By: Meagan, Andre, Michala, and Angela
The team’s second day on the LA Immersion trip started bright and early as Sean and the bus was ready to leave at 7:05AM. While the group was tired, the ride was a sight to see as we passed by several beautiful multimillion-dollar homes that balanced on the edge of the Hollywood cliffs. The first meeting of the day was with Phil Metz from NASCAR and we arrived in perfect Professor Veley fashion – early. This boded well with Metz and the meeting got into full swing right away.
Metz offered water and Monster energy drinks to the students before introducing himself as a fellow Orange and SU alum. Metz explained his background studying CRS at Syracuse and how he was involved at the WAER station and in University Union while he was a student. This is how he developed his skills and background in the music industry and entertainment business before he began working for NASCAR 14 years ago.
We learned about NASCAR as an organization as well as the current changes the company is undergoing including their new sponsorship deals and the new format of the races themselves. Metz spoke about their place in the sport industry including being the number one sport for sponsor consideration and loyalty. He also explained the sport’s focus on many different target audiences and the quantitative research and data gathered from this past year.
A major trend that the NASCAR marketing team seems to be focusing on is media integration. Some big events that the company took part in included musical performances, celebrity guest appearances, television show appearances, reality show appearances, and more. Metz spoke about exciting new projects that the company is currently working on included the major motion picture Cars 3.
The meeting ended with a question and answer session with Metz and him giving the students some career tips to take home. He heavily recommended getting involved with more than what we think we are interested in. He stressed how he never thought he would ever be working in the sport industry but his passion for music and entertainment led him to NASCAR and where he is today.
After NASCAR, we headed to the campus of UCLA, and it was truly a sight to behold. We got to see the very court where John Wooden started off his UCLA career, now renamed after famed UCLA volleyball coach Al Scates. After that, it was off to look around at the Jackie Robinson Sports Complex.
Then we got to see Drake Stadium, built in 1969 and named after long time track & field coach and athletic trainer Elvin C. Drake. The stadium is a very popular venue for Olympians training in Southern California and was the very same place where Jackie Joyner Kersey, Rafer Johnson and many other future Olympians ran during their collegiate career.
Then it was off to the crown jewel of the day: Pauley Pavilion. And what cannot be said about Pauley Pavilion? It has 24 columns around the stadium honoring 24 great moments at Pauley, all around is dedicated to John Wooden, the man who took UCLA basketball and athletics to new heights. Dedicated to oil magnate Edwin W. Pauley after his $1 million donation, Pauley has seen most of UCLA’s 11 men’s basketball national championships.
The concourse has 3 walls dedicated to John Wooden, part of the original floor, and the only banners that go up are national championship banners.
The most unique aspect I found about the tour was the jersey retirement criteria. At UCLA, only three-time All-Americans, National Player’s of the Year or Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame members get their jerseys required.
After our walking through the UCLA campus, we stopped and ate lunch at the student union. There was a plethora of dining options available for students, but after serious deliberation, I decided to grab a vegan salad. We ate our food outdoors in the warm sunshine, which in comparison to Syracuse, is certainly rare. We then made our way to the UCLA movie theatre, and watched a documentary on the legendary coach John Wooden.
Although it was short, the film was very meaningful. Coach Wooden introduced the film, and discussed his early life, and where he attended college. He was a civil engineering major at Purdue University, where he also played basketball. I learned about the friendships he crafted, and the most important people in his life, family. Coach Wooden always emphasized family, as well as faith and friendship.
One of the most important friendships he would later forge was with Tony Spino, a long time athletic trainer at UCLA. Tony served as Coach Wooden’s caretaker for the last three years of his life. He stayed at his home with him for 6 days out of the week, and only left on Fridays to go back to his own family. Tony shared a few personal memories of Coach, and how he learned to cope with the loss of a dear friend.
“I try to think more about the peaks than the valleys,” he said.
This was a very emotional part of the speech for me, since Spino began to tear up a bit. He said that Coach Wooden was born with wisdom, in comparison to most people who acquire it as they get older.
We also had the opportunity to view Coach Wooden’s “den” near the UCLA movie theatre. All of the belongings were donated, and the school decided to make it a display. The room was filled to the brim with books, old movies, and memorabilia. It truly felt as if Coach had been sitting in that old rocking chair just a few minutes ago.
After an eventful day at UCLA (I almost thought about transferring) and visiting the historic athletic venues we made our way to Central LA to meet with Larry Freedman the CBO of the Los Angeles Football Club (LAFC) and President of Mandalay Baseball. When we first arrived at the Experience Center, we were greeted by Mr. Freedman and led into the back conference room where Mr. Freedman discussed the various operations and processes of both LAFC and Mandalay Baseball.
Part of the Mandalay Baseball entity formerly included the Dayton Dragons and the OKC Dodgers, both MiLB teams that Mr. Freedman was responsible for overseeing. The most interesting part of our discussion revolving Mandalay and the Dayton Dragons was the fact that the Dragons were a very unsuccessful team, but were rated #10 in the most tickets sold for a season in professional sports. Mr. Freedman explained that the most important factor in generating those ticket sales is the experience that the Dragons provide its fans. The entertainment and the activities available to ticket holders outside of the game itself are what is most valuable and what continues to draw in crowds every season. In the future, Mandalay Sports plans to focus its energy on the business of the LA Dodgers and maintaining that entity in opposition to focusing on the minor leagues. Additionally, with respect to Mandalay Baseball Mr. Freeman spoke to us about the importance of exclusive sponsorships and emphasizing a partners message unfiltered is key to successful promotion.
After discussing the Mandalay Baseball organization we dove into the Los Angeles Football Club, an expansion team in the heart of Los Angeles. Operating on five core principles: affordable and high quality products, quality family entertainment, unsurpassed customer service, community involvement and positive sponsor impact. LAFC utilizes each of these five pillars to emphasize the organizational culture of the program. Mr. Freedman explained that culture is extremely important to the LAFC team and front office, as working in a collaborative manor to develop the team has taught the organization’s members to put the experience of their fans above all else. Shortly in between our discussion, we were able to take a tour of the LAFC grounds and get an exclusive look into the developing Banc of California stadium that will house up to 22,000 people and offer an extravagant culinary experience to their fans 7 days a week. The idea of the organization is to remain authentic and to remain true to the roots of the city of Los Angeles. “Street by street, block by block, one by one” LAFC plans to center their team around its fans and bring a very personal atmosphere to the arena, as they have already involved many LA natives in their promotional efforts already.
Overall, Mr. Freedman provided the group with advice on our careers (“meet someone and never let them go,” “be bold” by stepping outside of your comfort zone and attacking what it is you want, and understanding that “you cannot script your life.” It is important for us as students entering the professional world of sports to be “malleable” and be willing to take risks while also being open to change that we may have never expected.
To end the day, the group went to Hollywood and broke off for dinner. We got to see the Hollywood Walk of Fame as well as the Chinese Theatre. It was fun to see the many street acts and impersonations. After dinner, the group went to La La Land Souvenir shop and picked up so fun gifts and shirts before heading home. It was a long, jam-packed day but it was all good fun. Tomorrow starts a new adventure and we can’t wait to see what surprised Professor Veley has in store!