This Friday morning was a little easier to get going than most. Waking up at 7 AM is cake when you know your schedule consists of a half day at work and lunch with your mentor, shortly followed by an MSBA trip to the NFL. It’s safe to say I was waiting for this day all summer.
My day at Foot Locker seemed to fly by. It’s hard to believe it has been eight weeks since my first day of this amazing internship. Working as a merchandiser for a world-renowned company has been one of the brightest experiences I have ever had. Two months in and I am still amazed at the way this company is ran and how elite they are at what they do. From having lunch with CEO Ken Hicks, to daily experiences with my co-workers, Foot Locker is one impressive corporation (the employee discount hasn’t hurt either).
When noon rolled around, I was ecstatic to head over and meet my mentor, Dana Bonner, for lunch at 345 Park Ave. Dana is the Manager of Sponsorship at the NFL. She has been extremely successful in her young career, and she has been everything I could ask for in a mentor and more. Today, just like each time we meet, Dana was helpful and insightful on ways I can further prepare myself for graduating college and breaking into the industry. From brainstorming ideas of internships, to introducing me to contacts of her own, I’m constantly stunned at how much she has to offer and simply how much she cares about helping me. Dana is one of the biggest reasons this summer has been so monumental for me.
After lunch with Dana, I went down to the lobby to meet the rest of my MSBA classmates getting ready to enter the NFL offices to hear from a series of speakers. I will never forget the first time I stepped into the NFL main lobby. Seeing the receptionist’s desk in the shape of the Lombardi trophy, the 10 ft. tall television wall displaying NFL Network, and of course, the 48 Super Bowl rings, made me content with waiting in that lobby all day if that’s how long it took. After numerous pictures, the team was directed to the main boardroom where we found 25 chairs around a gorgeous conference room table with each having a fitted NFL cap for each of our respective teams. Immediately, I snagged a front row seat with my beloved Eagles logo sitting right in front of me and got ready to learn more about this empire. CMO, Mark Waller, was the first to speak and you could tell everyone’s struggle to not start firing away questions about all of the NFL’s hottest topics. Mark set the groundwork for the discussion by taking us through the NFL’s values and foundation. He spoke of the principles Commissioner Roger Goodell has instilled and the motives by which the League operates. Being such an avid fan of the NFL, it was interesting hearing about how proactive the League is in evolution and innovation of the game.
Chris Parsons (no relation, unfortunately) spoke to us next. Chris is the Senior VP of NFL International, and is responsible for over 110 million fans across the globe. Learning about the global direction of the NFL was one of the most interesting parts of our visit. It’s no question the stature the NFL has in America, but its presence internationally happens to be a major factor for developing the brand. Hearing from Chris and learning the blueprint the NFL has designed to rapidly grow a product that has reached such significant heights already was truly amazing.
Chris was then followed by Peter O’Reilly, VP of Fan Strategy and Marketing. Peter spoke to us about the other key industry that the NFL sees immense potential in: youth. Youth football and youth fan development is one of the brightest ways the NFL can expand its product. Peter told us the main three words that the NFL abides by: intense, meaningful, and unifying. This brought me back to Goodell’s principles that Mark touched on. It really hit me that the NFL is not what it is because of the sport of football alone; the NFL is successful because it is one of the most amazingly structured and efficient businesses I’ve ever seen.
Having an inside look at the NFL is an experience that may never be triumphed for a very long time. I never would have thought I’d come away with learning so much about sports business as a whole from this one trip. However, similar to every day this summer, I’m blown away once again. If you’d like one tip of advice about going into a summer at MSBA, just toss expectations out of the window because however high you want to set the bar, MSBA’s always a mile above it. This summer cannot be described in words. Seven weeks in and I have never been more confident and prepared to take on this industry. I don’t know where my career path will go from this point forward, but the one thing I do know is that I will forever thank MSBA.