Alfred University group visits Spain, learns about marketing strategies

Two Alfred University faculty accompanied nine students on a trip to Spain, where they learned how culture, economics, and politics influence marketing strategies in the major cities of Madrid and Barcelona.

The trip was organized as part of the “Nationalism and International Marketing” short-term study abroad course taught by Shelly Freyn, associate professor of marketing in Alfred University’s College of Business. Freyn and Kerry Kautzman, professor of Spanish, accompanied five marketing students and three art students on the trip, held May 13-23.

“Traveling to Spain to study international marketing offered a unique opportunity for students to understand how cultural and artistic elements influence market dynamics,” Freyn said. “This trip provided students the ability to see how Spain’s diverse traditions and vibrant art scene can enrich one’s perspective on global marketing.”

“Alfred’s students drafted and presented marketing pitches for feedback after immersing themselves in the cultural and historical contexts that impact the decision-making behind successful product campaigns,” Kautzman added. “This professional development experience demonstrates that Alfred University students are prepared to compete globally.”

Students participating in the trip were marketing students Brian Ngatunga, Sienna Cefalu, and Mairin Marchione, and Andrew Davis, who each graduated from Alfred University in May; and Natalee Marchione, who will be a senior in the fall; Natalee Collins, a sophomore-to-be; art students Morgan Wise and Shayna Hettler, who will both be sophomores in the fall; and Ellie Gamble, ’23 (B.F.A.), a current MBA student.

Students experienced real-world international marketing challenges at the Madrid and Barcelona advertising offices of Agencia Manifiesto, applying their marketing knowledge and gaining valuable feedback on real marketing projects conducted in Spain. They were split into two teams, provided a creative brief of a past project, and were given 30 minutes to build a marketing campaign concept. They received feedback from Ester Heredia, general manager of the Madrid office, on a PlayStation campaign at Christmas, and Kelya Ramírez, general manager of the Barcelona office, on Miravia (the Alibaba ecommerce group) for summer sales.

Frank Hendricks, director of Podoactiva, a supplier of smart technology athletic equipment to the Spanish national soccer team, explained marketing for renowned Spanish soccer teams FC Barcelona and Real Madrid. The presentation offered insights into Spain’s obsession with soccer and how the ongoing rivalry between FC Barcelona and Real Madrid is much deeper than the sport itself. Hendricks discussed the historical and political roots of the teams, offering a clearer and insightful perspective of the game.

Students visited two national parliaments: in Madrid with Member of Parliament Pablo Hispán and journalist Julio Somoano Rodríguez, and in Barcelona with Guillem Muntané Jiménez, protocol representative. Students learned about the history and systems that make up Spanish government. Blanca Camino, economist and tax inspector of the Spanish tax agency, provided insight into central state, autonomous region, and local municipal taxes.

The group spent an afternoon with Miguel Sebastián Gascón, economist and ex-Minister of Industry, Tourism, and Commerce for Prime Minister Zapatero, learning about the branding of Spain as an international product. A notable topic from the presentation is Spain’s challenge of generating increased tourism revenue. He explained, for example, that typically Europeans enjoy beaches, Chinese like shopping, and Americans prefer experiences and culture.

A visit to Alcalá de Henares, a smaller city outside of Madrid, provided students a more nostalgic cultural experience. Arriving mid-afternoon, they observed small retail shops, predominantly Spanish brand advertisements and minimal U.S./global brand advertising. The city appeared desolate at first but came alive a few hours later; the students experienced a true Spanish siesta and enjoyed a variety of Tapas.

Students evaluated the marketing and branding used in the three Spanish cities and observed subtle differences in the way many U.S. and global brands are marketed there.

The group visited museums (Prado, Picasso), cathedrals (Sagrada Familia), United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) heritage sites, and historical sites (Park Guell).

Ngatunga, who earned a degree in marketing in May, said the trip was valuable because he and fellow students learned directly from marketing professionals from another country.

“Education has no geographical boundaries. I had never been to Europe, and this study abroad program in Spain was a great introduction,” Ngatunga commented. “The trip was valuable from an educational point of view because we learned from the locals. Rather than just researching on our own, we had great one-on-one interactions and time with local experts in different fields. The learning experience would have been very different if it was not locally driven.”

Ngatunga, a native of Tanzania, Africa, said the trip was also enjoyable from the standpoint of learning about a culture different from his own and from that he experienced as a student in the United States.

“Unlike in the United States where I am easily identified as an international student, this program put each of us in the same boat, as internationals. We had to find ways to navigate and adjust to the unfamiliar culture and environment to be part of the ecosystem,” he explained. “For example, we were introduced to the tapas cuisine serving, which is common in bars and restaurants in both Madrid and Barcelona, where small plates or servings of appetizers, snacks, or savory dishes are served. This was a great experience to try new foods and a food-sharing culture. And the food was amazing!”

The trip reflects a focused effort by the College of Business to create intersections by offering students interdisciplinary learning opportunities. The trip Freyn organized to Spain, for example, involved a mix of business and art students learning about marketing practices and Spanish culture. Similarly, the College organizes an annual trip to Germany, where students from different academic disciplines—business, art, history—learn about the German automotive industry while also experiencing German culture by visiting art museums and sites of historical significance.

“This study abroad experience optimized the value of an interdisciplinary approach by integrating studies in Spanish culture and politics with its application to global business in Spain,” Freyn commented. “The next question…where to next?”


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