Marketing students make pitch to Dick’s


John McGrath

True Runner clients ask students Tara Thoman and Nate Eicholtz questions.

Victoria Grattan, Features Editor

Ten Pitt-Johnstown students pitched original marketing campaigns at Dick’s Sporting Goods’ national headquarters in Coraopolis Pa. on Dec. 17 to their client, Jamie Mencer, a 2012 Pitt-Johnstown marketing graduate.

These students were in a promotion management class, one of four upper-level elective seminar classes for senior marketing majors, taught by marketing professor John McGrath.

In the fall 2015 class, Leah Brutz, Armando McNary and Nate Negri formed a group called NLSA2, an acronym based on the group members’ first letter of their first names. Sean Stoner and Ashley Thomas were also members of NLSA2.

Nathan Eicholtz, Sara Mangiafico and Richard Montgomery formed a group called Starting Line Consulting. Allison Tepper and Tara Thoman were also members of Starting Line Consulting.

Students split up into two virtually integrated marketing communications agencies and developed a marketing campaign consisting of advertising, social media and public relations concepts for a client with national prominence.

Students elect their own positions and perform the roles of a real advertising agency: account managers, researchers and creatives. There are also media planners.

According to McGrath, in past classes, students have had the opportunity to develop marketing campaigns for Sheetz, Yuengling and the Altoona Curve.

McGrath said there are two main objectives he aims to achieve in this class.

“I try to give students an experience they would typically only get at a much larger school, and to network our current students with alums in the real world,” McGrath said.

The client, Mencer, also had taken the same promotion management class taught by McGrath while a Pitt-Johnstown student.

“I worked with a team on the Coke brand, prepared the very same project that this year’s class worked on and ultimately presented to Marc Advertising Agency in Pittsburgh. Dr. McGrath coordinated this with a sorority sister of mine who had graduated and went on to work at Marc (USA Advertising Agency) as her first job,” Mencer said.

Mencer said she started working at Dick’s Sporting Goods after graduation as a marketing coordinator, using her promotions management project as a talking point in her interview.

“There were many similarities to the work on that project and what I did as a marketing coordinator,” Mencer said.

In 2013, Mencer started working on True Runner, Dick’s Sporting Good’s new retail concept that the students developed marketing campaigns for, as a marketing specialist. In 2014, she was promoted to marketing planner.

Students first met Mencer in September when they visited a True Runner storefront in Pittsburgh.

Students Stoner and Thoman are both senior marketing majors who were part of the groups that presented to Dick’s Sporting Goods last semester.

Stoner said he was one of the creatives in his group and came up with ideas for fliers, website layouts and social media marketing. He said he also created a 30-second video True Runner could use on a YouTube channel.

“During class, we would go through each phase actual ad agencies go through when prepping for a big pitch. We utilized our classroom lectures and turned those thoughts into actual ideas (that) we incorporated (into) the project,” Stoner said.

Thoman was a media planner in her group, Starting Line Consulting.

“This (role) was something I wasn’t as familiar with, but from taking promotion management and Dr. McGrath teaching about each role and their responsibilities, my mind has been expanded to a potential job of marketing I wouldn’t really understand had I not taken this class,” Thoman said.

Thoman said one of their ideas that True Runner clients liked was the idea to implement college campus representatives.

“All three locations of True Runner’s (there are locations in both St. Louis and Boston) are in populated cities were there are a good majority of college students. (We) thought that this was an untapped huge potential market that True Runner wasn’t taking advantage of.

“This experience has taught me that it’s so critical to take these unique courses throughout college to get this experience to learn what it’s like in the real world. We are lucky at UPJ to have some great professors like Dr. McGrath who provide us with these opportunities and has these connections with graduated students.

“Without them, I don’t believe my business classes I take would be as beneficial as they are now,” Thoman said.