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Experiencing Super Bowl 2023: Sports Management Insights

By Dr. Brittany Jacobs, Department Chair, Sports Management & Esports and
Dr. James Reese, Faculty Member, Practicum Coordinator & Community Relations, Sports Management & ESports

The Super Bowl is an annual American football tradition, beloved by fans across the country. In this episode, APU’s Dr. Brittany Jacobs talks to APU’s Dr. Jim Reese about his attendance at this year’s Super Bowl and making connections and content. Hear his plans to build internship opportunities for Sports Management students.

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Brittany Jacobs: Hello everyone and welcome to our podcast today. Today we’re going to be talking about the Super Bowl. Dr. Reese had the opportunity to go down to the Super Bowl in Glendale, Arizona just a few months ago, and we really want to speak to him about that experience. I’m Dr. Brittany Jacobs, the chair of the Sport Management & Esports programs, and I’m really excited to introduce you to Dr. Reese. Dr. Reese, will you give us a little intro?

Jim Reese: Sure. Thanks for having me. I really appreciate it. My new role is as internship coordinator and community relations. Not sure how that flows together, but anyway, this trip to Phoenix was part of our new commitment to try to build opportunities, internship opportunities for our students.

Brittany Jacobs: So, I’m super jealous of the opportunity that you had to go down to the Super Bowl. How did this opportunity come about?

Jim Reese: Brian, our Dean, Brian Freeland, connected us with someone that he met, and her company basically works with colleges and universities too. She had a lot of contacts and provided opportunities for students, and so it went through her, and it was kind of last minute, so we were trying to get a group of students to be able to go to Phoenix and that didn’t work out. So, I just ended up going by myself, but it was still well worth it with the contacts that I made and so forth.

Brittany Jacobs: So, have you been to the Super Bowl before or was this your first time?

Jim Reese: No, I’ve been to a few before. I got a chance to work at Super Bowl XXXII and XXXIII, so as a member of the Denver Broncos.

Brittany Jacobs: That’s amazing. What did you do when you were working for those Super Bowls?

Jim Reese: I was in the ticket office, so we did ticket sales, outside sales, inside sales, customer service, those kinds of things. Outside sales was not really outside sales because you’re calling people on a wait list, so that really doesn’t count.

Brittany Jacobs: Have you had the opportunity to work at any other mega events in addition to the Super Bowl?

Jim Reese: Not at that level. I’ve had an opportunity to work at some other events. I was vice president, I don’t know if you’ve ever seen World’s Strongest Man, they’re the guys that pick the rocks up and put them on platforms and so forth. But, yeah, I was the vice president for them. It was IFSA USA was the American governing body for the sport of strong man here in the US, and basically what we did is we held contests around the country that were qualifiers, and then had nationals in St. Louis, top five there went to World’s Strongest Man, and so that was what we did, and so I did that in 2001, 2002.

As far as the qualifiers, I got a chance to go around the country and we had one in Miami, one in LA, Boston, Honolulu, that was a nice trip. But, it went really well, and then strong man went in a different direction. But, then I also had a chance to work as a consultant for one of my former students at Ohio. His dad owned a then Busch series race team, Curb-Agajanian Motorsports, and so I had a chance to sell sponsorship for those folks and go to a few races and entertain clients, things like that.

Brittany Jacobs: That’s amazing. Are there any big mega events that you have on your calendar coming up?

Jim Reese: Yes. If we continue to work with the partner that we’re working with, not only myself, but our entire full-time staff of faculty would like to work at the Olympics in LA in 2028. So, that’s very exciting.

Brittany Jacobs: That’s incredible. So, tell me what’s so special about working for mega events like the Olympics or like the Super Bowl? What makes them different than your regular run of the mill NFL event?

