Public Relations students at DePaul University in Chicago met with senior executives from 21st Century Fox, FOX Sports, and Major League Baseball on June 5 to pitch new project ideas and marketing campaigns for the companies’ joint environmental sustainability efforts. The presentation was the result of a semester-long partnership between DePaul and the FOX Sports University program, which allows college students the chance to work directly with sports industry professionals on a real-world problem facing their business. DePaul students were charged with creating new public messaging strategies that raise awareness of FOX Sports and MLB’s sustainability initiatives throughout the baseball season.
“We would love to thank FOX Sports, 21st Century Fox, and MLB for giving us such a rich assignment,” said Don Ingle, whose PR class at DePaul took part in FOX Sports University this spring. “Our students take so much pride in [this program], and it would not be possible without FOX Sports University specifically going to Major League Baseball and getting them to agree that this was the right time and that we were the right school to be doing this kind of campaign… I’ve never seen any class have this much professional involvement from beginning to end.”
Ingle’s class of 24 students worked for ten weeks to create the marketing campaigns, drawing on the MLB’s nearly decade-long history of environmental sustainability, which includes projects on LED lighting, recycling, water conservation, and more. The students worked in four teams of six to immerse themselves in MLB sustainability and pitched projects and campaigns such as expanded bike sharing opportunities at the All-Star Game and a baseball giveaway with the slogan “Strike Out Your Footprint” stamped on each ball. The teams also created public service announcements about sustainability designed to air during key points in the season, such as the playoffs and the World Series, which is broadcast on FOX Sports.
“The sustainability effort is important because [sports] is a platform that reaches so many people,” said junior Melissa Bellew. “Almost everyone is interested in at least one professional sport, and if they see the players or their favorite team practicing sustainability, fans will be more likely to [do so, as well].”
FOX Sports and MLB executives worked directly with the students throughout the semester to offer professional guidance. They briefed the students on the project at the beginning of the term, checked in via conference call mid-way through, and returned to Chicago on June 5 to hear the students’ pitches in person. This model is typical of FOX Sports University partnerships, which seek to give students as much hands-on experience in the sports industry as possible.
“I’ve learned more about myself and my strengths in relation to a team than in any other class,” said Caroline Fronczak, a senior public relations and advertising student. “I know this experience will be something I take with me as I pursue a career in the sports industry.”
FOX Sports University is now in its ninth year and works with nearly 40 universities across the U.S., devising individual projects and convening unique business partners for each participating school. The program allows students to apply the skills they learn in the classroom to real-world business challenges and provides FOX Sports with fresh insights from the industry’s next generation of leaders. To date, more than 5,000 students have participated in FOX Sports University, nearly 100 of whom have gone on to work for FOX Sports, either through internships or full-time employment. Even more students have been referred to FOX Sports partners for employment opportunities as they approach graduation.