For nearly the last 10 years, FOX Sports has been bridging the gap between textbooks and theory and real-world experiences. Through FOX Sports University, starting with the University of Florida and University of Southern California in 2008, more than 30 schools have partnered with the sports media network around technology-driven case studies, corporate marketing projects and digital-centric initiatives.
Eric Fischer, Associate Professor at Arizona State University and partner of FOX Sports over the last five years, had his Creative University class last Fall work on a Pac-12 Championship virtual reality project.
With FOX’s dive into virtual reality in 2016 around college football, NFL and MLS, the focus around the emerging technology made sense from a strategic standpoint. According to Fischer, FOX provided his 24 students with the necessary cameras, tripods and technical equipment to film virtual reality content. After capturing it, the students were then prompted by FOX executives, led by Molly Stires — Manager of Marketing and Strategic Partnerships — to devise a plan for marketing that content. As Fischer explained, the collaboration with FOX throughout the semester was “one of those rare examples of a win-win-win.”
“The students, first and foremost, get a real life opportunity,” he said. “It’s something that they’re able to put in their resume and CV that may help them stand out from some of their peers when competing for employment opportunities. It’s a very business-like setting. The feedback that I’ve received is they appreciate the real-world aspect.
“FOX Sports is very appreciative of the information they receive. They’ve got a free de facto marketing platform and get the input of students. FOX Sports sees an opportunity to glean insights from students who have grown up in the digital world.”
Finally, Fischer added that Arizona State as a university and some of its schools, business, law and journalism, are able to provide students a unique medium to gain those real-world experiences.
Like Fischer, Assistant Professor Alanna Harman at St. John’s had her students charged by FOX with identifying appropriate virtual reality content for the Big East Tournament and then developing an activation and marketing campaign via social media. It was the first time Harman had worked with FOX but she commented that the partnership allowed her students to “refine their presentation skills” and also give them experiences managing a project from “concept creation to implementation,” something they will undoubtedly have to execute at various points during their careers.
During the current semester, FOX Sports University is partnering with 16 schools such as Ohio State, DePaul, Missouri, Wisconsin and Michigan. With USC in FOX Sports’ backyard, the network is again collaborating with the Trojans around NASCAR broadcast technology, including driver audio and in-car cameras to the tracking of every car, and how to “cross pollinate between linear and digital,” as Zac Fields described. How can the technology be used in a new way without necessarily limiting it to one medium?
The Senior Vice President of Graphic Technology and Innovation worked in tandem with Stires to formulate a curriculum, as they do with all of the other universities. Following a mid-semester check-in, students will then have to refine and develop their concepts even further before presenting to FOX at the end of the academic term to determine a class winner.