Jim Reese: It’s pretty high pressure because there’s so much at stake. Well, I mean, there’s a lot at stake at all championship events at every level, but this is really high profile, so there’s just a lot of pressure all the way around. I remember, Mr. Bowlen, the owner of the Broncos wasn’t able to make it to say this to us personally, but he shared it with my boss and our boss came in and said this to the entire ticketing staff, he said, “Folks, listen, I just wanted you to know that you can have an impact on the outcome of this game because it’s your job to minimize distractions and distractions in many forms come from the tickets that they’re being bombarded with requests,” and so he said, “Make this as easy as possible for the players so that they can concentrate on football,” and I thought that was a pretty powerful thing because it really kind of put into perspective what our role was and how important it really was, and we didn’t realize it was that important.

Brittany Jacobs: Absolutely. It takes the whole village to really win or lose games, I guess.

Jim Reese: Exactly. So, yeah, maybe, I don’t know, half of 1% maybe, but the rest was the players. But we’ll lean on that half of a 1% if I can get something out of it so there.

Brittany Jacobs: So, when you were in a situation like that, you said it was super high pressure, how do you manage that?

Jim Reese: Well, that’s where your training comes in and hopefully you’ve… Because those are feelings that needs to be second nature, and it’s the same with sports, we always talk about just reacting and muscle memory and all that kind of stuff. But, if you go through proper training and you can anticipate some of the things that might be happening, it’s a lot easier to do that, and you have to expect the unexpected, and that happened at the Super Bowl that I was just at, and we had to regroup and come up with a little bit different strategy, but you keep things on the back of the house, they say, and not let the customers and fans see what’s happening, and if you can do that, then it’s usually a pretty successful event.

Brittany Jacobs: That’s awesome. So, it’s definitely sounding like you’re thinking on your feet and overcoming those obstacles as you go.

Jim Reese: Yeah, and some of them are pretty challenging because there’s no really right or wrong answer. You have to… See, that’s the other thing too, is working with good people, is if you’re working with the right person and you’ve proven yourself as whether it’s a student and an internship or a staff member, then that person will give you the ability to delegate the ability to make those decisions knowing that you’re going to make the best of all options, and so that’s why it’s important to have a training program and go through and make some mistakes, because we learn from doing things well, but we also learn from our mistakes.

Brittany Jacobs: Absolutely. Are there any mistakes that you’re willing to share from your professional experience or mistakes that you’ve seen other students make?

Jim Reese: Well, I’m not going to share with other students because that’s not… I don’t think that would go over too well with… Even if I didn’t mention names as they might be listening. But yes, I can give you one quick example. When I was there, we didn’t have barcodes, and so we used hard tickets. So, we would routinely have 80,000 people show up for 76,000 seats, because what season ticket holders would do is they would go up to Federal Boulevard, they would sell their originals, and then they would come down and buy duplicates and the duplicates took precedent, and so they would tell the people that bought the tickets, “Just don’t go sit in those seats, go find something somewhere else.” That’s how that would happen, and so we had to be very careful about issuing replacement tickets and duplicate tickets.

But anyway, this gentleman comes in and he barbecued his tickets. We sent the tickets out in the mail in this manila envelope. Of course he blamed his wife, but he said, “Well, my wife put them on the chair near the sliding door where we put the newspapers to start the fire for the barbecue,” and so he brought me, he had a little baggie with just these remnants of ticket pieces, and so I’m trying to follow policy, I couldn’t guarantee that all 16 games were there, or eight games, I’m sorry, eight home games. So, the guy got pretty upset, justifiably so. My boss came out and he says, “Sir, I think, based on what you’re telling us, and you obviously barbecued your tickets, and we’re going to go ahead and issue you replacements.”

So, after the whole thing was… After the gentleman… He was happy and he left, and Rick said, “Jim, you got to think on your feet. This is a season ticket holder. They pay a lot of money.” Goes, “I doubt the guy would’ve put a couple tickets on there and barbecued them just to try to get over on us.” I shouldn’t have had to be involved in this decision; you should have been able to take care of it. So, yeah, I was young at the time, and I was still learning, but I never forgot it. I’ll tell you that. It was pretty amazing.

