide represents Tiger Woods.