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Southern Miss sport management collaborate with Mississippi Braves

A collaboration between The University of Southern Mississippi’s sport management program and the Mississippi Braves enabled students in a sport marketing graduate class to assist the minor league baseball organization in future sports marketing planning.

Dr. Chris Croft, assistant professor of sport management, coordinated the event during the recent fall semester with Mississippi Braves executives Zach Evans and Jeff Olson. Evans serves as director of stadium operations, while Olson is the Braves’ ticket manager and a USM sport management alumnus.

“We strive to collaborate with sport organizations and incorporate experiential learning opportunities for our students,” said Croft. “Due to last summer’s minor league baseball season shutdown and loss of financial revenue, I felt it would be beneficial to attempt to assist one of the regional teams. We are very thankful for Zach and Jeff’s opportunity and guidance on the project. It was an extremely valuable learning experience for our students to be able to apply sport marketing content from the class and create both in-season and out-of-season events to generate revenue for the M-Braves.”

Evans and Olson conducted a training session for the online course that included history of the organization, recapped 2020 summer challenges and financial impact, and the need for increased opportunities to attract fans to Trustmark Park stadium in the near future.

“This is the second time we’ve worked with the sports management department at Southern Miss and it’s a blessing for us every year,” said Evans. “We have used several ideas from the projects in the past and had success using them at our ballpark and during our games. I hope the project helps each student get as creative as possible. In the world we live in, no idea can be ruled out on what might be successful. Creativity is what fuels minor league baseball.”

The students worked in a group project setting to create both in-season and out-of-season events to generate M-Braves awareness and publicity, attract fans to Trustmark Park, and increase additional non-baseball financial revenue for the organization. The students were tasked with creating mini-marketing plans for all events on methods of reaching target market including applicable social media ideas and/or hashtags through their current social media platforms.

Additionally, COVID-19 protocols and plans related to the specific events were provided due to the unknown ending of the pandemic.

“Hopefully minor league baseball will be back to normal next summer, but regardless, these organizations need new ideas to continue to use their facility and resources to attract fans and generate money,” said Croft.

Olson noted that the relationships between USM sport management graduates and the Mississippi Braves is a vital one that helps cultivate ideas and education in the ever-changing market that is the sports business.