Dan Migala is always thinking.
The co-founder and chief innovation officer of 4Front Sports and Innovation Consulting Firm is the guy behind the Chicago White Sox’s 7:11 starting time – brought to you by 7-Eleven, of course.
He’s also the marketing whiz who brokered a deal between the San Diego Padres and TaylorMade golf clubs to erect an 88-foot-tall golf club connected to the foul pole at Petco Park.
It’s wild brainstorms like these that put smiles on people’s faces, attract national media attention, create amazing amounts of brand recognition and, above all, keep the bosses happy.
Now Migala is coming to NIU to provide a peek inside his imagination at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 17, at the College of Education’s Community Learning Series, titled “Playing the Game.”
“Dan Migala is someone I’ve known for 20 to 25 years – both of us got into the sports industry at about the same time in the 1990s – and he has established himself as one the real innovate minds in sports marketing,” says Chad McEvoy, chair of the Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education. “I’ve had the opportunity to hear Dan speak to groups before, and I can tell you that he’s an amazing storyteller.”
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Because the evening is primarily geared toward highlighting the rewarding career paths available in sport management, organizers have engaged three alumni of, and one current student in, the master’s degree in Sport Management program to participate in a panel discussion.
Members of the panel are:
- Allison Einhouse, who will complete her degree in 2019, is a graduate assistant for NIU Campus Recreation and Wellness and a community relations intern for the Chicago Fire Soccer Club;
- Matt Gonzalez (M.S. ’13) is director of Athletic Events and Facilities Operations for NIU Athletics;
- Malcolm Neely (M.S. ’18) is marketing coordinator for the Chicago Bears; and
- Mike Olejniczak (M.S. ’11) is account director/client services for GMR Sports Marketing.
Steve Howell, associate professor of Sport Management and director of Graduate Studies for the Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education, says this installment of the Community Learning Series will lift the hood to show the engines that power sports.
“Fans watch sports on TV. They attend sporting events. They follow their favorite athletes and teams on social media,” Howell says. “They see the glitz and glamour, the surface-level elements, that professional and college athletics have, but they don’t necessarily see the business side – the behind-the-scenes side – that actually makes those things work. We think it will be nice to give people that insider’s look.”
Einhouse, Gonzalez, Neely and Olejniczak are “Huskies who’ve done quite well in the early stages of their careers,” he adds.
“Students and prospective students thinking about careers in sports can hear from these folks who are actually working in the field,” Howell says. “They can ask questions like, ‘How did you get there? What are your tips or advice for success?’ We’re hammering home the point that you really do need to work hard.”
Highlighting the early-career success stories will resonate well with students, says McEvoy, whose specialty is also Sport Management.
“In our Sport Management classes, our students get the opportunity to interact with, and learn from, a variety of industry speakers. I find that it’s not always the ones that are in the most impressive titles later in their careers but rather the ones who are a little closer to our students in terms age and career path that they relate better with,” McEvoy says.
“A student might not be able to figure out in their mind how they can make the 10 moves required from here to the very top,” he adds, “but it’s interesting for them to see what our recent graduates have done five or 10 years. They’re just a couple moves ahead of our students.”
McEvoy and Howell are proud of the master’s-level NIU Sport Management program and its alumni, who leave NIU prepared in sport marketing, sport finance, sport law, sport sales and more.
The department will launch a bachelor’s degree in Sport Management next fall, a move that will add to the legion of successful graduates.
“There are millions of sports fans in the United States, and many millions more around the world,” McEvoy says, “and, as our students learn, it’s very different to be a fan of a sport or to attend a particular sporting event than it is to know what goes on behind the scenes in business and operations. We are passionate about helping students chase their dreams of working behind the scenes in the sports industry, which this new degree program will help facilitate.”