Students go to Dogs to learn about marketing

For a successful marketing campaign, you first need a good idea, students in John McHugh’s sports marketing class at Scarborough High School are learning.

What’s also needed is correctly identifying the target audience and having effective outreach and marketing, from the traditional handmade poster hanging in the school hallway to a social media presence.

In a real-world learning project the students are working with staff from the Portland Sea Dogs minor league baseball team to create Scarborough Community Day at the ballpark.

The event will be held on Sunday, May 15. Tickets are $7 per person and the deadline to purchase them is this Friday, May 6.

Freshmen Michael LeGage said, “We’re really trying to get the whole town to rally and show up, not just the high school community. We want people to just go and support Scarborough and just show their Scarborough pride.”

But what the students are learning is that “marketing is really hard,” according to Will Ducott, another freshmen. His fellow student, Akash Bhatnager, agreed, and said that in order to market something well, the “idea has to be appealing initially.”

The students are not sure how many people will actually end up turning out for Scarborough Community Day at Hadlock Field, the Sea Dogs’ home field in Portland. They acknowledge that a baseball game can be quite a time commitment: People are busy these days and many of the students at Scarborough High, including themselves, have sports commitments of their own they must meet every weekend, which doesn’t leave a lot of time for a three- to four-hour baseball game on a Sunday afternoon.

That’s why they’re trying to play up the social value of the community day. Ducott said he and the other sports marketing students are working to convince people that the ballgame would be a “great place to socialize, in a fun environment with great food.”

The students are also emphasizing that the proceeds from ticket sales are going toward two good causes.

One is the backpack program in the Scarborough schools, which provides needy students with food during the weekend and school breaks when no school meals are offered. The other is the school store at Scarborough High, which sells Red Storm gear from T-shirts and sweatshirts to water bottles and more.

This is the second time McHugh has taught a sports marketing class at the high school. His goal with the Sea Dogs project is give his students a hand’s on experience, from promoting the community event to seeing what goes on behind the scenes at the ballpark each game day, he said.

The Sea Dogs staff has been great to work with, he said, particularly Courtney Rague, the director of sales and promotions for the team.

Rague said this week that her goal was to teach the students about the different marketing strategies used in the sports industry, from promoting and executing ticket sales to game day preparations.

She also “gave the students some different strategies such as developing promotional events to be held during athletic competitions at the school, creating fliers to hang around the community, visiting with different schools in the community and even hosting mascot competitions.”

“The goal of the project is to give these high school students the chance to understand general marketing procedures, use of licensed merchandise and promotional licensing, use of electronic media and the attitudes and behaviors of the sports consumer.”

And, she said, “At the completion of this project, these students will already be one step above others that wish to go into the sports field” in college or beyond.

McHugh said, “The Sea Dogs do such a great job creating an event, it almost doesn’t matter who wins. Everyone at the park just has such a good time. A game is a fun event outside of the regular routine and is really a chance for bonding and to socialize.”

In addition to helping create and promote Scarborough Community Day, McHugh said his students would also have a chance to meet and talk with Geoff Iacuessa, the general manager of the Sea Dogs, get a tour of the ballpark and “just see how this big production comes together, where the game is the product.”

The challenge for the Scarborough students, according to Rague, was to understand marketing strategies, learn how to promote a sporting event and do research into the spending habits of sports fans.

That’s one reason students Anthony Burnham and Robert Cleary signed up to take the sports marketing class.

They said the class seemed like it would be a place to learn “valuable, real-world skills,” according to Burnham. And, Cleary said it felt like a class that “would be relevant.”

Most of the students in the sports marketing class also play sports themselves from baseball, to ice hockey to basketball, to indoor track and even golf. Their interest in sports overall was also another draw in taking the class, the students said.

Burnham said his family used to attend Sea Dogs games when he was younger and what he most remembers are the specialized ice cream sandwiches, the trash monster and Slugger, the Sea Dogs mascot.

While Burnham admitted that attending a Sea Dogs game, and “sitting on those cold, hard seats,” may not seem like a lot of fun at first, but there is so much that goes on at games, including the between inning competitions and “the opportunity to have fun with your friends and maybe catch a foul ball” that Scarborough residents should consider going.

During Scarborough Community Day, the high school choir will sing “God Bless America” and the contestants for the between-inning competitions will be mostly Scarborough residents.

Overall, student Brett Rockey said, the sports management class has been “a good learning experience.” And Burnham agreed saying the class was a good chance to “learn what you like and what you don’t like” in terms of a possible future career.

And LeGage, who is a true baseball fan, said the whole project with the Sea Dogs has been “a lot of fun.”

A closer look

Get your tickets for Scarborough Community Day with the Portland Sea Dogs by emailing jmchugh@scarboroughschools.org, online on Instagram and Twitter or in person at the welcome desk at Scarborough High School. Game day is May 15 and tickets are on sale through May 6.

Sports marketing students at Scarborough High School are working with the Portland Sea Dogs to create and promote Scarborough Community Day at the ballpark. From left are Anthony Burnham, Cameron Deniso and Brett Rockey.

Scarborough High students are working to further their knowledge of sports marketing and have created a special event with the Portland Sea Dogs. Clockwise from top are Michael LeGage, Will Ducott and Akash Bhatnagar.

A view of Hadlock Field, the home ballpark for the Portland Sea Dogs.