Published on April 27, 2022 by Morgan Black  
LA Dodgers Research Group
Pictured are the team members of the LA Dodgers Foundation student research group in Cooney Hall's M. Chad Trull Data and Sports Analytics Lab. Front (L to R): Chandler Smith, Emma Williams, Will Simmons; Back (L to R): Elijah Leonard, Austin Streitmatter, Jerrod Abee
Like many Major League Baseball organizations, the Los Angeles (LA) Dodgers have a nonprofit entity, the Los Angeles Dodgers Foundation, which aims to improve access to education, health care and sports for youth in the Los Angeles area. Over the past year, a group of Samford University sports marketing and analytics students conducted research analyzing one of the foundation’s recent charitable marketing campaigns.  
 
Through a partnership with corporate gasoline brand 76, the foundation sought to raise money to enhance STEM education for underserved students in the LA community. The students evaluated the success of the marketing campaign and proposed ideas to improve it in the future.
 
Professor Darin White, founder and executive director of Samford’s Center for Sports Analytics, said, “It’s very common for a major sport property to raise money or awareness for a cause in their community, but it’s very uncommon for them to partner with a large corporate brand to do this.”
 
Over six weeks in the fall of 2021, both entities promoted the funding campaign through their own social platforms. In evaluating the campaign, Samford students discovered that the age of the donors leaned to the 20-40-year-old range rather than the more financially established donors, as well as what motivates the donors to give.
 
They also uncovered something that they already knew to be true—major league sports organizations have a difficult time getting Generation Z to watch their games. Because this generation is known to align with brands that have a social consciousness, the students found that the campaign was more successful with Gen Z wanting to associate with its charitable purpose. 
 
As part of their final presentation to the foundation and 76 executives in February 2022, Samford students proposed ideas for improving the campaign for its next installation, including suggestions to maintain authenticity with future social causes.
 
Nichol T. Whiteman, the foundation’s chief executive officer said, “Our team unanimously expressed how polished, poised and confident the students were. They provided important grounding for the work we are doing, and clearly showed that it is quite meaningful. We loved the feedback and recommendations they provided and the differentiating motivations to engage/donate based on demographics/generations, which is so helpful to our continued work.”
 
A bonus finding of the students' research is that, by partnering with a large brand to further an authentic social cause, a sport entity now has a new way of driving sponsorship revenue. With the approval of the foundation, future sports marketing and analytics students will have the opportunity to pitch similar projects to other sports entities across the nation. Since February, this idea has been shared with executives of the Atlanta Braves and the New Orleans Saints organizations, with plans to pitch it to others. 
 
Chandler Smith will graduate from Samford this spring with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration. As an economics major with a concentration in sports marketing and data analytics, Smith served as the team leader for the project. He made special note of Samford’s ranking as the #1 university in the country for student engagement.
 
He said, “There’s no other school in the country where you can get this kind of experience as an undergraduate. This was an incredible opportunity for our whole group to be able to do this detailed research for such large brands.”
 
Samford is a leading Christian university offering undergraduate programs grounded in the liberal arts with an array of nationally recognized graduate and professional schools. Founded in 1841, Samford is the 87th-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. The Wall Street Journal ranks Samford 1st nationally for student engagement and U.S. News & World Report ranks Samford 37th in the nation for best undergraduate teaching and 97th nationally for best value. Samford enrolls 5,758 students from 48 states and 22 countries in its 10 academic schools: arts, arts and sciences, business, divinity, education, health professions, law, nursing, pharmacy and public health. Samford fields 17 athletic teams that compete in the tradition-rich Southern Conference, and ranks 3rd nationally for its Graduation Success Rate among all NCAA Division I schools.