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To get a handle on what female fans want, a group of Kellogg students launched a fan survey, interviewed women at the team’s draft day fan event and spoke with other sports teams. “We were really driving our own agenda and doing whatever we needed to do,” Dominic Saunders ’13 says.

A win-win situation

A win-win situation

Kellogg students team up with the Chicago Bears to better engage female fans

By Sara Langen

10/12/2012 - You can learn a lot in the classroom, but when it comes to preparing future business leaders to succeed, nothing compares to real-world experience.

That’s why Kellogg partners with leading organizations to provide MBA students with experiential learning projects that offer invaluable opportunities to apply their skills. Recently Kellogg students successfully teamed up with the Chicago Bears, giving students invaluable hands-on experience and the Bears organization a better understanding of its female fan market.

Increasing female fan engagement
Many Kellogg classes involve working in teams, but the experience Dominic Saunders ’13 had working with the Chicago Bears through the Analytical Consulting Lab took collaboration to a whole new level.

“We were driving our own agenda and doing whatever we needed to do,” he recalls. “It’s all very well being in a classroom, but the pressure of reporting back to a professional organization every week and then presenting to the Chicago Bears front-office staff at the end means you have to take it seriously and apply the skills you’re learning.”

Saunders and classmates Laura Lukehart ’13, Nicky Schmidt ’13 and Rebecca Roux ’13 were charged with addressing how the team can increase engagement with female fans outside of ticket sales, since game tickets already sell out. Connecting with its female fan base is a key goal for the company, says Elaine Delos Reyes, Chicago Bears Director of Fan Marketing and Research.

“Almost half of Bears fans in the Chicago area are women,” she says. “People assume it’s mostly men, but it’s not. We wanted to learn more about engaging with them and making them feel special about being Bears fans.”

To get a sense of what female fans want, the students launched a fan survey, interviewed women at the team’s draft day fan event and spoke with other teams across a number of professional sports to see what initiatives had worked for them.

Understanding the female fan market
After analyzing the information they collected along with data from the Bears, the NFL and some of Kellogg’s secondary data sources, the group identified trends in female support, how many female fans watch, who they watch with and where.

“One thing that became clear pretty early was you couldn’t just talk about ‘a’ female fan — there were lots of different types of fans,” Saunders shares. “It was very important for the Bears to segment fans and always keep in mind which type of female fan they had for different initiatives.”

The students came up with a comprehensive package of research and recommendations that included a two-tiered membership Women’s Club, women-targeted events and initiatives to increase the team’s social media presence among women. The scope of the research and analysis and the detailed actionable steps impressed Bears management, Delos Reyes says.

“They were amazing,” she remembers of the students’ presentation. “We had key executives in the room — our CFO Karen Murphy was there and Ted Phillips, our team president. For him to take time out of his day to come and see the presentation, take a lot of notes and find things interesting and compelling, reflected that the work they’d done was very good.”

Beyond the great work product, the partnership also offered the Bears the chance to develop a relationship with Kellogg and its students.

“I was interested in sports, but I had never had an opportunity to get real-world experience like this,” Delos Reyes says. “We felt like this was a great way to provide that.”