by Ariana Babcock
Most college students would jump at the idea of getting something for free. That’s why, when the Dragons are down a few points in the game, all it takes to get the crowd excited is for senior Joseph Cervenka to bring out the free Buffalo Wild Wings.
When Cervenka is at an MSUM football game, the last place you’ll find him is sitting in the bleachers. He holds the microphone, and his voice roars through the stands asking Dragon fans, “Who wants a free T-shirt?” Cervenka flings red MSUM T-shirts to the most deserving fans, who dive for their prize.
Cervenka is the marketing and promotions intern for the Dragon Athletics GO! TEAM internship program. The interns focus on promoting all MSUM games, including football, basketball, volleyball, golf, soccer and tennis. The GO! TEAM has been working hard on increasing attendance and giving students hands-on experience at sporting events.
The GO! TEAM, is a marketing and production company operated by more than 30 students. The program gives interns hands-on experience in many areas of sports and communication. Students can get involved in the areas of social media, marketing, photography, sports information, statistics, video streaming, broadcasting, promotions, graphic design and being a mascot.
At a Dragon football game, the aroma of popcorn fills the air while the commentator cheers, “and that’s another Dragon!” and the crowd yells back, “first down!” Cervenka raises the crowd’s energy level, throwing free T-shirts and having people compete for money and the chance to win a year’s lease on a car. He said he enjoys getting to pick the crowd up when they need it.
“It could be the Dragons aren’t doing too well and then all of a sudden I bring out the free Buffalo Wild Wings and everyone goes crazy,” Cervenka said. “It’s awesome to be able to be that kind of person that gets the crowd more excited about being at a Dragon game.”
A growing crowd
The GO! TEAM has been hoping to raise attendance by increasing their promotional efforts, like giving fans a free one-year lease to a car. Cervenka said he values the professional marketing environment he gets to experience by working with companies like Scheels, Sanford and The Forum. The public relations/ marketing and ad major is also learning how to promote the Dragon image and get more people to the games by giving away prizes.
“I think having giveaways and free T-shirts increases attendance,” Cervenka said.
On a typical game day, Cervenka sets up marketing tables for MSUM and other sponsors, readies half-time activities and helps the national anthem singer prepare. He gives cheerleaders T-shirts to throw to the crowd, and makes sure he has a few to toss himself. He said throwing shirts to the fans and handing out money isn’t all for the benefit of the spectators.
“We just get more people to come to events, and that way the athletes get a little bit more out of it because they have more crowd cheering for them,” Cervenka said.
The GO! TEAM kicks off
John Wepking, the assistant athletics director for marketing and production, manages the GO! TEAM and can often be seen running around on game days as well. He said he values the interns’ help when there is both a home volleyball and football game on the same day.
“I put on like, 22,000 steps, 10.5 miles and 55 floors on the double header,” Wepking said.
He remembers when he got the interim assistant athletic director for media and public relations position in 2011. At first, he said he only needed to hire three interns. Now, with their DragonsLIVE Coaches show, live coverage on WDAY’Z Xtra, and social media updates, he needs more than 30 interns to keep the production for the games running.
Wepking said he fully trusted Cervenka when he had to give up most of his promotion position because of the additional responsibilities that came with the growing program.
“It literally just takes a huge load off my shoulders every time he shows up,” Wepking said.
MSUM hosts Sports Communication Conference
Cervenka believes it’s essential for students to have an internship and experience to determine which career to pursue. He said opportunities like MSUM’s Sports Communication Conference can also be a way for college and high school students to learn how they can turn their passions into a profession.
“In all reality, there’s a huge market for people to get careers in sports, and I think a lot of, especially high school students, aren’t even aware of that,” Cervenka said.
Wepking said that opportunities like the Sports Communication Conference can help students find their strengths and preferences in the field.
“This will give students an opportunity to see what interests them and hopefully to help them to find the beginning of their career,” he said.
A future in and on the field
The GO! TEAM focuses on teaching students lessons, values and tips that will be applicable to their future success in the sports field. Wepking said part of the intern’s responsibility is to show athletes how much the university values their commitment.
“It feels good to have people care and to have people go the extra mile, and so we try to show them how much we appreciate their hard work,” he said.
MSUM alumni who had been on GO! TEAM have gotten jobs with FSN, NBC, CBS, ABC, the Minnesota Vikings, the Minnesota Timberwolves and the Minnesota Lynx.
Cervenka said the past four years he has spent on the GO! TEAM will be a resume builder for the start of his career. He is hoping to either get a marketing position for a college athletic department or a PR or marketing job for a professional sports organization.
“You really need to get that experience with a college athletic department in order for anyone to take you seriously at a professional level,” he said.
Cervenka said he believes the lessons, knowledge, and hands-on experience he learned by spreading Dragon Pride on the GO! TEAM will help him be ahead of the game in the work force.