CoJMC celebrates 5-year partnership with FOX Sports U

Thursday, June 4, 2020 - 3:45pm

by Kaitlin Van Loon

Over the past five years of CoJMC’s partnership with FOX Sports U, students have had the opportunity to work on major FOX Sports brands. This year's campaign was on military appreciation on behalf of the big Ten Network (BTN), while previous campaigns have focused on promoting the popular national sports network FS1, creating content for the BTN Tailgate Show, increasing awareness of FOX Sports’ partial acquisition of Big Ten College Football media rights, and marketing NFL Thursday Night Football on FOX Deportes, a Spanish-language sports network.

CoJMC faculty member Frauke Hachtmann started the partnership with FOX Sports University five years ago and has been teaching the course ever since. One year, she and fellow CoJMC faculty member Kelli Britten team-taught the course. It started as a special topics course and now serves as a capstone experience for majors in advertising and public relations as well as those in the college’s newest undergraduate major: sports media and communication. The course has also attracted graduate students over the years. This year’s class had 25 students.

Fox Sports U is a collaboration between Fox Sports and the nation’s leading universities to give students a chance to work on a particular business challenge.

“It’s a super exciting real-world learning experience for students majoring in advertising and public relations and those in our newest undergraduate major, sports media and communication,” Hachtmann said.

Hachtmann works closely with Manager of Strategic Partnerships for FOX Sports U Cati Hance and representatives of each FOX Sports brand on the client side to ensure the course runs smoothly when it's offered each spring. This year's FOX Sports brand representative was BTN Vice President of Marketing Erin Harvego.

When creating projects Hance always makes sure these three things are built into the structure: 

  1. It’s relevant to one of the FOX Sports U business units
  2. It’s a real-world project experience for the students
  3. It fits in with the curriculum of the class they’re partnering with

“We created this project with Big Ten Network specifically for our partnership with Frauke’s class,” Hance said. “The topic of the students’ campaign challenge is very important to BTN and FOX Sports.”

Harvego is always impressed with the students' creativity, research and professionalism that goes into each of the presentations. She also raved about Hachtmann's dedication to her students.

“Frauke Hachtmann has been tremendous to work with over the years,” Harvego said. “You can see the enthusiasm she brings to each project and her commitment to helping her students succeed.”

Harvego, her BTN marketing team and Hance traveled to Nebraska in January to brief the students on the subject of their campaign challenge. They hoped to return at the end of the semester to watch the final presentations, but they couldn't because of the coronavirus. Instead the students presented virtually, which meant BTN President Francois McGillicuddy got to join in on the call.

“Our leadership values the FOX Sports University program and the students involved," Hance said. "Having the head of Big Ten Network involved for the entirety of the students’ final presentations was really special.”

Broadcasting and sports media and communication major Hannah Stodolka, who has since graduated, was the first to present for her team. She’s used to taking on the video aspect in group projects, but she fell into the role of account executive.

In Stodolka’s mind, embracing this role solidified that she still wanted to work for a sports organization, but it also made her realize that there's more to sports than being on TV or behind the camera.

“Getting to learn more about areas outside of video and production has made me more marketable as I go into the career field,” Stodolka said.

Another 2020 graduate Zachary Way was a research director for his team. This capstone experience helped him land his first internship as a social content intern at Social Assurance. As Way enters the workforce he’s glad he had the chance to work with actual clients before entering the real-world.

While at CoJMC, Zack Beyers (pictured) was a Sports Media and Communication and ADPR major. As the project manager on his team, he made sure everyone stayed on task and kept track of each team member's responsibilities.

This final capstone course helped Beyers enhance his skills in market research. He also got to flex his creative side and come up with ideas for a major TV network— these are both things he wants to do in his future career.

"The biggest thing I learned from this course is how to relate real-world concepts to sports media," Beyers said.

When Harvego begins work on a new campaign for BTN or refreshes existing ones, she often looks to Big Ten students for ideas, even calling their perspective invaluable.

“These students come up with unique ideas and provide boots-on-the-ground insight that quite frankly, I couldn’t have gotten anywhere else,” Harvego said.

At the end of the semester each student receives a survey to fill out for job recruitment where they can pick which part of the country and what roles they'd be interested in at FOX Sports. Hance gives that information directly to the recruitment teams so that when roles that fit those selections become available, FOX Sports U alumni are the first to be contacted.

“I am very thankful for our amazing partnership with FOX Sports University,” Hachtmann said. “This partnership has given Nebraska students access to FOX Sports unparalleled internship program and last year, the program invited three of our students to attend the National Sports Media Association’s 60th awards ceremony in North Carolina.”

You can read more about that here.

“The nurturing relationship with our client has helped the students create marketing communication strategies for real-life scenarios based on extensive market research," Hachtmann said. "This hard work has also been recognized by American Marketing Association (AMA) Prism Awards for Research, AMA Prism Awards for Marketing Campaign, and most recently an AMA Prism Award for Mobile Media Apps."

Harvego is glad these students had an opportunity to network with people who are already in the industry, like she and Hance, and that the capstone course provides them with a real-life business project to work on.

“It’s an experience that I think will help them tremendously as they embark on their careers," she said. "I wish I had had this kind of opportunity when I was in school.”

When classes were moved online at the end of March, Hachtmann held class in real-time using Zoom, and the students continued to make progress toward their campaign each week. It was especially challenging because the course is a team-based course. They decided to present the three campaigns live to the client team using Zoom instead of pre-recording them, so that FOX Sports U and BTN could ask questions and comment in real time.

“I am so incredibly proud of our students’ tenacity and professionalism in light of the Covid-19 health crisis," Hachtmann said. "It was an incredible learning opportunity that added yet another skill to the list of our students’ professional media education.”

Photo by Craig Chandler of University Communications
Photo by Craig Chandler of University Communications