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  • Students Create Marketing Plan for Former Professional Cyclist

November 17, 2021

This fall, our sport marketing class had the opportunity to work in cross-functional teams to gain real world experience in a client-focused, agency-modeled classroom. We worked with a real client, James Bethea, to help him reach his goals of building his personal brand and acquiring brand ambassadorships that fit his personal interests, values, and personality.

James, the first African American professional cross-country mountain bike racer, is a unique client who once was the fastest bike messenger in NYC. James retired after eight professional racing seasons to start a family, but he continued racing at the veteran level until 2017 when he was involved in a terrible automobile accident. Although this was one of his greatest challenges, it also gave him a chance to slow down and find his next passion. During his recovery time, he developed a skill for painting. His dream is to make his bicycle-centric art more mainstream while also giving back to those around him. He wants people to know that some of the greatest things in life happen during times of adversity. Currently, James is a sponsored athlete for Niner Bikes, one of the leading off-road bicycle companies in the industry.

Some of the most challenging aspects of our project included working with an out-of-state client and competing against another sport management course section to impress James. Although there is more at stake working with a real client than a hypothetical situation, this opportunity helped us gain a better perspective on what a job in a sports organization would look like.

In our classroom, although Dr. Gorham guides all efforts, students have the decision-making power to define teams and direct our sport marketing decisions. Our class worked in four teams, and each group had a focus of either social media, brand imagery, media guides, or ambassadorship opportunities. We learned to work on a broad marketing team to create and coordinate strategies that work across a variety of channels.

Our class teams worked on the following initiatives:

  • Researching successful ambassadors to see how they effectively leverage their social media. Developing focus and re-energizing our client’s social media presence to grow his following.
  • Sparking ideas for our client’s social media platforms using unique, marketable hashtags and those aligned with his brand ambassadorships.
  • Building a brand imagery database of our client’s cycling photography and paintings.
  • Creating a comprehensive media kit that both introduces James Bethea by describing his life and achievements and lays the foundation of his goals for the future.
  • Identifying brand ambassadorship and sponsorship opportunities that align with James as an athlete and artist.
  • Completing ambassadorship applications and soliciting sponsorship for our client.

On this project, we gained practical, job-related experience that we can institute in our own lives and for future clients. Our work will provide us with portfolio examples that we can discuss in interviews with potential employers. Few college students have an opportunity to work in a classroom operated like a marketing firm, and this project will help separate us from other graduating business majors.

Dr. Jeb Gorham’s SP330-TRD02 Sport Marketing class