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College of Hospitality, Retail and Sport Management

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Knocking it out of the park

Posted on: April 22, 2018
By: Allen Wallace,, 803-777-5667

At the University of South Carolina College of Hospitality, Retail and Sport Management, students and faculty alike are proving that there’s no truth to the old saying, “Those who can’t do teach.”

Kelly Evans, a second year Ph.D. student in sport and entertainment management, won first place in the student competition at the Global Sport Business Association’s annual conference. It was the first academic research award for Evans, but far from her first success.

Evans earned both her bachelor’s degree and master’s degree at USC, and before returning for postgraduate work, became a leader with the Lexington County Blowfish baseball team.

"I got my first internship through the university and worked my way up to eventually become their general manager,” Evans says. "I really became involved in sponsorships when I was there.”

While with the Blowfish and while teaching undergraduate students, Evans found many students were not recognizing sponsorships, and that pattern inspired her winning research.

Her paper, “How Perceived Sponsor Fit is Determined by Various Consumer Groups, and How Poor Fit Affects Behavioral Intentions of Consumers,” was co-authored with third-year student Katie Reifurth and advisor Matt Brown and earned Evans a $500 research grant.

Through focus group research, Evans examined the questions of how to make sponsorships effective and how to make them stand out from all the clutter of a modern sporting event experience. She found some expected results, such as transferability of favorable outlooks (fans of the Gamecocks are likely to feel more positive about USC sponsors), but some unexpected ones too.

Focus groups in some cases said a sponsor was not a good fit, but their behavioral intention did not change.

“For example, with beer and alcohol, they say it’s not fitting based on what others might think, but they’re still going to go buy whatever it is,” Evans says.

Evans spent seven years with the Blowfish, but stayed in touch with faculty in the Department of Sport and Entertainment Management, tightening the connection between school and team.

“I worked really closely with Matt Brown and Tom Regan to help grow the Blowfish internship program, the one I once went through,” Evans says. That program currently includes several USC students.

“Kelly has leveraged everything our department has to offer to become a very successful alumna,” said Brown. She now is successfully using her industry experiences as a basis for her research in sport sponsorship. She will be our first triple alum and she represents the best of what we do.”

Evans says she loved her time with the Blowfish, but thinks she has found her calling in teaching and research.

"I do want to stay in academia, mainly for teaching, to help not only teach students sport marketing and things of that nature, but also to help them more with life in the sport industry in general,” she says. "I lived it. I can help them through it. I want to be there to help them grow."


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