UT Haslam Hosts Marketing and Sales Innovation Conference and Awards

April 17, 2024

The inaugural Marketing and Sales Innovation Conference and Awards, hosted by the Department of Marketing at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Haslam College of Business, took place on April 3-4, 2024, on the UT campus. The event brought together students, faculty, staff and marketing and sales professionals to explore fresh ideas, forge new connections and envision the future of their industries. UT System President Randy Boyd and Vols baseball coach Tony Vitello presented keynote addresses.

Inspiration From Leaders on the Field and in the Field

Day one began in UT’s Student Union ballroom with lunch and welcoming remarks from Alex Zablah, marketing department head, Gerber/Taylor Distinguished Professor and Kinney Family Faculty Research Fellow. Zablah introduced Stephen L. Mangum, dean of the college and Stokely Foundation Leadership Chair, who then introduced Vitello.

Tony Vitello speaks into a handheld microphone behind a podium

Tony Vitello

The coach spoke about the ways in which marketing and sales principles have helped UT baseball. When recruiting, he believes strongly in learning ahead of time what is important to prospective players and their families in order to present a strong case for the Vols program. His keynote also emphasized the importance of being “organic” and not presenting an image or message that doesn’t align with who you are.

Following Vitello’s address, the conference offered breakout sessions throughout the afternoon. Attendees could choose from a total of twelve sessions, as each of the three time slots offered simultaneous sessions in four distinct tracks: brand management, digital and visual marketing, nonprofit marketing and professional sales.

The conference’s first day concluded with Networking Night at Neyland, where marketing students had the opportunity to mix and mingle with other conference attendees in the stadium’s Lower West Club.

Learning from a Storied Career, Awarding Excellence

The second day of the conference began in the Student Union ballroom. Over breakfast, Zablah introduced UT Knoxville Chancellor Donde Plowman, who made opening remarks and introduced Boyd.

Randy Boyd speaking and gesturing

Randy Boyd

In his keynote speech, Boyd spoke about his wide-ranging career, which has included entrepreneurship, non-profit foundation work and government service in addition to his current position as a leader in higher education. Marketing and sales can provide a solid basis for many different career paths, he said, emphasizing that the two fields go hand-in-hand. “It’s really difficult to create demand for a product nobody knows about.”

After Boyd’s keynote, attendees again had the opportunity to participate in breakout sessions built around the conference’s four tracks. A total of eight sessions were offered in two time slots for the remainder of the morning.

The event concluded with an awards luncheon emceed by Kim Hansard and Marc Anthony from Star 102.1 FM’s Marc & Kim Show. Hansard and Anthony presented awards in four categories.

The Brand Journey Award, recognizing ongoing excellence in brand building, went to redpepper. The marketing agency was honored for its campaign for cybersecurity company Varonis.

The Digital Marketing Innovation Award, celebrating organizations that have leveraged new, novel or adaptive technologies to increase their effectiveness in digital marketing, was awarded to Loch & Key Productions for its work on the Earl Scruggs Music Festival campaign.

The Sales Achievement Award, acknowledging a company’s or organization’s outstanding performance and contributions to the field of sales, was presented to Insight Global.

The Better Marketing for a Better World Award, celebrating a company or organization that is consistently working to affect positive change by highlighting and leveraging marketing practices that prioritize the planet and the well-being of people, went to The Leverage Group for its Goodwill campaign.

Zablah was encouraged by the turnout, session quality, number of award submissions and positive energy surrounding the two-day event.

“This inaugural conference represents a major step toward building a community around UT — including marketing and sales talent from both industry and academia — to facilitate the exchange of ideas around current best practices, promote innovation and help attendees, especially our students, broaden their professional network,” he says. “I am incredibly proud of our talented team for producing such a fantastic event and look forward to an even bigger and better conference next year.”

The next Marketing and Sales Innovation Conference is scheduled for April 9-10, 2025.

Stacy Estep, writer/publicist, sestep3@utk.edu