Brittany Jacobs: That’s an incredible story. First of all, the barbecuing, and then it’s definitely a great learning experience, right? Trusting your gut and being able to make those decisions.

Jim Reese: I share those with students too because I think that’s one of the important things about having industry experience, and I’m just so proud of, that our faculty, we bring that kind of experience, because you’re not just teaching from a book, you’re sharing stories, things that worked and mistakes that you made, and it makes the classes so much better, and so that’s one of the things that’s real special about our program.

Brittany Jacobs: Absolutely. I think that it allows other people to feel like they too can make mistakes, they can try things and take chances when they know that everybody’s made a mistake.

Jim Reese: Exactly. Yep, exactly right.

Brittany Jacobs: So, other than these learning experiences that students are going to get by participating in mega events, what other benefits do you see from them participating in something like the Super Bowl experience?

Jim Reese: That’s a great question because any event that… And you know this because we all tell our students they have to build their resumes, there’s just too much competition, if they want to work in sports. So, you can do it locally and just events close to your home and high school events and college events and those kinds of things. But networking is so important in our business. People have to know you and what you’re capable of, and like I said, that can be done locally, but if you can get some the Super Bowl or the Olympics, those kinds of things under your belt, it draws attention on a resume. People are scanning through, “Ooh, ooh,” they see the Super Bowl, or they see the Olympics, or they see something like that.

In addition to that, whoever you’re working with, if you do a good job, you should be able to tap into their network as well because they’ll typically try to help, if they don’t have a job open at the end of the event, a lot of times they’ll say, “Hey, you know what? I know someone here and I think they might have a position open. Let me put you in touch with them,” and that’s how you build your network of contacts, and so that’s why that’s really important.

Brittany Jacobs: Absolutely. They say that the sport management world is a small world and there’s only five degrees of separation between any one industry professional and the other.

Jim Reese: I would be bold enough to say that it might even be three, because it’s pretty small. If I don’t know someone somewhere, I know someone that knows someone sit there, and I’m sure that’s the case for a lot of our faculty, and so it really is… It’s not seven degrees like Kevin Bacon, I can tell you that, it’s a lot smaller. It’s a lot smaller than seven.

Brittany Jacobs (11:00):

All right, Jim, so while you were at the Super Bowl, you were able to capture some interviews and do some social media pieces. Tell us about that experience and what it was like trying to capture interviews at a Super Bowl.

Jim Reese: Well, I totally forgot how difficult that process was. I did have a chance to do that as part of my strong man responsibilities back in the day, so to speak. But, I forgot how difficult it is because you have to approach people and ask them for their time, and then you know they’re there not necessarily wanting to give interviews to people, but you have to try to select, first of all, people that are going to do well on camera, and there’s a lot of, how we say, there was a lot of alcohol flowing at the event. So, you’re trying to sort through all that, and then you’re hoping you say something at the beginning and say, “This is going to be broadcast on Instagram, so and so,” but people will sometimes still use language that’s inappropriate, and then you can’t use and then you’d have to try to get a diverse group of folks to make sure that you get all different perspectives and all different types of folks represented.

So, if a couple of those don’t work out and they become unusable, then you run into a problem as far as having enough quality videos to do something with online, and so I always say that if you plan on using five, do 10 just to make sure that you’ve got enough content.

Brittany Jacobs: Absolutely. Once you started doing those interviews, when you were in the live session, what was the most challenging part about creating a good interview?

Jim Reese: Responding to where the person, during the interview, wherever they were leading, to try to keep the interview going forward. I remember these folks from Philadelphia were there and they gave a great human-interest story about why he was an Eagles fan, and so I just kind of went with that to let that just kind of develop, and so asking the right questions and then the right follow-up questions is important as well.

Brittany Jacobs: So, when you’re doing these interviews, did you go in with some questions in mind that you thought might lead the conversation or did you allow it to develop as it went?

