NFL, MLB, the Food Network…and Big Data? A Uniquely Booth New York Media, Entertainment, and Sports Trek

Jeffrey Chao is a first year student at Chicago Booth. As an active member of the Media, Entertainment, and Sports Group (MESG), Jeffrey helped organize MESG’s New York Career Trek in January. Once upon a time in college, Jeffrey interned for Major League Baseball and the National Football League, and he was excited to revisit his old stomping grounds. Jeffrey was recently elected Co-Chair of MESG, and looks forward to helping plan events such as the Trek and the annual MESG Sports Symposium, which he attended this past November and wrote about here.
–Matthew Richman

College Jeff (top) and MBA Jeff (bottom) visit the NFL
Earlier this year, I teamed up with two other first year students, Maile Housel and Phil Caruso, to plan the Media, Entertainment, and Sports Group’s New York trek. These industries don’t follow a typical MBA recruiting cycle, making trek planning an exercise in persistence. However, we found that companies in these industries are increasingly looking for bright, ambitious MBA talent. In the end, we secured visits to six companies: Ticketmaster, Brooklyn Bowl, Food Network, Major League Baseball (MLB), National Football League (NFL), and Vox Media. Here are three key takeaways we learned from planning and attending our trek.
1. Network, network, network
Breaking into and succeeding in these industries involve a heavy dose of networking. We utilized all the connections that our expansive Booth network afforded to coordinate our company visits. Some of these contacts included the MESG’s alumni network at MLB and NFL, our collective pre-MBA networks, and a range of Booth alumni. For instance, Sergei Kuharsky ’88, General Manager at Food Network, hosted us for a “lunch and learn”, and Nilay Patel, a University of Chicago 2003 graduate, discussed with us his role as Managing Editor of The Verge, a popular technology news website operated by Vox Media.
The Trek group at the Food Network with Booth
alum Sergei Kuharsky ’88
2. Data analytics is the future
At every firm we visited, data analytics were a prominent point of discussion. Representatives from Ticketmaster’s ticketing department talked about utilizing dynamic pricing to combat secondary market sales, while NFL employees discussed quantifying success of its marketing efforts in areas like community relations and corporate sponsorship. Dan Darien, Vice-President of Research and Strategic Planning at MLB, touched on advanced pricing strategies and better understanding of consumer habits through television and digital media data. Hearing about the importance of data analytics made me glad that I secured a spot in this spring’s Sports Analytics class with renowned professors and sports enthusiasts John Huizinga, Tobias Moskowitz, and Kevin Murphy.  Booth has a number of other classes on the cutting edge of analytics and data-driven marketing, such as Data Mining and Managerial Decision Modeling, that help prepare us for internships and jobs.
Ticketmaster corporate visit
3. “A recipe without a story isn’t fun”
When Sergei Kuharsky spoke about how Food Network became one of the most successful cable networks on air today, he philosophized, “A recipe without a story isn’t fun.” Forging a career in media, entertainment, or sports requires hard work, intelligence, and—as all of the people we met with will readily admit—a little bit of luck. But the payoff is a fun job with fun stories. On our trek, we listened to live music while knocking down pins at Brooklyn Bowl, admired all 47 Super Bowl rings prominently displayed in the NFL’s lobby, and checked out Vox Media’s secret gaming cave hidden behind an ordinary bookshelf.
The group poses with the Lombardi Trophy at the NFL

The Trek was a great opportunity for those of us with a passion for the intersection for sports and business to meet the Booth community in these fields, including both the alumni network and our current classmates (and hopefully future colleagues). This Trek, coupled with all the MESG events I’ve attended and specialized classes on the horizon, made me realize how critical my Booth experience will be in shaping my future career path. I’m excited to help facilitate these experiences as MESG Co-Chair next year!

Trek participants at Burger Joint, a “secret” burger place
hidden in Le Meridian Hotel

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