Advertising Pre-Grad Intern Steve Moore
The IE Pre-Grad Internship was a very valuable tool for me. Coming into it, I really did not know what to expect, but I knew that I wanted to learn more about graduate school. I talked to some people that had done the internship before me and they all agreed that it was a very valuable experience. I felt that a preview of what graduate school would be like would be very good for me because I was really unsure about my feelings about it. The knowledge I gained has certainly helped me to formulate a more informed opinion of graduate school.
When this course was presented to me as a potential option for this semester, it just sounded too good to be true. Graduate school had been a heavy issue on my mind for a while, and being able to work with a graduate student sounded great. My graduate student mentor for IE, Adam Ulatoski, is one of my teammates and he is in graduate school for the very same thing that I would consider going into, advertising. He also would be overseeing another one of my teammates, Sherrod Harris. Sherrod and I also had the same IE faculty supervisor, Dr. Michael Lauderdale. The three of us met with Dr. Lauderdale just as the semester was getting underway. After much discussion, we all came to the conclusion that we should work on a joint research project to analyze the University of Texas athletic program's brand. The idea of branding was something that Adam had spent time studying in his graduate classes and had worked on an independent study on the idea of branding. I had heard of the concept of branding before in a lower division advertising class, but had not spent much time studying it extensively. The good thing was that I was not a complete stranger to the idea of branding and certainly not to Texas athletics. We decided to focus on the brand of the entire athletics department, but spend most of our time discussing the brand of the football team in the Mack Brown era. We chose this because that is where we have the most first hand knowledge. Analyzing the brand meant that we would have to identify the brand. Then we would have to pinpoint what exactly the brand did for the Longhorn Community and then identify potential threats to the brand. Going into the IE Pre-Grad Internship, the idea of writing a research paper with basically no guidelines was a new experience. Through the Internship I enjoyed being able to write what I wanted to write, and on my terms. If this is what graduate school is going to be like, then I will enjoy it.
The brand identification was a fairly easy step for us. We are surrounded by the Longhorn brand nearly every moment of every day. Therefore, we already had a good grasp on what the brand was. We know that Texas has a winning brand, but the brand also instills values such as class and family. Being a Longhorn football player, these values are impressed upon us daily. We also were well aware that Texas football had a big impact on the overall economy of the university and on the city of Austin. The problem was that we needed more specific facts than we had. This is where we ran into some speed bumps. There were many economic reviews of Austin businesses that we could get fairly easy access to, but find a direct correlation with football was a whole other task entirely. It was pretty frustrating to feel like we were so close to the information that we needed, but just not able to find it. We decided to try a different approach. Instead of looking at results analytically on paper, we decided to try and get the information objectively from business owners who associated themselves with the team in some way. We decided to start with hotels. We figured that the average rate and the average vacancy on game weekends over the years would be a good indicator of what the brand does for the community. We were starting to find what we were looking for. We found that (in theory) a winning team draws more people to come stay and will demand a higher rate for the stay. We had hypothesized this theory and it was refreshing to know that we seemed to be correct. About the time that we were getting ready to go on a big round of interviews around the city, Sherrod found a research paper with the exact information we were looking for. The paper was about the economic impact the Longhorns had on the city. This one paper was the break we had been waiting for. Although we still interviewed some business owners, the paper provided us with most of the hard facts we needed. As we continued to interview some businesses, we realized that they all had some sort of Longhorn sign or something in their establishment. We began to ask why they thought it was beneficial for them to do so. The answer was almost unanimous, and that was that everybody wanted to associate with winners. This idea of association gave us our first potential threat to the brand which is losing. It is sad but true that we discovered that the winning brand of Texas football has been so successful that a few losses would change the whole dynamic of the brand and cause people to begin to dissociate with the brand. This was a very eye-opening revelation. Of course, we found other threats and the interviews were the best source to find out what they were. All we had to do was ask them what a reason would be that would cause them to dissociate with Texas. In fewer words, the threats were pretty easy to uncover.
As far as our final paper goes, we amassed adequate research and were able to formulate a relevant thesis, without knowing in advance exactly what we would find and whether we would confirm or disconfirm our initial hypothesis. In addition, what was achieved through this internship is a much greater understanding of the premise of graduate education. It is because of IE that I will be able to better make my decision about graduate school.