Jim Reese: A little of both. I went in with open-ended questions, like, “How’s your experience been so far here at the Super Bowl?” Things like that. Then just kind of went with it to see what direction that it was going and then tried to come up with good follow-up questions. This one gentleman from Kansas City, he paid $5,000 for two tickets, and so when he mentioned that I kind of went with that a little bit because that’s a lot of money, and so it just depends on how the interview’s going. You might be able to branch off and keep it going in some different directions.

Brittany Jacobs: What did you find? Were people enjoying their time? What was the vibe like when you were there?

Jim Reese: The vibe was great, and I expected there to be more animosity maybe between the different fans from the different teams from Kansas City and Philadelphia. But they all seemed… Everyone got along well, and there was a really good vibe there. So, even with some of the folks that were drinking alcohol, I didn’t witness any incidents or anything that was problematic while I was doing that.

Brittany Jacobs: So, you mentioned that sometimes the clips don’t turn out exactly as you want them to. Someone might say some language that needs to be cut or might go in a direction that you weren’t expecting. Were there any outtakes that you had to cut out from all of the interviews that you did at the Super Bowl?

Jim Reese: Most of the videos were rather short, 30 to 60 seconds, and so I can think of a couple that just the entire video became unusable because there was no way… Well, honestly, when it’s that short, there’s really no way to splice that in. I mean, I guess, I could have put a still picture in there or something and then transition back, but it becomes really difficult, and fortunately we had enough, five good ones that we were able to use, and I didn’t have to really, but I could have if I needed to. But we were fortunate enough to have enough that we could use.

Brittany Jacobs: That’s excellent. So, once you created all of these videos, you then posted them on the sport management program page, which is, for anybody who doesn’t know yet, it’s @amuapusports. So, make sure you check that out and follow us. How did you decide what you were going to post and when you were going to post it?

Jim Reese: The first post was as soon as I got off the plane, I was at the airport, and I was at baggage claim, and that’s when I did the first video, a little teaser. Then kind of went with the ones from the interviews and so forth. So, there’s another step in there, and that is going through clipping the ends of the video so that it’s nice and clean. You start filming, and 10 seconds before, what you’re going to use and you give them some directions and those kinds of things, and then you just clip that stuff off in the editing process. But it was pretty easy to do. You can do that right on your phone, which was awesome.

Brittany Jacobs: I was just going to say, how did you learn those editing skills?

Jim Reese: Well, I’m kind of a technology geek and I can do some things that I’ve learned over the years and it’s an interest area for me, so it’s something that I pick up and I play with sometimes.

Brittany Jacobs: Is that something that you would recommend students get a good feel for that they should try out some of these new technologies and be able to clip a video, cut a picture, et cetera?

Jim Reese: Absolutely. But I think that they’re probably better than us at that already with… No, really, with Snapchat and Instagram, and I know they post a lot of videos and so they’re probably better than… I shouldn’t be bragging here. I’m probably not even as good as some of our students, so…

Brittany Jacobs: I wouldn’t be surprised. So, as you go through and you’re utilizing social media to share this experience of the Super Bowl, what were you hoping to get out of it? What was the goal of doing all of these interviews?

Jim Reese: Another great question. If you’re going to reach students in this environment, in this generation, you really have to be on social media, and so we may be a little late getting to the game compared to some programs, but we’re still way ahead of many others, and it’s just trying to get students to just to connect and engage. So, it’s not just the classroom content. We have a hard time building relationships in an online setting as compared to when we were at brick and mortar institutions, and because you’re not in front of them every day, and these social type things, it almost like puts a personality with the professor’s name that they see in the class, and it’s not the same as being face-to-face, but it’s probably the next best thing, and so I think it’s just really important, if we’re going to reach students, we’ve got to be on social media.

Brittany Jacobs: Absolutely. I mean, I know that all of my students are on social media, they’re scrolling every day. It’s pretty funny, in a class before, I’ve asked students to pull up their phone and to look how much time they’re actually spending on these different social media platforms, and they’re always shocked at how many hours it is. It’s always pretty significant, that’s for sure. So, it sounds like you had an awesome weekend down at the Super Bowl, it was super busy, but very, very productive. Would you do it all over again?

