How a marketing class impacted local companies
By Rick Vacek
GCU News Bureau
A marketing class at Grand Canyon University can provide more than the knowledge of how to successfully promote a business.
You might develop new, lasting bonds.
You might get an internship.
You even might learn what pickleball is.
Those were just some of the benefits of a project that was done in Marketing 245/Principles of Marketing in the Colangelo College of Business.
The team that did a project on Uber, which operates mobile transportation networks, came up with the idea to have Uber market a program with Mothers against Drunk Drivers (MADD). Not only did company executives arrange a meeting with the GCU team and give the students T-shirts, sunglasses and coupons for free rides — they also adopted the program.
“Just inviting them for a meeting, that’s unheard of,” said Dr. Phillip Ash, the professor who taught the marketing class. “But they really picked their brains.”
And there was another huge benefit for the students.
“They said they’re going to be lifetime friends,” Ash said. “This was such a valuable team-building experience for them. They learned what makes a group of people different from a team.”
Also noteworthy was the pickleball team. Ash plays the sport, and his wife, Sara, is ranked nationally. So it was only natural for Ash to ask his friend Steve Wong, president and founder of Onix Sports, if a group of students could devote their project to developing a marketing plan for the company’s Signature pickleball paddle. The Peoria company, which markets the latest in pickleball products, has the first pro shop developed exclusively for pickleball.
Wong loved the students’ presentation so much, he donated 100 paddles to GCU and invited students to play the sport at a local club.
“It’s good for us, good for the class,” Wong said. “The students were really upbeat and innovative. I liked seeing their excitement.”
Pickleball is a combination of tennis, badminton and pingpong that’s played on a badminton court with a paddle that’s smaller than a tennis racquet and bigger than a pingpong paddle and a plastic ball that has holes in it. The net is similar to a tennis net, and it can be played both indoors and outdoors.
The USA Pickleball Association (USAPA) website reports that there are 400,000 people playing the sport, which was invented in 1965 in Seattle by three dads who wanted to create new summertime activity for their kids. There’s at least one pickleball court in every state.
One of the members of the team, freshman Gabriel Sandoval, parlayed his experience on the project into an internship with Onix. The business administration major had never heard of pickleball before Ash mentioned it, but when he got to play it, “it was a blast — it was so much fun.”
Working for Onix has been both fun and educational, Sandoval said, and “not just because of the experience I’ve gained in learning how to market the company. It’s been good just to meet the people there because there are so many different jobs in a company. You have the manufacturers. You have the people who work the front desk. You have the people who assemble the pickleball paddles. You learn so much from all of them.”
GCU’s internship program, Ash said, “is one of the things that distinguish the University. Gabe did well in class, he is doing well in the internship and he is gaining invaluable experience in his field. Steve raves about the work Gabe is doing.”
Experience is something Ash can share as well. For 30 years, he was a management consultant in the U.S., Canada, Taiwan, South Korea, Indonesia and the Philippines. His client list included Coca-Cola, Frito-Lay, Burger King, Krispy Kreme, LG Corp. and Hewlett-Packard.
“He’s a great teacher — just the fact that he has so much experience in the marketing world,” Sandoval said. “It’s not just reading a theory off a paper. He’ll read the theory off the PowerPoint, and then he’ll match an experience with every single one so it’s clear to us. It’s actually really exciting listening to his stories in Asia with big companies making commercials and how successful they were or what made them not successful.”
Ash is glad they were listening — because those experiences are a big part of his message.
“It’s not just about academics, it’s about preparing for the future,” he said.
Contact Rick Vacek at 602-639-8203 or firstname.lastname@example.org.