Basketball fan wedded her love of sports to communication

Photo courtesy of Olivia Tanchel
By Barbara Gutierrez

Photo courtesy of Olivia Tanchel

Basketball fan wedded her love of sports to communication

By Barbara Gutierrez
Olivia Tanchel has had several internships honing her skills in media relations. And they all led to her current role as an intern with the HEAT Group—a job that she hopes will become a permanent position.

Olivia Tanchel knew two things about herself: she loved basketball and she was a good communicator.

When she arrived at the University of Miami four years ago, she decided to marry the two. 

“I gravitated toward the School of Communication because I recognized that speaking and writing were my strengths. The curriculum at the U allowed me to add a sports minor,” said Tanchel, who had played basketball from first grade through high school.    

She will graduate with a Bachelor of Science in communication and a minor in sport administration on Friday. She also has a second minor in Judaic studies.

During her years at the University, she was able to gain experience in public and media relations because of several internships. 

Paul Resnick, senior lecturer and a member of the sport administration faculty at the School of Education and Human Development, became Tanchel’s mentor. 

“She is a superstar,” he said. “She is so professional. From the first time I met her I knew. The students who end up being superstars in the sports industry are the ones who are proactive and stay after class and ask me questions and pick my brain, and that was her.”       

Together they made a plan for her future career that would help her achieve her ultimate goal: working for the Miami Heat basketball team.

“My dream was to work for the Miami Heat. All my professors knew that, and everyone who knows me knew that,” she said. 

But to achieve her dream, she first had to get other training under her belt. 

With Resnick’s guidance, she was able to obtain several internships. One of her internships was with FIBA Basketball, the International Basketball Federation and governing body for the sport. As a communication intern, she wrote press releases, generated social media content, and pitched story ideas for internal publications.

Another internship took her to Carma Connected, a high-end public relations firm that represents clients such as the W Hotel and the Komodo restaurant. She monitored press coverage, helped to develop client pitches, and coordinated photo shoots. 

Tanchel considered each internship a stepping-stone on her path to the Heat.

Finally, she was able to secure an interview and was offered an internship with the games operations and marketing department of the HEAT Group.

Now on any game night, Tanchel is running around FTX Arena finding contestants for the in-game fan experiences, writing blurbs for the Jumbotron, and making sure that she keeps a steady stream of posts for mascot Burnie’s Instagram account. 

“I wear many hats and being at the correct place at the right time is very important,” she said. “You cannot mess that up.” Her bubbly, charismatic personality has also helped her since she constantly interacts with fans and clients.

She is also responsible for writing poster boards with messages for the players that Burnie holds up before each game with the hope that the player will react or maybe post the message on social media.

“I recently wrote one, welcoming back one of our players who had been out with an injury,” Tanchel said. The “Welcome back Bam” sign and the post went viral. She was elated.

“That was my poster board, and it was really cool,” she said. Center and power forward Bam Adebayo is one of the most popular Heat players.

Tanchel hopes to stay in the HEAT organization in some capacity after graduation. 

She realizes that her journey was helped along by wonderful caring instructors. 

Resnick, her mentor, guided her through the internship process; lecturer Heidi Carr, a journalist with 25 years of experience, taught her the basics of public and media relations in a public relations practicum.

Jack Wesley Miller, an assistant professor of professional practice at the School of Communication, was crucial in teaching her how to construct and deliver a compelling message.

“This has not only helped me professionally, but it has become a fundamental life skill,” Tanchel said.