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Graduate students explore the Hall of Fame at Lambeau Field with instructor Gabrielle Dow (right).

Learning at Lambeau: Sports Innovation From the NFL’s Best

It’s not often going to class involves spending time at one of the world’s most famous sports venues.

Lambeau Field, home of the Green Bay Packers, was the destination for “Learning at Lambeau: Sports Innovation & Marketing from the NFL’s Best” during the spring session of St. Norbert College’s MBA program.

Taught by Gabrielle Dow, the Packers’ vice president of marketing and fan engagement – the self-described VP of fun and games – students gained an overview of various aspects of the professional sports business. 

“We used the Packers and sports in general to talk about relevant things in their businesses,” Dow said. “There was a lot of sharing of information, and it was neat because I wanted everyone to participate.”

The combination of theory and current events touched on branding, the business of sports, sponsorships and the role of analytics in decision-making. Several other topics, including social media, ticket sales and public relations, may be covered in more depth in future classes.

“We simply ran out of classes,” Dow said. “Sometimes one topic would take over the conversation for most of the session. The students were great. They seemed to be engaged and interested, so that’s a good sign.”

The course featured five three-hour sessions, including one class held at the Resch Center that focused on the Green Bay Blizzard, an indoor football team that faces a whole different set of marketing challenges than an established brand such as the Packers.

The final class featured a surprise tailgate party hosted by the students for Dow in the Lambeau parking lot. 

Starting from scratch
Kevin Quinn, dean of the Donald J. Schneider School of Business & Economics, first approached Dow about the potential for working the Packers and sports marketing into a class for the Schneider MBA program. When Dow mentioned she had teaching experience at universities that included Georgetown, Johns Hopkins and Cal State-Long Beach, the wheels started turning.

“I researched a bunch of textbooks, called some of my colleagues at universities around the country, and finally settled on a course book,” Dow said. “I believe in taking theory and applying it to the real world.”

The Schneider MBA program accepts 35 students every fall and 15 in the spring. The goal is to have no more than 100 students in the program at one time so that class sizes can remain small. Students are expected to arrive with at least a working knowledge of statistics, finance and accounting principles.

Dow, a native of the San Francisco area who earned her own MBA from the University of Oregon, said she would be interested in teaching the course again for a future cohort of Schneider MBA students.

“It was a lot of fun,” she said. “I would love to do it again. I enjoyed engaging with the students. I had forgotten what it was like when I went to business school. It brought back memories.”

June 7, 2016