Throughout his illustrious career as a sport marketing practitioner, Dr. Bernie Mullin has demonstrated an unwavering commitment to sport marketing education and providing opportunities for the next generation of sport marketing practitioners. This award exemplifies the very spirit of Dr. Bernie Mullin by recognizing sport organizations that have also demonstrated an exemplary commitment to sport marketing education.


2018 Mullin Awardee:
Tampa Bay Lightning

Academicians and industry professionals have acknowledged the need to develop stronger partnerships between universities and corporations to help bridge the gap between industry and academia. Moreover, the benefits of healthy corporate/academia relationships include, but are not limited to, student learning and employment, practitioners’ insights, and the development of research. The industry immersion program between the University of South Florida’s (USF) Vinik Sport and Entertainment Management Program and the Tampa Bay Lightning is a perfect example of a partnership where both the university and corporation mutually benefit. The SMA would like to congratulate the Tampa Bay Lightning on receiving this year’s Mullin Award!

The Tampa Bay Lightning (TBL), a professional ice hockey team located in Tampa, Florida is a member of the Atlantic Division of the Eastern Conference in the National Hockey League. The TBL operate as a sport franchise under the Tampa Bay Sport and Entertainment corporation which also includes Tampa Bay Entertainment Properties and management of Amalie Arena for concerts and events. Currently, TBL has nearly 150 full-time employees and 200 part-time employees. While under the leadership of owner Jeff Vinik and CEO Steve Griggs, the TBL has experienced a radical transformation of the company brand. In 2016, the TBL was ranked as the #1 sports brand in the United States by ESPN and one of five finalists for the SportsBusiness Journal’s Sport Team of the Year. In 2012, USF and TBL partnered to create a graduate program that would blend classroom and workplace across numerous corporate partners in the Tampa Bay area. In order to ensure the longevity of this partnership, Jeff and Penny Vinik and the TBL donated $6 million to name the program the “Vinik Sport and Entertainment Management Program”.

Educational Benefits for Students
The TBL provides the following opportunities for students:

  • Paid residency placement for 10 students

  • Game day internships for 6 students

  • Employees of TBL assist in teaching the Sport Business Analytics course.

  • Annual guest speakers within the following courses:

    • Sales and Fundraising in Sport Industry

    • Sport Business Analytics

    • Contemporary Issues in Sport & Entertainment Management

    • Sport & Entertainment Marketing Strategy

    • Social Media in Sport

    • Issues in the American Sport Industry

    • Applied Marketing Research

Experiential Learning Opportunities

  • Hands-on work experience through residencies

  • Inside ticket sales experience conducted at Amalie Arena for TBL single and group tickets

  • Development of social media plans for TBL, Amalie Arena, and the TB Storm

  • Data collection for Applied Marketing Research Course using iPads

Research Projects
The partnership has enabled both the faculty and students to engage in a number of research projects. Note the following outcomes:

  • Two journal articles have been published within the Journal of Applied Sport Management

  • One journal article is currently under review

  • Faculty have conducted eight focus group sessions assisting the consumer behavior strategies for the TBL

  • Students collected qualitative data at TBL events for in-class research projects

Network Provided for the Students
The TBL have provided the following benefits for students to network within the industry:

  • Senior executive mentorship of the VSEM students

  • Assisted in connecting students with other professional organizations

  • Assisted with job placement after graduation

  • Networking events hosted at the TBL

This valued partnership provides several beneficial outcomes for both sides. For VSEM, benefits come via experiential learning opportunities for students, research and development of knowledge, and professional growth for students and faculty. For the TBL, benefit come through a productive student work force, assistance with solving problems, faculty research knowledge, and professional growth for TBL staff and executives. 


One of the goals of the Sport Marketing Association is to bridge the gap between the sport industry and the academy. The purpose of the Mullin Award is to recognize a sport marketing practitioner or organization which has partnered with an academic program of an SMA member in a way which provides students with unique and exceptional educational opportunities, helping connect them to the sport industry and advance their career. This award honors an individual or organization which has made exceptional contributions in one or more of the following areas:

  1. Education: Brings real world sport marketing experience into the sport marketing classroom and education (e.g., teaching seminars, classes, writing case studies or textbook chapters, etc.)

  2. Experiential Opportunities: Provides experience-based opportunities for the next generation of sport marketing practitioners (e.g., experiential learning, volunteer, internships, or graduate assistantship opportunities)

  3. Research: Contributions in sport marketing research (e.g., collaborative work with sport marketing faculty on marketing based research projects)

  4. Networking: Excellence in connecting students with industry professionals (e.g., utilizes its own resources to create a symbiotic relationship between industry and sport marketing students via networking opportunities, job fairs, etc.)


Any marketing professional or sport organization having a strong relationship with a university where SMA members work is eligible to be nominated for the Mullin Award.


Nominations for the Mullin Award should be submitted by current SMA members no later than May 24, 2019. To nominate a candidate for, the SMA member should submit a document (4 pages single space maximum) outlining the history and collaboration between nominee and the academic program. This letter should describe the relationship as well as projects or collaborations conducted between the nominee and students. Nomination letters should provide details of positive outcomes stemming from the collaboration. Nomination letters are not required to, but may. include material evidencing the partnership such as sample projects, portfolios, websites, photos, videos, etc. 

Nominees who do not receive the Mullin Award will be considered for two (2) years after their first nomination. Past nominees will be asked by a member of the SMA Awards Committee if they wish to be considered again and, asked if they wish to re-submit updated materials.

Nominations should be submitted as one PDF file to Dr. Greg Greenhalgh, Member at Large for the SMA, at  


Members from the SMA Awards Committee will evaluate candidates based on the criteria listed above. The committee's Chair will notify the SMA Executive Board of their recommendation no later than June 29, 2019. This selection will then be voted on by the SMA Executive Board. Upon approval, the award winner will be notified of their selection. The Mullin Award will be formally presented to the winner at the Awards Banquet of the 2019 SMA Conference in Chicago, IL. The Mullin Award winner will have the option to present on the partnership during the conference. 

Nominations, questions, or comments regarding the awards process can be emailed directly to Dr. Greg Greenhalgh, Member at Large for the SMA, at  


2018 - Tampa Bay Lightning
2017 - The Aspire Group