How to Impact Sports and Entertainment: STEAM as a Marketing Platform ... not just an Education Program

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When one thinks of STEAM or STEM, the correlation is typically an educational program with an emphasis on science, technology, engineering, arts and math.  Best practices are in place as are applied activities in learning principles.  Teachers and educational systems recognize and are passionate about the need and importance of STEAM curriculum and applications in an ever-changing world that increasingly is being driven by STEAM-centric professions and industries.

Unfortunately, corporations often do not process that recognition in the most productive manner.  That statement might trigger some pushback, perhaps a lot of pushback, in the minds of more than a few corporate managers and executives.  Nonetheless, it’s true.  Even though corporations recognize the value of having STEAM-trained employees, they have yet to use their marketing platforms and BUDGETS to fund what might be the most essential element of their existence.

If the talent is not there, if it is not sufficiently trained to create and provide better products or services, then a company will not prosper and potentially, fall behind its competitors.  Corporations spend an inordinate amount of resources recruiting talent because they must.  Training is an investment, not an expense.  According to a recent survey by Recruiter.com, between 14 and 18 percent of an employee’s first-year salary is spent on recruitment to fill that position.  Companies must convince students and burgeoning talent that their company is a better place to work for a wide variety of reasons, not the least of these being that the company is on the cutting edge of its industry – an industry leader if you wish.  And everyone wants to work for an industry leader, right?  At least that’s the rationale.

But the talent is not there – at least not yet – or it is not sufficiently nurtured.  According to the Association for Talent Development, the cost of properly training an employee to be technically proficient is a fraction of the cost of recruitment.  But top companies throughout the U.S. are not focused on training “homegrown” talent.   Instead, they continually fill positions with talented and STEAM-educated personnel from more STEAM-focused education areas of the world such as Europe, Asia, and the Middle East.

But what if a company decided to take its vast amount of marketing and branding budget and actually used STEAM as a major component of its marketing platform and activated directly to that discipline?   All too often, if you approach a company about creating a special event, activation or campaign around STEAM that features its product or service, it sends you to its corporate social responsibility (CSR) department, its foundation or community services - divisions that candidly, are far less funded than the company’s marketing and sponsorship group.

Part of the pushback comes with the knowledge that a STEAM impact within the educational system is most effective in grades K-8, a demographic that may not necessarily be a company’s target market.  And that’s true.  However, does that mean we simply give up on those in high school and college?  Those age groups are closer to entering the workforce and most in need of guidance to the next steps of the ever-developing STEAM-centric jobs and professions.

Take sports and entertainment for instance.  Projections show that 80% of the workforce will require STEAM-centric jobs by 2025.  That’s less than 10 years away.  And that includes the professions within the sports and entertainment industry.  Tech is clearly driving those industries, and if one doesn’t believe it, simply read publications like Sports Business Journal or SportTechie on a regular basis to understand that virtual reality, augmented reality, artificial intelligence, analytics, RFID chips, drones, wearables, 5G broadcast production, lighting, sustainability and construction design and engineering are driving the profession.

Now take a look to what the teenage and college students, to which many STEAM-educators have begun to give less attention, are gravitating.  What are they watching every day on their mobile devices?  Music, games, sports, and entertainment videos.  So, if that is where their interest lies, corporations have a great opportunity to market and recruit to these young peoples’ passions.  And while, they may not be able to reach them directly in the classroom, they certainly can reach them by conducting unique and specially sponsored events in which the STEAM behind sports and entertainment is showcased.

All of a sudden upon attending one of these events, the light bulb goes on.  The student begins to  understand that while he or she may not be able to become the next on-field, on-stage, or on-court performer, that the sports and entertainment professions they love may be a whole lot more accessible as career choices if they have STEAM-oriented training.  While entertainment and sports professions are projected to grow 6 percent in the next 10 years, according to the U.S Department of Labor Statistics, the impact of technology on these professions will likely create an even greater surge.

Corporations have to tell and sell that message ... but they have to do it better than they do now.  By simply providing minimal funds – less than those they currently provide via marketing, branding and sponsorships – to the perceived less glamorous “non-profit” areas through which they currently support STEAM educational programs, companies are not reaching and encouraging enough talented young people who desire and seek careers in sports or entertainment to become STEAM focused.

In a perfect world, the two segments of the corporation work together.  Imagine the results if a company’s marketing and sponsorship platform collaborated with the actual STEAM-educational programs. By sharing ideas and funds to help create and support programs that showcase the excitement behind that company’s STEAM-centric product, the company’s future success and leadership could be significantly enhanced.

[Bob Dickinson is president and founder of STEAM Sports Group and STEAM Sports Foundation.  STEAM Sports Group is a marketing and special events firm that creates and manages corporately supported programs and campaigns in the world of sports and entertainment with an emphasis on STEAM.  STEAM Sports Foundation is a 501c3 whose purpose is to create sports-oriented scholarships, curriculums, camps, and support activation opportunities. It has operations in Atlanta, San Francisco and Greenville, SC.]