Students sharpen marketing skills during internships with Chicago Fire

Sep 16, 2015

North Central College students are sharpening their skills in marketing and other business fields through internships with the Chicago Fire Soccer Club.

The CHAMPS Ambassador program, launched earlier this year, is the latest development in a long-term relationship between North Central College and Chicago’s professional soccer team. The Fire played its home games in the College’s stadium in 2002-2003 while Soldier Field was renovated.

“CHAMPS is the founding principle of the club’s customer service and the way it trains the front office staff/game-day employees,” says Ryan Donahue ’13, who previously worked as a sales representative for the Fire. “It's supposed to govern how game day staff treats fans, approaches problems and relays information.”

CHAMPS stands for Communicate clearly, Have ownership/seek solutions, Acknowledge and embrace feedback, Make fans happy, Positive attitude and See something, say something.

Before the development of the ambassador program, the Chicago Fire’s Fan Experience team and North Central College built a strong positive relationship through internships.

“North Central has a well-respected sport management program. With the Fire’s previous relationship and proximity to the school, it was an easy decision to reach out and see if the interest was mutual,” says Hannah Antonelli ’14, who now works for Chicago Fire as fan experience coordinator/match day supervisor. Her North Central degree in sport management helped her land the position.

To kick-start the program, the Chicago Fire worked with North Central faculty like head men’s soccer coach Matthew Klosterman to identify students interested in internships. Before the soccer season began, the first group of students were hired and went through training and orientation. During their training, students learned how to provide a welcoming and pleasant experience and leave fans feeling like they’re a part of the Fire Soccer Club.

Antonelli has spent a great deal of time preparing for match days, which includes working closely with the ambassador program. While prepping ambassadors for what they should expect, she ensures they’re able to provide Chicago Fire fans with the best service possible.  

“The goal of the program is twofold: Hire match day staff who care about making the fan experience a positive one and give students real-life experience and insight working with a professional sports team,” says Antonelli.

In the program’s first year, North Central students Nick Roemeling ’15, Ronny Osahan ’17 and Adam Coffelt ’15 were recognized as the friendliest/most helpful staff members and coined “CHAMP of the Match.” Beyond the recognition for the award, Osahan found the experience beneficial to his future as a student and his career.

“The most important thing I got out of the program is making connections in the job field and having those connections help set me up for a bright future,” says Osahan. “Now I know people in the sports industry who will definitely help me out as far as being a successful person.”  

The ambassador program goes beyond a typical internship. Its objective is to provide a quality fan experience to all Chicago Fire fans and to show the students the importance of their future after college.
Chicago Fire looks forward to the 2016 season and working more with North Central College.

By Stephanie Snyder ’15/ M ’17

Photo, back row, from left: Erica Buck ’16, McLean Funk ’17, Randy Spal ’18, Adam Coffelt ’15, Nick Roemeling ’15. Front row, from left: Hannah Antonelli ’14, Melissa Pak (non-North Central), Rebecca James ’16, Jason Ochoa ’17, Ronny Osahan ’17