A Home Run: Newhouse Public Relations Senior Helps Yankees Player Build Brand

Samantha Messina’s work on a public relations campaign for the New York Yankees’ Oswaldo Cabrera was a big hit with the utility player.  

A public relations senior, Messina collaborated with Cabrera on the project during the Spring 2023 semester. It was an unforgettable opportunity for Messina that cemented her goal of a career in sports public relations and management.  

She even got to see Cabrera deliver a PR pitch.  

“It was so cool to be at a table where I had an idea,” Messina said about the meeting in June to speak with Cabrera about his brand. “He was kind of pitching us these real posts that he wanted to do and real sponsors that he would consider.” 

a person sits at a computer
Samantha Messina (Photo by Leigh Vo)

It started in the Sport Sponsorship and Promotion course that Messina was taking at the David B. Falk College of Sport and Human Dynamics with associate teaching professor Dave Meluni. Messina had to build a marketing deck presentation for an athlete, with one of the options being Cabrera.  

The class got connected to Cabrera through Brandon Steiner ’81, a sports marketing expert and president of Falk’s Sport Management Advisory Council. Steiner, the founder of the Steiner Agency, Athlete Direct and CollectibleXchange, has a long-running relationship with the Yankees from his days as founder of Steiner Sports, a sports memorabilia business.  

Messina worked with Tracey Edson, a Falk sport management major, on Cabrera’s deck and brand. Working with a partner from a different school was a good lesson that people’s backgrounds and education make a difference, Messina said.   

“In the same way that when you go out into the real world, the person sitting next to you might not have the same degree as you,” she said.  “That’s all the better because they’ll have their own experiences and their own classes that they’ve taken.” 

“It was so cool to be at a table where I had an idea,” Messina said about the meeting with Cabrera about his brand. From left to right: Samantha Messina, Oswaldo Cabrera, Tracey Edson and Brandon Steiner.

After completing the assignment, Messina and five other students traveled to New York City to meet Cabrera in early June and attend a Yankees game. The scheduled game ended up postponed, but it didn’t ruin the trip. Instead, Meluni arranged for Cabrera to come to their hotel and meet with the students to talk about their projects.  

“That give and take — I’ve never gotten to do that before with someone who I could see on my TV screen,” Messina said. 

Even as a die-hard Red Sox fan, Messina, who grew up in a town about 45 minutes northwest of Boston, dug into her team’s rival and gained a professional awareness of the Yankees’ market.

“The team’s branding, as well as its players’ branding, is different than the Red Sox and in an entirely different city with its own rich history,” Messina said. “When considering sponsors for [Cabrera], it was an important thing to learn.”

Sports weren’t always part of Messina’s plan. During junior year of high school, she was set on pursuing public relations in college, but leaned more toward the entertainment industry as she watched marketing strategies and campaigns unfold for some of her favorite bands.   

After one comment from a professor, her public relations trajectory veered more toward sports. A Massachusetts native, Messina was already a big sports fan.

In her first-year Public Relations Principles and Practice class at Newhouse, Brad Horn, a professor of practice, mentioned his past in sports public relations. Messina was immediately hooked.  

She began learning what goes on behind the scenes in sports, and “every step that I’ve taken after that, picking a minor, taking all the Falk classes, it’s been just a trajectory towards doing something in sports,” she said.  

Messina and other sport management students got the incredible opportunity to create marketing decks and brands for New York Yankees player Oswaldo Cabrera. From left to right: Elizabeth Ellis, Alison Gilmore, Brandon Steiner, Tracey Edson, Cabrera, Samantha Messina, Cecilia “CJ” Westwater, Kate Lawton, Dylan Canell and Dave Meluni.

Besides the project for Cabrera, Messina has also interned with the Syracuse Crunch minor league hockey team, a fashion and beauty corporation in London, a PR agency in Boston and worked as an assistant firm director for student public relations firm Hill Communications. She’s done event management and communication work with the Newhouse Sports Media Center, and is a member of the Public Relations Student Society of America and the Kappa Alpha Theta fraternity.

Messina, now a senior at Newhouse, believes that her interest in public relations comes from the more subjective storytelling that the job requires. 

“That kind of persuasion, the potential to argue and debate and really sink teeth into what makes a story and how that affects people and their thinking was really what got me into PR,” she said.   

Horn, who is also Messina’s faculty advisor, said she is “someone who is pursuing something that is more than just a title …  It’s kind of that truly ‘can-do spirit,’ her ability to see the bigger picture and see things that could be better.”

Brooke Borzymowski is a junior broadcast and digital journalism major at the Newhouse School.