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Three Kennesaw State University students will visit broadcaster Warner Bros. Discovery Sports U.S. during the 2023 March Madness college basketball tournament to see how the company uses digital sports collectibles in its marketing.

Companies are increasingly using NFTs (nonfungible tokens) to create digital trading cards and other content to engage fans of sporting events, such as March Madness and the Super Bowl. NFTs are images, videos, or other digital assets that use blockchain to trace their path of ownership. Fans collect, trade, buy and sell the digital collectibles.

Students Feyisola Odejimi, Cynthia Quiroz, and Sophie Schohan will learn from Warner Bros. Discovery Sports marketing pros in Atlanta during the tournament as a reward for their first-place finish in Kennesaw State’s first Marketing Innovation and Technology Strategy (MITS) competition. The MITS event was a cross-departmental effort organized by the Kennesaw Marketing Association and Business Technology Club student groups and sponsored by Warner Bros. Discovery Sports.

Left to right: KSU faculty Dominic Thomas, MITS winners Cynthia Quiroz, Sophie Schohan, and Feyisola Odejimi, Warner Media's Matt McElroy, and KSU faculty Laurie Michaelson

Student competitors used their knowledge of marketing concepts and emerging Web3 technologies to develop a strategy for using NFTs to build consumer engagement and create corporate sponsorship opportunities during March Madness. Web3 describes the evolution of the internet through increasing use of emerging technologies such as machine learning, artificial intelligence and token-based transactions.

Because the use of NFTs affects multiple disciplines, students with backgrounds in marketing or technology were both invited to participate in the MITS competition.

“Before entering, I had only a general knowledge of how marketing and technology were becoming more interconnected,” said Schohan, a senior Media and Entertainment student minoring in Advertising and Digital Media. “Seeing as NFTs and other digital assets are becoming more and more popular, I saw this as an opportunity to broaden my understanding of this emerging market.”

According to Laurie Michaelson, the MITS competition’s faculty advisor and a marketing instructor for the Michael J. Coles College of Business’s Department of Marketing and Professional Sales, it was important that marketing and technology students worked together during the event.

“The cross-discipline nature was a key component,” Michaelson said. “For marketing students, they got to work with technology and understand its limits and what it can do to help create strategy. For technology students, it’s about going beyond creating technology to coming up with ideas for using it.”

Warner Bros. Discovery Sports’ involvement in the event began early, with Michaelson working with Matt McElroy, the company’s senior director of growth and innovation (blockchain/NFT) and digital league streaming, on helping the next generation of marketing professionals leverage Web3 technologies in their strategies.

McElroy brought Warner Bros. Discovery Sports on as a sponsor and developed the competition case, which asked students to propose a strategy for using NFTs of video moments and other media to increase fan engagement, generate consumer revenue, and encourage corporate sponsorship. The winning strategy will be implemented during March Madness.

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