Taking cues from his experience in Hawkeye country, University of Iowa graduate Dannon Hulskotter works to enlarge and strengthen the fan base of the Minnesota Vikings.
Dannon Hulskotter

From: Bettendorf, Iowa

Year graduated: 1994

Area of study: BS in physical education, emphasis in sports management 

Competition is fierce in the NFL—not only on the field, but for the hearts of fans.

Dannon Hulskotter’s job is to cultivate fans of the Minnesota Vikings and to maintain their allegiance. As the organization’s vice president of marketing and fan engagement, the 1994 University of Iowa graduate oversees the team’s brand management, marketing, special events, and corporate hospitality.

He says times have changed since he was a young sports fan.

“I have two boys who are 11 and 14 years old, and things are so much different now, especially in terms of technology,” says Hulskotter, who was born in Peoria, Illinois, and raised in Bettendorf, Iowa. “In the age of fantasy football, for example, kids almost look at players as being more important than a team, so we need to find new ways to reach them.”

One tactic Hulskotter and his staff have taken is to develop partnerships with area organizations like the Minnesota Zoo and the Science Museum of Minnesota.

“When you are able to bring smiles to people’s faces and provide an unbelievable game-day experience, it puts a smile on your face and makes all the hard work worthwhile.”

Dannon Hulskotter
Vice president of marketing and fan engagement

“We find other programs that kids have an interest in and bring to them a Vikings element. The aim is to introduce them to the Vikings at a younger age, and so far, it’s been really successful,” says Hulskotter, noting that the organization is also reaching out to women and has several initiatives underway to recruit more female fans.

Unlike some of his fellow UI graduates working for the Minnesota Vikings, Hulskotter knew he wanted to pursue a career in the professional sports industry. He earned a BS in physical education, a degree program offering an emphasis in sports management and requiring an internship.

“The UI program was a great opportunity to learn a little bit about sports in general and also the business of sports, but the internship requirement allowed me to look for opportunities in professional sports,” he says, “and that worked out pretty well for me.”

Hulskotter landed an internship with the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers, which led to a full-time gig. He later worked for the Indiana Pacers as manager of sponsor services before moving to the Vikings.

“With the Cavs, not only did I work on the basketball program, I also worked on family events and client entertainment,” Hulskotter says. “It introduced me to the world of sports business and gave me real-world experience that made all the difference in my career ambitions.”

The time Hulskotter spent outside the classroom on the University of Iowa campus also was influential. The passion he saw in Hawkeye fans made an impression, he says, and cemented his career ambitions.

“The Hawkeye brand is so strong, not only among students but also with community members. It showed me how important sports are to fans and that this was a career I wanted to pursue,” he says. “When you are able to bring smiles to people’s faces and provide an unbelievable game-day experience, it puts a smile on your face and makes all the hard work worthwhile.”

Transitioning from the NBA to the NFL in 2001—a move facilitated by Steve LaCroix, a 1990 UI alumnus who brought Hulskotter with him from Indiana to Minnesota when he took a job with the Vikings as executive vice president and chief marketing officer—was easy, Hulskotter says.

“What I enjoy most about the Minnesota Vikings and working in the NFL is the idea that every game really means something. With only 10 home games, every game is unbelievably important—and that’s exciting,” he says. “We are just stewards of this franchise, and we take that to heart. Everything we do is for the fans and to make their experience better, whether it be through their game-day experience, social media, or special events.”

Produced by the UI Office of Strategic Communication
Sara Epstein Moninger
Video and photography
Clarity Guerra