Professor Adam Marquardt’s Sports Marketing course is taking market research to a new level, teaming up with NIKE Golf to revamp the company’s business model.

“It isn't just like any other business school class where assignments are to hypothetically critique or offer recommendations to companies studied in class, but you are actually in direct contact with professionals within the organization,” said TJ Pallan, ’17. “It really forces you to attempt to put your best foot forward, think outside the box, and help try to think critically to actually help these companies succeed.”

Pallan took the course in the fall, and started the research project that’s being carried over into the spring semester.

“The first version of the project involved looking into the consumer mind set, how they perceive the NIKE brand, how they perceive NIKE Golf,” Marquardt said.

The students interviewed their peers to gauge general interest in NIKE Golf, and help the company target their new products to a different demographic.

NIKE recently adopted a new business model, Marquardt says, to try to find new interest.

“They focused on golf enthusiasts,” said Will Hansen, ’17, who helped conduct interviews. “We did a little digging into the company and administered surveys to students to get insight on what people’s perspectives are of the company to make some strategic recommendations based on it.”

Marquardt made the connection with NIKE through Maurice King, R’85, who was willing to let Richmond students learn by using real data and analysis as opposed to hypothetical scenarios.

“King re-engaged with the University a couple of years ago, and we talked about the idea of doing a project together,” Marquardt said. “Everything about it is unique, working with a brand as strong as NIKE across two different groups of students.”

The spring semester course is a brand audit, creating a marketing plan for NIKE based on the research conducted in the fall.

“The experiential learning side of it sets the Robins School of Business apart from most other business schools,” Marquardt said. “We have a combination of small class size, very engaged alums, and people in the business community. And those factors allow us to be able to do these hands-on projects.”

"The experience I got working with a major brand on a problem they are currently facing was the most impactful experience I had," said Jack Bauer, '17, another student in the course. "It was really exciting to feel like the things I had learned were actually being applied to the problem-solving process and made me feel more confident in my ability to transfer the skills I've learned at Richmond to the real world."

But NIKE isn't the only company represented in the class. Marquardt also invited the owner of Independence Golf Club, Giff Breed, R'81, and former Seahawks fullback Michael Robinson, to speak. Robinson now runs the Excel to Excellence foundation, a group he founded to encourage students to do well in school, and get involved in community service.

"Professor Marquardt brings in some really interesting people to give us real world experience," Hansen said. "It's super rare to be able to work with guys like that. I don't think there are a lot of college marketing classes with 20 students that get to say they worked with the head of a billion dollar division, or a former NFL player."

Marquardt has inspired the students in this course to pursue their passions, which has paid off for students like TJ Pallan, who landed an internship with the New York Yankees for summer 2017 by using the experience he gained in the sports marketing course.

"It wasn't until completing Professor Marquardt's course that I realized I shouldn't give up on my dreams and that I really could see myself succeeding in that field as I did in his class," Pallan said. "I owe where I'm headed today to Professor Marquardt, and hope this course will continue to influence many more UR students."