Amsterdam experience helps student researcher learn the value of relationships

Of the three Olympic values – excellence, respect and friendship – it’s the last that might matter the most to Samantha Pang.

A second year master’s student in Human Kinetics who specializes in sport management, Pang spent the entire summer working in the Netherlands researching how to build a marketing strategy to increase the number of visits sport enthusiasts and tourists make to the Olympic Experience, an attraction at the Olympic Stadium in Amsterdam.

And while the work experience was enlightening, it was the new connections she made that she values most from her European summer experience.

“It confirmed my belief that building relationships is so important,” said Pang, who was born and raised in Niagara Falls and earned an undergraduate degree in kinesiology from the University of Western Ontario.

The stadium where Pang spent her summer was built for the 1928 Games and the city is currently preparing a bid to host them again in 2028 to mark the facility’s 100th anniversary. The building is now mostly a monument but it’s still used for various activities, from national sporting events to music festivals, Pang said. A bid for the Games would have to include upgrades and expansion, she added.

Her summer research project, done under the direction of professor Jess Dixon, will be incorporated into a final internship report for her degree. It involved interviewing executives of the Stichting Exploitatie Olympic Stadium Amsterdam and creating a strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT) analysis to aid in future marketing strategies for the Olympic Experience. She will also review previous literature to better understand what sports tourists want from their experiences.

Attendance at the museum is very low, she said. It’s used mostly by corporate executives for business meetings, as well as such special events as birthday parties. Part of the problem, she said, is that all of the exhibits are displayed in Dutch.

“That kind of limits English patrons,” she said. “Tourism companies don’t want to market something that they can’t market to English-speaking tourists.”

Besides meeting lots of new people through her research, Pang also had plenty of extracurricular activity to help make new friends. After work, she would often go to the gym, head home for dinner with the Dutch family that hosted her, and then go back out to play in the student Ultimate Frisbee league she joined.

“That was a huge part of my networking experience,” she said. “We played three times a week. I met a really good friend from Scotland and we still keep in touch.”

The family she stayed with had four children, although only one still lived at home. In the evenings, their father would share his knowledge with her about Second World War history and she discovered that the house she stayed in was actually a hiding place for Jews during the Nazi occupation. She said she developed an especially close bond with their mother.

“When it was time for me to leave and she came to say bye, we were both crying,” she said.

With several European trips on her passport and a better understanding of the importance of networking, Pang says she hopes to follow a career in brand management and marketing.

“I’ve really been exposed to marketing and I like the creativity of it, so I’d like to get involved with a sports organization of some kind,” said Pang, an avid golfer who loves watching professional hockey and baseball.

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Editor's note: this is one of a series of articles about students who were engaged in cool research projects and other scholarly activities this summer.


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