Sergio Santamaria '18 Hired by the NCAA Final Four

Sergio Santamaria '18 Hired by the NCAA Final Four

Rice Sport Management student Sergio Santamaria ’18 was recently hired by the NCAA Men’s Basketball Final Four Local Organizing Committee (LOC) as head of the #ComeReadyToPlay social media campaign.

Sport Management Department Chair Dr. Clark Haptonstall and professor Tom Stallings met with Doug Hall, President and CEO of the Committee, to brainstorm about partnership ideas between the NCAA Final Four and Rice Sport Management students. As a result, a group of five students was assembled to conduct research for the Committee. Led by senior Becca Koval ’15, the group included Santamaria, Elena Gumbs ’16, Amalya Lewinson ‘17, and Mary Claire Danilevics ’18. Koval, who spent the Fall 2015 studying abroad in Spain, was recently hired full-time by the Final Four Committee for a position starting in January 2016.

After a successful pitch to the 2016 NCAA Men’s Final Four Local Organizing Committee, Santamaria was specifically asked to continue working with the committee to implement social media ideas.

“Making the presentation in front of the Final Four committee, including Doug Hall (CEO) and Rachel Quan (VP of External Operations), was a fantastic experience and it went really well,” Santamaria said.

As part of his responsibilities with the Final Four, Santamaria is organizing and leading the #ComeReadytoPlay social media campaign. The campaign involves the LOC hiding mini-basketballs at events around Houston leading up to the Final Four. The idea was adapted from the English Premier League’s Southampton FC, which hid 500 soccer balls around the city to engage the community. After presenting this idea to the Organizing Committee, Santamaria is now implementing the team’s research throughout the Greater Houston area to increase local following of the Final Four. Each week, a Houston personality will be pictured holding a “clue” telling followers on social media outlets where to go to find these basketballs. They then can post to their own personal social media accounts using the hashtag, #ComeReadyToPlay.

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“This is one example of the opportunities that students are able to get early in their tenure as a Sport Management student,” said Stallings. “Sergio already has considerable experience in the sport industry and this is only his fourth semester at Rice. He will be an exceptional asset to the social media campaign with the Final Four.”

Some of Santamaria’s duties as the leader of this campaign include determining what the clues will be, their locations, as well as the personalities that will be involved. He will also be on-site after a clue is presented and help with the logistics of the basketballs.

In addition to working with the Final Four, Santamaria is in his second year as a SportVU Operator and has started an internship in Basketball Operations – both with the Houston Rockets. Over the summer, he also helped the Rockets with preparation for the NBA Draft. As an avid basketball fan, he hopes to work for an NBA team in the Basketball Operations department in the long run. By working with the Final Four, Santamaria is gaining experience in the communications side of the industry.

“This internship is a good opportunity to build off the research I did last semester,” Santamaria said. “It also helps me to get a sense of social media as a whole and see the communications side of such a large event. Overall, it’s a good experience.”

Sergio Santamaria at event

Andi Bawcum, a senior from Paris, TX, is majoring in Sport Management. Kristie Yit, a senior from Houston, Texas, is double-majoring in Sport Management and Managerial Studies and minoring in Business.