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Volume 22 No. 14
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Forty Under 40: Chad Menefee

Photo: matt robinson

Chad Menefee was an MBA student at N.C. State with a master’s already under his belt when he started his journey toward becoming what is quite likely the first Forty Under 40 winner with a Ph.D in parks, recreation and tourism.

“I ultimately wanted to work in sports strategy, so I decided to get my Ph.D because I knew it would give me a leg up on others in the industry. At the same time, I had a business background and wasn’t sure that I actually wanted to stick with research as a career.”

Senior Partner, Luker on Trends

Age: 39

Born: Harrisburg, Pa.

Education: Wake Forest University, B.S., business; N.C. State University, Ph.D. and M.S. in parks, recreation and tourism management, and MBA

What gets you fired up? Getting the results from a new study and seeing something that will completely change someone’s thinking. 

You wish you knew 10 years ago: Hire the right people and put your trust in them. You don’t have to do everything on your own.

Profession you’d most like to attempt: MLB general manager.

Something your friends would consider “so you”: I eat so much oatmeal that I order it by the 50-pound bag.

Person in the industry you’d most like to meet: Tinker Hatfield from Nike.

Ideal day off: 5-mile run in the morning, time with my dog Jordy, grilling and beers outside, no phones all day.

We’d be surprised to know that … :  I can’t hear out of my left year. If you’re sitting to the left of me in a crowded place, I probably have no idea what you’re saying.

After presenting his dissertation, which compared Chinese and American basketball fans, Rich Luker, who had founded ESPN Sports Poll in 1994, asked him to do a project for Anheuser-Busch, one of Luker’s biggest clients.

“It gave me a chance to use both the left and right sides of my brain, doing all of the analysis and developing creative solutions for clients. After about two or three days, I knew this was what I wanted to do,” Menefee said.

Along with Luker, he started focusing on understanding how technology was changing Americans’ free time.

“We began doing more to understand why people become fans in the first place. We were ahead of the curve and it allowed us to start working on solutions for clients before fan losses became irreversible,” he said.

He developed a coding system that integrates the poll’s 25 years of data with proprietary information provided by leagues, teams, corporate partners, media rights holders and even other research companies, like Nielsen. He is currently working on making it possible to fold in data from properties’ CRM systems.

But interpreting all that data still requires a fan’s mindset.

“Predictive analytics will help maximize profits in the short term, but won’t help build the next generation of fans,” Menefee said.