USM sport management collaborates with Pelicans on ticket sales

HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WDAM) – During the fall 2021 semester, students in the University of Southern Mississippi Sport Management program got a taste of the real world.

The group collaborated with National Basketball Association’s New Orleans Pelicans in a sport marketing class that allowed undergraduate students to be involved in the sport sales process.

Chris Croft, assistant professor of Sport Management, and Jesse Nantz, New Orleans Pelicans premium sales account executive, organized the experiential learning opportunity.

“Since ticket sales are one of the top avenues to gain entry in the sport industry, we thought it would be beneficial for our students to gain real-world experience in selling game tickets,” Croft said.

Nantz orchestrated three training sessions through the course of the semester that included:

  • Sales process, including promotions
  • Roleplay and cross-selling
  • Closing the deal and dealing with challenges.

“We were excited to get back to having full fans at Pelicans’ games this season and working with Professor Croft’s sport marketing class again,” Nantz said. “This was the second time the Pelicans were able to work with Southern Miss students and both sides were eager and able to learn and build upon the last experience.

“The students again faced many obstacles in selling Pelicans’ tickets, including injuries to key players and ever-changing COVID-19 protocols, among others. However, it was a great opportunity for the students to learn how to overcome challenges and get some real-world selling experience. The students were engaged in all of our virtual learning sessions, and Professor Croft was once again accommodating and a joy to work with.”

The initial session included introductions about the Pelicans’ franchise, including recent events with a new head coach, player updates, sales process with group tickets including promotions and city COVID-19 restrictions.

Students outlined their targeted buyer list for selling Pels’ tickets during this session.

The next session concentrated on role-play situations and cross-selling. Students were able to engage in seller and buyer roles to better connect to the sales process and learned how to expand their sales reach through their contacts.

The final session included closing the sales deal and overcoming challenges on the team’s slow start, top player injuries and the fluid situation with local COVID-19 guidelines.

“This was certainly a challenging project for students with COVID-19 protocols in the City of New Orleans, in addition to the hurricane combined with the team’s slow start and player injuries,” Croft said. “But these obstacles afforded our students to fully understand the increased challenges in sport marketing and sales that are out of tickets sales office personnel control.

“The class was able to assist the Pelicans in raising almost $7,000 in financial revenue from (its) efforts. We are very appreciative of the New Orleans Pelicans and Jesse Nantz for allowing our class to be included in this project for a second time, and we are looking forward to continuing this partnership in the future.”

To learn more about the sport management graduate program at USM, call 601.266.6057 or visit:

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