Undergraduate Michael Seiler, co-vice-president of the
undergraduate marketing association TerpAMA, has had plenty
of marketing classes. But it was listening to a presentation
by Richard Dickson ’90, Mattel Brands’ senior vice president
of marketing, media and entertainment, worldwide, that was
truly inspiring for Seiler.
Dickson spoke to Smith students as part of the fall 2007
Freshman Fellows Speaker series, which brought students
together with business leaders from a wide range of
industries and viewpoints. The Smith School’s Freshman
Fellows Program is one of several Undergraduate Fellows
programs, which offers students small-scale specialized
academic concentrations with hands-on experiences and close
interaction with faculty, alumni, peers, and industry
Dickson spoke to students about branding in a world of
increasingly complex media. Dickson discussed Barbie’s
cultural relevance over the decades. “Relevance is key to
the brand—Barbie is and has been a reflection of style,
trends and culture,” said Dickson. He discussed the need for
Mattel to adapt to a world of increasing media messaging and
fragmentation by positioning Barbie as a “Living Brand,” one
that experiences culture and trends at the same time that
Another such speaker was Sonny Vaccaro, a sports
marketing legend best known for brokering major endorsement
deals with basketball stars Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant.
Vaccaro spoke to a packed auditorium about his experiences
during more than four decades in sports marketing.
Vaccaro spoke candidly about the shoe deals he brokered
for top athletic apparel companies Nike, Adidas and Reebok,
and about paying coaches and universities to outfit their
basketball teams in the shoes of companies he represented.
He also lobbed criticism at the NBA and NCAA — the NBA for
an age-limit rule that prevents teams from drafting players
under 19 years old, and the NCAA for what he called unfair
practices that profit off student athletes without benefit
to the players after they’ve left the team.
Students appreciated this exposure to high-level leaders
and sophisticated ideas. Seiler said of Dickson’s
presentation, “What interested me most was the notion that
today’s market is drastically different than even 10 years
ago. Today’s consumer is much more skeptical, and as a
result the communication between brand and the target market
becomes more of a conversation.”
But what impressed Seiler even more was Dickson’s
willingness to stay afterwards to talk with students.
Vaccaro also made himself very available to students, even
handing out his e-mail address, encouraging them to write to
him and promising to respond to all correspondence.
Read more about the Freshman Fellows Speaker series on
our Web site. If you are interested in speaking to Smith
students, contact Elizabeth Mitchell,
--CT, PB, RW