Monday, May 2, 2011

HIO: My Penn Relays Experience

The largest track and field meet in the United States, the Penn Relays were much more of a spectacle and intense well-oiled machine than I had imagined.

In my current position as a Marketing Assistant with Nelligan Sports Marketing at the University of Pennsylvania, I assist two others in selling and fulfilling sponsorship agreements with businesses for both Penn Athletics and the Penn Relays. When I began in January, most of my responsibilities revolved around prospecting new business for the Relays. Up until then, I also attended weekly planning meetins about the event. From the meetings, I thought I had a pretty good idea of what to expect during the event. However, I ended up being very wrong.

With over 115,000 people who attend the Penn Relays over the course of the three-day meet, the crowds were immense. In addition, there were 498 events over the three days. At any given moment, a race was occuring on the track, pole vaulting, long jump, and high jump were happening on the infield, AND there was an awards ceremony with a sponsor happening on the podium. There were simply so many moving parts occuring all at once.

Our primary responsibilities were ensuring all of our sponsors, particularly those with vendor boths in the Vendor Village, were happy. Among businesses with larger displays in the Village were Nike, Grace Foods, Powerade, AAE, Clear Connections, and BMW. Also, Thursday and Friday Milk Marketing gave away bottles of chocolcate milk. In addition, we were responsibile for executing race sponsorships. With many races during the Relays, the more prestigious championship races were used as sponsorship inventory and were sold to sponsors.

My main responsibilities during the Relays varied per day. On Thursday, our General Manager and I primarily assisted Milk Marketing in their chocolate milk giveaway. Specifically, we took trips every two hours or so to provide them with more milk, ice, and coolers. On Friday, I assisted in oversight of the Vendor Village and in race sponsorships. On Saturday, most of the day was devoted to escorting sponsor representatives to the awards podium on the infield for races they sponsored. For those races, the sponsor had the opportunity to have someone on hand to present the awards to winners and be present with them during awards pictures.

Over the course of the meet, I also oversaw our excellent staff of student volunteers - all from the Drexel Sport Management Program. The nine volunteers assisted us in Village set-up and in staffing the Philadelphia Inquirer booth and the Penn Athletics Marketing booth.

All-in-all, the Penn Relays were far more complex than I expected. Sure, I had known the facts of the meet well-enough to sell our sponsorship inventory, but I did not know to expect the sheer size and importance of it.

In the past, I've assisted in game operations and execution in both men's and women's soccer, but the Penn Relays blow both of those out of the water. During the Penn Relays, I worked with and met a great group of sponsors and representatives, shared in the excitement of the events, and I created memories and experiences I will never forget, with the latter being the most important.

In addition to serving as President of the Sport Management Student Union (SMTSU), Kevin Giordano is a sophomore Sport Management major at Drexel University with industry experience working in men's and women's professional soccer and collegiate athletics. To contact or connect with Kevin, you can follow him on Twitter (@KevinGiordano) or connect with him here on LinkedIn.

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