Title

Raiding the Design World

Authors

Kaylee Cusack

Document Type

News Article

Publication Date

1-23-2017

Campus Unit

College of Business & Public Administration

Abstract

UND MBA grad and former UND Athlete takes her career to the big show in the National Football League.

It all started with the University of North Dakota softball team’s travel clothes.

Cami Bennett didn’t like them. And she decided to do something about it.

“I was trying to think of a way to get the coaches to let me help with that,” recalled Bennett, a standout 2009 softball recruit from Grants Pass, Ore. “So I thought, maybe I could tell them that’s what I’m going to school for. But then I thought, well, maybe that is something I want to go to school for,” she added with a laugh.

Bennett’s appetite for branding and design led her to pursue a UND undergraduate degree in marketing with a minor in graphic design, and ultimately an MBA.

Now, instead of designing t-shirts for UND softball players and fans, she’s tackling the graphics needs of the NFL’s Oakland Raiders. In her role as a full-fledged designer for the team, Bennett works with marketing to bolster social media impact and prepare and tweak materials for the coming season. She says her big break was born from her experiences at UND, where she developed an eye for branding, a ruthless work ethic and a stellar online footprint.

“One of the biggest things that helped me — a sign of the times, I guess — was my social media presence,” she said. “I started following all of the designers that I came across and started posting my own work. So then people started to see my work, and they liked it.”

Scoring opportunities

The path from the Kelly green and white of UND to the silver and black of the Raiders was paved by opportunity, beginning with a marketing internship with UND Athletics. Bennett took what she was learning in the classroom to the field, the ice and the court, producing everything from tickets to billboards.

“She is everything you want in an employee in regard to work ethic, reliability, talent and attitude,” said Kyle Doperalski, associate athletic director for external relations and Bennett’s former supervisor. “As an undergrad, she created professional graphics that we used on all mediums, and it was clear she was an extremely gifted designer.”

Doperalski so valued Bennett that when a full-time designer role with UND Athletics opened up, he knew who to call. Bennett had just finished her undergraduate degree and was involved in a summer internship with the Seattle Mariners of Major League Baseball.

“I thought if I’m going to be back working at the University, I could go to grad school,” Bennett said. “Once I had that thought, I couldn’t get it out of my head. I also knew I could be part of the logo transition, so really, it was a no-brainer for me.”

Bennett served on the 13-person Graphic Identity Request for Proposal Evaluation and Recommendation Team that selected SME Inc., as the firm to design UND’s new Fighting Hawks logo. She became integral to the development and launch of UND Athletics’ new look.

“She provided a unique perspective on that team because she would be the one using the suite of marks the most, and because she was a former student-athlete,” said Doperalski.

Between last-minute design work and logo conference calls, Bennett was still advancing with another goal.

“Working full time plus grad school was probably one of the toughest times in my life,” Bennett recalled. “But it was one of those things that I realize now — if I can do all that, then I feel like I can do anything.”

With two years of experience, a major branding transition and an MBA in her arsenal, it was only a matter of time before the Raiders came calling.

“I was happy for her and proud of her,” Doperalski said. “To be working in the NFL is something that no one will ever be able to take away. The Raiders have two full-time designers, so there are only about 65 positions like hers in the NFL. She is now at the top of her field.”

Next-level experience

It seemed like Bennett had brought some luck to Oakland in her first year with the team — the 2016-17 season was stacked with Raider wins. But it all came to a crippling close.

“It was tough,” Bennett said. “It started a couple of weeks before this game, when we started going downhill. I think the heartbreak started when our quarterback broke his fibula. Obviously we were all heartbroken after that.”

But Bennett has a lot of new challenges to look forward to in the coming weeks. She played a large role in seven Raiders being voted into the Jan. 29 NFL Pro Bowl in Orlando, Fla., the most of any team in the league. The selections were driven, in part, by social media attention this year, which was propelled by Bennett’s designs.

She’s also preparing for a potential move by her team to Las Vegas, where Raiders’ ownership has hinted at relocating the team.

“We could be designing for a completely different market,” she said. “That changes everything, which is kind of fun.”

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