In January, her fall marketing class, BUAD 335, proved their skills could help both Western’s Hockey Club and a group of children trying to grow their life and learning skills. Their work came together at Gunnison Ice Rink on a Friday night, with sales of pizza, a raffle and sponsored players’ jerseys contributing to a big check for Partners, which helps at-risk Gunnison children find success.
Senior Elliott Tausher recalls the satisfaction he shared with his classmates: “This project was a completely different way of learning about marketing, better than just taking a test.”
It all started when a student in Benavides-Gaubatz’s class, hockey coach Phil Conrad, approached his instructor early in the semester for some help to promote the team.
This became the class’s end-of-semester marketing project. They had to figure out how to promote the team, how this promotion could help the community, and how to help the team raise money both the skaters and the community group needed. They decided marketing a home game as fundraiser for the Hockey Club and the Partners mentoring project was the way to go. But although they could see the goal, there were some ice and challenges on the way there.
The team’s jerseys were set for replacement with a new Western logo, making them perfect for a single game’s use as skating billboards. The class suggested they could sell name placement on the back of the jerseys to local businesses and organizations. They decided to sell pizza and added a raffle into the mix to raise yet more cash.
“We had to assess: What are our assets, what are we good at? Then we broke into groups, based on our skill sets,” Benavides-Gaubatz says.
One group built a marketing packet. They included brochures from Partners, created a brochure for the hockey team and drafted a letter to pitch sponsorship options.
Another group produced a radio spot for
“It was very detailed from the beginning,” Tausher says. “… At first, it felt like a lot to do. But once we split into groups, it went really quickly. It didn’t seem like that much work. It was something we were all interested in doing.”
The students used their marketing tools to pitch Western’s interim president, Brad Baca, and Kevin Nelson, chairman of the Business, Accounting & Economics Department. The team and a few student volunteers then reached out to sponsors, selling 11 imprints on the backs of the jerseys for $150 each, including purchases from both the Enrollment and President’s offices at Western. Tausher, who works at Mario’s Pizza, sold his boss an imprint, and then bought pies from the restaurant, so he and his classmates could sell slices during the game. His classmates secured raffle prizes, including a float-fishing trip for two, and coupons from local shops Hammer and Powerstop.
Baca’s son dropped the official puck to start the game. And at its the end, the class presented an oversized check for $1,650 to Partners. The Hockey Club netted another several hundred dollars in an 80/20 split of the proceeds.
Benavides-Gaubatz is delighted with the results.
“Our students are learning how to integrate their knowledge,” she explains. “And that’s a wonderful tool to have when they graduate and start their careers.”
She and her colleague in Borick Business Building, Sally Hayes, professor of Economics, have more plans for the spring. They include a fundraiser for Marbles, a group started by Jerry Piquette, Western’s former vice president for . It helps local youngsters compete regionally and nationally in marbles tournaments. The marketing classes will also help Western’s Black Student Alliance host motivational speaker Stan Pearson Feb. 25 and 26 as part of National African American History Month.
Dressed in a sweater and tie as he prepares to offer free income-tax advice as a volunteer for the national VITA program, overseen at Western by accounting professor Monica Newman, Tausher, says, “It gave me more of a drive to succeed, because I really want to do that. It meant much more than a test or a grade.”
— Photographs and Story By Greg Smith, Western Marketing and Media Relations