The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City is dedicated to preserving and celebrating the rich history of the Negro Leagues which developed for Black baseball players during a time when they were not allowed to compete in Major League Baseball (MLB). At their peak in the 1920s and 30s, the Negro Leagues drew thousands of people to their ballparks and created household names in Satchel Paige and Josh Gibson.
To extend its celebration of this vibrant history, the museum partnered with the U.S. Mint to create a series of commemorative coins, which took bipartisan agreement in the U.S. Congress. If all coins are sold, it will raise approximately $6 million to support the museum.
To help reach that goal, the museum has turned to a consulting team of Illinois State University students to support this fundraising plan. The team is one of seven completing different consulting projects under the ISU Innovation Consulting Community (ICC) for the 2021-2022 academic year.
“It’s an opportunity for us to engage as students with a real-life organization and get real consulting experience,” said graduate student and Project Manager Kayla Mills.
Accounting and finance major Stuart Hicks, marketing major Maeve Rattin, and public relations and political science double major Dani Hartmann round out a marketing team focused on developing strategies and tactics for the fundraising campaign using social media. Students who are part of the ICC engage with a client and encounter real-world challenges. Their ability to overcome those problems makes them well-equipped to enter the workforce.
“I want to go into digital marketing, and it has been helpful to see what goes on behind the scenes,” Rattin said.
The team generates ideas for posts and meets virtually weekly with their client at the museum to gain feedback. The team also developed a hashtag for the campaign, #CoinTheirLegacy, and has contacted important influencers in the baseball community who can help spread the word.
“We’re trying to help them reach certain target markets and areas that they maybe aren’t as tapped into,” Hicks said. “I think the best thing we add is our perspective.”
Through collaboration with the client, the team has developed a full content calendar of proposed social media content for the museum to share on their accounts throughout the run of the campaign. One of the most rewarding parts of working with the museum for the students has been merging the style and tone of the museum’s posts with their own ideas as creatives.
“Now that we’ve been working with the client for a while now, we’ve really started to figure out what they are looking for when it comes to things like color scheme and style of the posts,” Rattin said.
Professor of Marketing and ICC head Dr. Peter Kaufman has been consistently impressed with the level of work being done by the team. The ISU consulting team’s content has already been posted by the main Negro Leagues Museum Twitter and Instagram accounts and is gaining significant positive attention, with more content to be shared in the future.
“They take initiative, set agendas, accomplish goals, and continuously add value for the client,” Kaufman said. “They are very respectful of one another and use each team member’s unique skills.”
Even though the primary goal of the project has been for the students to share their digital communication acumen with the museum, they have also treated it as an opportunity to learn about an important part of baseball and Black history.
“I love learning more about Black history and learning about this league and how big it was,” Mills said. “And it’s great to hear about the players just being legends. Growing up I only knew about Jackie Robinson, so it is really cool that this whole museum exists.”
And thanks in part to the efforts of the team at Illinois State, it will continue to exist for years to come.
The ICC is an extracurricular, interdisciplinary, project-based professional development opportunity open to any student at ISU. Students interested in participating in the Innovation Consulting Community for the next academic year can email innovationconsulting@IllinoisState.edu for more information.