Jim Reese: Absolutely, and I hope we have the opportunity to do that from the standpoint of generating enough funds to… It would be nice if we could raise enough money to pay for the students’ expenses as well. It’ll be a while until we get to that point, but that would be a great goal to have, because right now we have to try to utilize students from those areas so to minimize travel, and so it would be nice to get to a point where that wouldn’t be a limitation for students.

Brittany Jacobs: Do you think that that’s something that we’re going to be able to achieve down the road? Do you foresee that we’ll be able to bring students all across the country?

Jim Reese: I really do, and it might be overly optimistic, but I always say to people when they talk to potential students or alumni that if we do our job in the classroom and make a connection with people, they will stay involved in the program, especially if you help them find a job or an internship or help them launch their career. That’s some loyalty that stays there for a very long time, and they can give back in a lot of different ways, whether it’s the industry advisory council or money down the road or providing opportunities for other students, when they’re in a position to do that, and so there’s a lot of different ways that students can give back when they become alumni, but they’re not going to do that if they don’t have a great experience, and so that’s what we’ve got to provide each student.

Brittany Jacobs: So, Dr. Reese, when you’re thinking back on this event, is there anything that you’d change or any advice that you’d give students who are going to come to our next event or are thinking about putting something like this on their calendar?

Jim Reese: Yes, I would say that do everything that you’re asked to do to the best of your ability, don’t ask the same question twice. Ask as many questions as you want, but don’t ask the same question twice because people are busy. If you finished what you’re working on, go ask for more opportunities or more things to work on, don’t just stand around, because that gets noticed, and so those are the few things I would recommend.

Brittany Jacobs: That’s excellent, and what about those who have been inspired by your interview skills and content creation? Any suggestions you might have for them?

Jim Reese: It could be a career path. If it’s something that they know social media, that’s their whole life it’s been there, different from us, but that may be an area that they want to work in. Video is a huge part, and now analytics, they’re huge parts of professional sports now, and college sports as well. So, absolutely, if that’s something that they enjoy, I mean, they say if you love what you’re doing, you never work a day in your life. You got to find your passion area, for sure.

Brittany Jacobs: When we build out all of this sport content, if there are any students out there that are really passionate about content creation or building videos, don’t hesitate to reach out to Dr. Reese. I know that he would be more than happy to have you get set up and start creating some content for these social media pages.

Jim Reese: That would be correct. I’ll take whatever help I can get at this point.

Brittany Jacobs: Dr. Reese, before we sign off for the day, is there anything else you’d like to share with our listeners?

Jim Reese: Well, one additional thing with Instagram, it would be nice to… We’re hoping to get other faculty involved with… We need for faculty to do some kind of human-interest things on them, so it might not be sport management related specifically, but it would be a great way for students to get to know their professors. If they knew a little bit of background about what the professors do and their time and what their interests are and those kinds of things. So, maybe we can put together some short videos like that, which I think students would be interested in.

Brittany Jacobs: I like it. That sounds like a great idea. Dr. Reese, it’s been a pleasure to speak with you today. Thanks so much for taking the time and sharing such great insights. For all of our listeners out there, don’t forget to follow AMU & APU Sports Management on Instagram @amuapusports, or on LinkedIn. Been great to speak with you all today. Again, I’m Dr. Brittany Jacobs. Have a wonderful day.

Brittany Jacobs

Dr. Brittany Jacobs is an Associate Professor and Department Chair for the Sports Management and Esports program at the University. She is highly involved in the Olympic & Paralympic movements and worked for USA Rugby before returning to academia. Much of her current research centers around officials and other marginalized populations providing a direct connection to her previous coaching and officiating experiences. Brittany earned her Ph.D. from the University of Northern Colorado in Sports & Exercise Science with a Doctoral Minor in Statistics. She also holds a master’s degree in sports management from the University of Texas, a master’s degree in secondary education from the University of New Hampshire, and a B.S. in kinesiology from the University of New Hampshire, where she also played collegiate field hockey.

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