For a soccer lover like Stephen Clad, there really couldn't have been a better summer internship. The junior sport and recreation management major spent his summer as a marketing intern for West Ham United in the English Premier League.
Manchester United, Aresenal and Chelsea are probably the most famous of the English teams here in the United States, but the league has 20 teams, with about half of them - including West Ham - concentrated around London.
That makes for a competitive marketing environment, where each team is trying to define, capture and shore up its market. “It's real dog-eat-dog marketing,” Clad said. There was extra pressure and opportunity at West Ham this summer because the team will be moving into a new stadium at the beginning of the 2016-17 season - London's Olympic stadium.
The new stadium will be twice as large and need twice as many fans to fill it.
“I was thrown into the deep end,” Clad said of the internship that got off to a fast start. After performing an analysis of the team's social media presence, he was asked to gather data for an important project related to the stadium move.
Most fans in London get to their weekend soccer match by subway or train, so Clad gathered information about the populations along various rail lines and stops, examining demographics as well as raw numbers, to see which stops might be the best places to look for new fans. In addition, he examined “heat maps” of where Twitter users were having conversations about West Ham.
On match days, he jumped from marketing to communications, helping with press conferences and even using his fluency in Spanish to serve as an impromptu interpreter for a player media interview.
Despite playing soccer in high school, his dream to play top level soccer fell through, but his love and passion for the game has never diminished or faded.
“I believe if you understand the business aspect of your sport, it makes you an even more involved fan,” Clad said.
He learned about West Ham's unusual strategy of keeping its ticket prices low to be true to its roots as a team favored by the working class. He attended meetings to plan the move to the new stadium. And he observed the public relations department handling flak from the Olympic stadium deal (which some thought gave West Ham an overly favorable rental agreement).
“Just listening to them deal with the media on the phone taught me a lot,” he said.
After seeing not just the good (treat mom to a match as a VIP), but also the difficult, Clad is as eager as ever to work with a professional soccer team.
“I didn't even feel like I was working. It was so much fun,” he said. “It reassured me that I have chosen the right major at Pitt-Bradford and career path.”