Elon University / Today in Elon / Winter semester class tops La Liga clubs and Spanish football industry

Sebastian Schroeter ’25 (left to right), Aiden Evens ’22 and Kingsley Walkins ’22 laugh while visiting the playing level of Mestalla Stadium, home of Valencia Club de Fútbol.

The first full day of students in Spain set an incredible benchmark for Associate Professor David Bockino’s Through the Lens of ESPN course.

Freshman Sebastian Schroeter, majoring in sports management, enjoys a lighthearted moment in Atletico Madrid’s press conference room at Wanda Metropolitano.

After a short walk from their Barcelona hotel, Bockino and his 13 students – a mix of communications, sports management and business, as well as a few football fans – embarked on a tour of the Camp Nou stadium on January 13, FC Barcelona’s legendary facility. . As the home of Leo Messi, arguably the greatest footballer of all time, the ground is widely regarded as hallowed ground.

After visiting the FC Barcelona museum, as well as the stadium’s press and training rooms, the students entered the level of play through the players’ entrance. In the piercing morning sun, the students posed for photos a few feet from the field and reclined in the cushioned chairs on the team bench.

Afterwards, the students’ visit turned from entertainment to education, and they discussed the club’s marketing and branding initiatives with Marcos Picalló Aguilar, manager of Barça Universitas at FC Barcelona. Aguilar was insightful and candid, explaining to the students what makes Barca one of the most recognizable brands not just in Europe, but around the world.

After the meeting, the students spent the afternoon touring the city of Barcelona, ​​visiting the sites of the 1992 Olympics and the 1929 Exposition, as well as visiting the Sagrada Família. The day ended – yes, still the same day – with the winter semester class attending an FC Barcelona vs. Anadolu basketball game at the festive Palau Blaugrana. Decibel levels during the Euroleague game reached heights usually reserved for Cameron Indoor Stadium.

An individual would struggle to find a better introduction to the Spanish sports industry, or a better kick-off to a sports-centric course studying abroad. Over the course of 12 days, Bockino and the students split their time in Barcelona, ​​Valencia and Madrid, continuing to immerse themselves in Spanish culture and the sports industry.

Marcos Picalló Aguilar, Barça Universitas coach at FC Barcelona, ​​spoke with Elon’s contingent for almost 90 minutes during the January 13 class visit to the Camp Nou stadium.

“The aim of this course is to explore the intersection of sport, media and society,” Bockino explained. “Spain, with its intense love for football, is the perfect place to do that. And it’s so interesting to see how these individual clubs have become powerful media platforms over the last decade. FC Barcelona and Real Madrid, for example, have tens of millions of social media followers around the world, and that kind of global impact says a lot about where the sports industry is headed.

The School of Communication has a series of Flickr galleries highlighting the Spanish course abroad, organized by location – Barcelona, ​​Valencia and Madrid.

For sophomore Miles Vance, a double major in Arts and History of Film and Television, the decision to study abroad for two weeks in Spain was twofold: football and Bockino.

“Studying abroad is why I came to Elon,” Vance said, as he sat at New York’s John F. Kennedy airport waiting for a final connection back home. “That’s how Elon separated himself from my other college options.”

Ashlee Brackett ’22 takes a picture of Hannah Nelson ’22 (pictured) before Real Madrid’s January 23 home game with Elche.

As a communications fellow, Vance had Bockino — the director of fellows — as his Global Age communications instructor, and he enjoyed the associate professor’s teaching style.

“Why Spain and this trip? I like football. And I had Professor Bockino in class before, and he was brilliant,” Vance said. “Also, the winter semester course felt like a great way to immerse myself in foreign travel without spending a full semester abroad.”

Although not every day was as busy as the first day of the marathon, the route of the course never slowed down.

Two days after their whirlwind departure, the students traveled an hour outside Barcelona to visit Montserrat Monastery, one of Europe’s most visited attractions. The class hiked the mountain retreat of the Benedictine monks and enjoyed the breathtaking views of the Catalonia region.

Then the class packed their bags for the second leg of the course, traveling by train to Valencia, a coastal city known for the orange trees that dot the area’s landscape and line many of the city’s boulevards. The students visited the legendary Mestalla stadium, home of Valencia Club de Fútbol, ​​and took part in a meeting with the club’s marketing team. A common theme emerged from the club meetings: the organizations are intensely focused on promoting their brands beyond Europe.

“All clubs are focused on expanding their brands internationally, especially in America and Asia,” said Jack Shea, a young economics student. “That’s one of the main takeaways from all of our meetings: how can clubs continue to expand their reach?”

Ashlee Brackett, 22, walks a trail at Montserrat Monastery, a mountain retreat for Benedictine monks that is one of Europe’s most visited attractions.

Two days later, the class attended a football match between Valencia and Sevilla, a midweek competition between two clubs heading in opposite directions. Sevilla sit near the top of the La Liga table; Valencia no. Unfortunately, the home side were defeated with an own goal and had to settle for a 1-1 draw.

Beyond the sports venues, the class toured Valencia and visited the City of Arts and Sciences, which consists of several iconic facilities (a science museum, a theater and an aquarium) designed by Valencian architect Santiago Calatrava. A few days later, the students laced up their boots and trekked through the countryside above the nearby village of Naquera.

Finally, Bockino and the students headed for the capital Madrid and stayed a few blocks from the Santiago Bernabéu stadium, home of Real Madrid. Real Madrid are synonymous with championships – like the New York Yankees – having won more La Liga titles than any other Spanish club.

Members of Associate Professor David Bockino’s Through the Lens of ESPN class gather for a photo near the Wanda Metropolitano pitch.

During their stay in Madrid, the students first got acquainted with Real’s rivals, Atlético Madrid. After a tour of the club’s stadium, Wanda Metropolitano, and a fan-centric engagement space, the students spoke with Jaime Olabarria, the club’s head of marketing, for an hour about how Atlético are doing. Brand. Again, building international audiences is a focal point for Atlético. And the club’s 2020-21 La Liga championship has certainly helped those efforts.

The highlight of the visit to Madrid was attending Real’s home game on January 23 with Elche. The game did not disappoint as the home crowd had to suffer from a two-goal deficit, before Real leveled the game in extra time. A sense of relief was palpable among Real Madrid supporters.

“The first time I saw the route, the Real Madrid game definitely stood out,” Shea said. “That match and our stadium visits, for someone like me who has always loved sport, this study abroad program was just the perfect fit.”

According to Bockino, the winter semester course does not give students a clear picture of today’s sports industry in Spain, but also an insight into the country’s checkered history.

“The best part of this course is interacting with students who are beginning to recognize the broader connections between sport, history and culture,” the associate professor said. “In Spain there is this mythology about the match they call El Clásico: FC Barcelona vs Real Madrid. Understanding this confrontation and how it is discussed by these fans even today offers a fascinating window into the last hundred years of Spanish history.


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