NFL Marketing Pro Goes Back to College: Barnes & Noble College That Is

By BNC Marketing

In our recent interview with Sarah Gurian, our newest account manager at Barnes & Noble College, we were excited to speak about her extensive media, sponsorship, and sports marketing experience. Prior to joining Barnes & Noble College, Sarah spent time on the brand marketing side of major athletic teams including the Washington Redskins, Philadelphia 76ers, New York Giants, and the Indianapolis Colts.

Why Barnes & Noble College?

College students are the key to understanding what our future will shape up to be. They hold a significant amount of buying power and will continue to influence the market as they graduate and transition into the workforce. Working with Gen Z is not only fast paced, but it’s changing every term. It totally challenges my creativity and allows me to do my best work and have a lot of fun!

What are the biggest challenges facing brands today?

Today’s brands need to cut through a lot of noise to be heard. With so much clutter and activity in the marketplace, brands are constantly trying new tactics to stand out, but in the end, it’s very distracting to the consumer.  I will help my brand partners find the exact program, event or media opportunity that is most authentic to their brands, making it a seamless and in-context experience for their college student target audience. Through this approach, consumers will see themselves as a part of the brand instead of being bombarded with just another transactional experience.

What’s the main value Barnes & Noble College offers to its brand partners?

Access, access, and even more access. With the 770+ stores in our family, access to students, parents and alumni is something that no other organization can offer. Being a partner of Barnes & Noble College gets brands straight to the heart of campus in the snap of a finger, delivering the best possible results.

What does your experience tell you that students are looking for in their interaction with brands?

Authenticity. If a student doesn’t wholeheartedly agree with a brand’s mission, they will find a competitor that they will better align with. Students are savvy and can cut through gimmicks and insincerity. Instead they will seek out companies that are honest and real and that they can believe in. At the end of the day, those are the companies they will support and those are the companies who will win customers for life.

How will your sports marketing background come into play at Barnes & Noble College?

Working in sports marketing, I honed my creative skills and learned to think from every possible perspective – all in the name of helping my clients reach their goals. I have partnered with organizations ranging from government contractors to women’s athleisure wear to food and beverage brands. I helped them create cohesive marketing plans that were beneficial to their organizational goals, the team’s growth, and most importantly, gave our fans access to programs that said: “Thank you for being a fan.”

What are the most memorable client successes of your career?

When I worked for the Philadelphia 76ers,  I helped launch the first jersey patch sponsorship in North American sports. After the 76ers and Stub Hub had finalized a dynamic partnership, I was able to work on the announcement of the partnership. Working with historical figures and locations throughout the city of Philadelphia allowed me to stretch myself creatively, all within a very short timeline. Most importantly, being able to share this moment with such a passionate fan base made everything that much more special after the launch.

What is something nobody would ever guess about you?

While I was at Indiana University-Bloomington as a major in sports communication and broadcasting, I had the opportunity to work as a sideline reporter at a live IU basketball broadcast on the Big Ten Network. I felt that it was just as exciting for me to be there as it was for the players themselves!

What was the best piece of advice a previous boss or family member ever gave you?

Always send a handwritten thank you note. In today’s digital age, we get so caught up in emails, texts and social media, but a short and thoughtful handwritten note can go a long way. You never know where that note will end up down the road!



As the flagship business of Barnes & Noble Education (NYSE:BNED), Barnes & Noble College is the official bookstore and strategic partner on campus. We work with our brand partners to get them access to 11 million+ college students, parents, and alumni – at 770+ college campuses nationwide.

Located in the center of college life, our retail locations are a daily destination on campus. From creating social hubs to delivering seamless online experiences, our stores transcend the typical “bookstore” role by connecting authentically with students, parents, alumni, and college sports fans both in-store and online.

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