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Success & Impact

Hawks Working with Philly Sports Teams Reflect on the Past Year in Sports

St. Joe’s students and graduates helped keep Philadelphia sports fans engaged during the pandemic.

Philadelphia Eagles Stadium sign

Written by: Luke Malanga ’20

Published: March 31, 2021

Total reading time: 4 minutes

Keys to the Article
  • Hawks working for the Phillies, Eagles and Flyers are helping keep fans connected during the pandemic.
  • With restrictions on in-person events, sports staff have come up with creative ways to engage fans.
  • Emily Shields ’18 says this past year, the Eagles have been more accessible than ever to fans through virtual events.

Just over a year ago in the early spring of 2020, every major sports league in the country called a time out due to COVID-19. Once-filled stadiums sat empty, schedules were torn up, and athletes and fans alike were left with uncertainty about the remainder of the season. In Philadelphia, St. Joe’s students and alumni were working with Philly sports teams to find creative ways to give fans something to root for.

“As a Hawk, I was very aware that quitting was not an option when things got tough; since graduating, that mindset continues to challenge me every day,” says Emily Shields ’18, who is currently a corporate partnership activation coordinator at the Philadelphia Eagles.

For Shields, one of the hardest challenges over the past year was the lack of personal interaction. For the Eagles and most of the sports world, that meant no fans on game days.

“When it comes to sports, gamedays are unmatched,” Shields says. “The energy and passion that is shown at every Eagles game cannot be explained in words. The players feed off it, the city lives for it and as a corporate partner, having the chance to market in front of that audience is priceless.”

Ask any Eagles fans what the best part about the season is and they’ll likely tell you game days at Lincoln Financial Field. When COVID-19 hit, Shields said she and her colleagues took a step back to strategize how they were going to create new ways to capture and share that hype and passion.

Shields got to work coordinating with the rest of her team to have different members of the Eagles — cheerleaders, mascot SWOOP, and current and former players — participate in engaging virtual events. She says these virtual events have made the team more accessible and connected to fans than ever before.

Just across the parking lot at the Wells Fargo Center, the once bustling home of the 76ers and Philadelphia Flyers also sat empty in late March last year as the NBA and NHL paused their seasons.

The transition to working from home was difficult, says Kellie Barnes ’18, email marketing manager at the Flyers. But, she also says the pandemic forced her to think more creatively in her role.

“Usually the biggest engagement with our fans is at our games. We had to move away from that and do more engagement online and with virtual events and social media and really just ramp up all of those efforts,” Barnes says. “That was probably the biggest thing, just trying to think of new creative ways to engage our fans.”

When the NHL decided to resume the season with playoffs in Toronto and Edmonton, Canada, Barnes helped coordinate a drive-thru pep rally where season-ticket holders were given gift bags and could grab a photo with Gritty from their cars.

“We had a DJ, we had our in-arena host there pumping up the crowd, so that was a cool event that I worked at this summer that was unique and something that we would have never done in a normal world,” Barnes says.

While Shields and Barnes say the past year encouraged them to think outside the box, they both are looking forward to more of the traditional aspects of sports — especially full arenas with energetic Philadelphia fans.

The 2021 MLB pre-season is around the corner and Alex Costantino ’21 is working part time with the Phillies entertainment staff while studying sports marketing.

Costantino says this past year helped to reaffirm his desire to remain with the Phillies organization. With individual employees reaching out to check in with him, Costantino says, “It only proved further that the Phillies are an organization that views their employees as one family.”

For Costantino, this type of family-like atmosphere is reflected across sports. “Sports have the unique power of bringing all kinds of different people together,” he says. “I've always said my favorite parts about sports aren't the games themselves but more what we can learn from watching sports. Sports have taught me many things in my life, including teamwork and unity.”

Shields thinks this past year helped remind everyone that “we’re all human.” From seeing some of her colleagues have to take virtual meetings in their bedrooms, to having to block off her schedule to take lunch while working from home, the past year was a reminder of the humanity behind every polished-looking business professional.

“I think most people can agree, this past year was very much outside of our comfort zones,” Shields says. “I really tried to push myself to go into the challenges of this past year with a ‘let’s-take-this-head-on, day-by-day’ attitude and I can thank SJU for helping to cultivate that mindset.”