Faculty Accolade - Dr. Kirk Wakefield

June 4, 2003

Some day soon, you may be watching a baseball game or sitting in a football stadium when you sense that someone's watching you. And if Dr. Kirk Wakefield is around, you're probably right.
Dr. Wakefield, who came to Baylor in fall 2002 as chair of the marketing department, has more than a decade of people-watching practice under his belt, and he confesses it's a habit that's hard to break. 
"I'm one of those who likes to sit and observe folks. I get a kick out of that," says Dr. Wakefield, who earned his MBA from Baylor in 1981 and then began focusing his attention on the "psychology" of sports fans as a doctoral student. 
While working toward his PhD at Saint Louis University, he was hired as a secret shopper for the St. Louis Cardinals baseball organization, a job in which he was paid to attend games and observe levels of customer satisfaction with service or the physical environment. "I realized then that there was a lot more to sporting events than just the game." 
Increasingly, sports teams have become big business, he says, and the people who manage them need more than their instincts and a love of the game. "They can't just go out and throw a game and hope people show up. They're having to market their product or service as much as anybody else." 
Within the next few years, Dr. Wakefield hopes to capitalize on his research and create an academic center in the Hankamer School of Business for the study of sports, sponsorship and sales. Meanwhile, he teaches two classes on the subject and is writing a textbook. "I'm trying to write it as if I were having to read it, so that obviously it's helpful, educational and useful, but also entertaining." 
And whether he's sharing his findings with his students or as an expert source for national newspapers or magazines, Dr. Wakefield is confident his decision during grad school to specialize in sports marketing research was a good one. 
"I said, 'Look. I'm going to be doing research as a professor for the rest of my years. I may as well be doing something that's fun.'"