Montana State University

MSU business student turns enthusiasm for sports into a marketing career path

December 11, 2010 -- Anne Cantrell, MSU News Service

MSU student Bethany Cordell, who recently completed an internship with the Seattle Mariners, has found a way to turn her enthusiasm for sports into a future career path in sports marketing. MSU photo by Kelly Gorham.   High-Res Available

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Montana State University student Bethany Cordell is a die-hard sports fan who has parlayed her enthusiasm for sports into a future career path.

"I'm the most un-athletic person around, but I have a lot of spirit," Cordell said. "I've also discovered that I love marketing."

Cordell says these two passions make a career in sports marketing a great fit for her. And, thanks to opportunities she has pursued as a student in MSU's College of Business, she has already gained considerable experience in the field, including an internship with a major league baseball team.

Cordell, now 20 and a junior in MSU's College of Business from Helena, has landed a number of marketing internships, including one she recently completed with the Seattle Mariners. Cordell was with the Mariners from August through mid-October. While there, she supervised a group of employees who gave away promotional items during Mariners games. She also planned several kids' appreciation days, which involved coordinating 30 area mascots attending the events.

"I was out on Safeco Field four hours after starting the internship," Cordell said. "I wasn't expecting a major league team to let their interns have that much responsibility. It was great."

Working for the Mariners in a year when their record wasn't stellar made for valuable marketing experience, Cordell added. The Mariners had 61 wins and 101 losses in the 2010 season.

"The New York Yankees sell out every game regardless of how the team is doing," Cordell said. "In a year like this one for the Mariners, you really need to focus on marketing to get people there."

Cordell said the marketers focused on ways of encouraging families to attend games, such as promoting inexpensive seats and adding additional attractions like the kids' appreciation days.

Cordell also said she was able to hit the ground running at the Mariners after working as an intern with MSU Athletics' marketing department. Cordell, who discovered she loved marketing after taking a marketing class in her senior year at Helena High School, applied for the MSU internship at the end of her freshman year.

"I was really well-prepared for my job in Seattle after MSU Athletics," Cordell said. "I think I get as good or better experience at MSU than people at bigger schools do, because I get to do such a large variety of things."

Even though Cordell's original plan was to attend MSU for two years and then transfer to another university out-of-state, she said she quickly decided to stay.

"I don't want to leave," Cordell said. "I have so many amazing opportunities here."

Some of Cordell's responsibilities with MSU Athletics have included preparing pre-game and halftime promotions for Bobcat football, basketball and volleyball games. She has also written scripts for announcers to use at basketball games and created games and contests for students and children.

In fact, it was Cordell's experience with MSU Athletics that made her internship application to the Mariners stand out, said Mandy Lincoln, marketing coordinator at the Mariners.

"We receive hundreds of applications each year, and choose only three to four people each season," Lincoln said. "Her resume stood out for having experience that the position would entail.

"We also saw (in Cordell) initiative in completing other internships," Lincoln said. "That's a good indication of her work ethic. She had applied what she was learning."

Cordell's internships with the Mariners and MSU Athletics, as well as two other internships she's held with Montana Lottery and the Bozeman Public Library, have affirmed Cordell's decision to pursue a career in marketing. They are also a reminder of the wonderful opportunities she's had as a student at MSU.

"My internships and classes go in a circle," Cordell said. "I learn things in internships that I later learn in class, and vice versa."

For example, her final project with the Mariners was a professional analysis comparing how promotions affected attendance at major league baseball games. The project relied on the use of Excel, a program that Cordell reluctantly learned as a student at MSU, but which proved to be invaluable as she worked on the project.

"I'm really proud of that project," she said.

Drew Ingraham, Cordell's supervisor at MSU Athletics, said that Cordell has good intuition when it comes to marketing for sports.

"She has a really good perspective when it comes to understanding the flow of events and finding what people would find entertaining," Ingraham said. "She is also a quality thinker who is able to think outside of the box."

And, because of her many experiences while at MSU, business professor Michael Kroff, who is Cordell's adviser, predicted that Cordell will do well in the field once she graduates.

"She has been gaining experience in different areas, and I think she will be well-prepared coming out of college," he said. "She will be ready for the job market."

After she graduates from MSU, Cordell plans to continue on her path to a future career in sports marketing.

"I'd like to stay involved in university athletics," she said. "And I would love to go somewhere different. I'm really open. I've really learned that if you're not open, you're going to miss out on opportunities."

Bethany Cordell,