Once A Jayhawk, Always A Jayhawk: Patti Regan

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Thirty years ago, Patti Regan stood in the batter’s box for Kansas, plotting a way to get on base—and eventually a way home. Now head of The Regan Group, a California-based firm that runs experiential, digital and social marketing for companies across the nation, The University of Kansas alumna and former infielder for the Jayhawks has balanced success between her career and family, two of many stops on her trip around life’s bases.

The Regan Group’s Los Angeles-area office is just 80 miles from her hometown of Carlsbad, California and Regan continues to dust off her bat and softball glove to play in an advertising league. The Regan Group deals with many social media campaigns, but perhaps her most life-changing social media campaign was for personal use — on eHarmony, where she met her husband, Dan Nelson. Regan has even connected back to her college town of Lawrence through some of her current clients at The Regan Group (TRG) who are also former Jayhawks.

Growing up in Carlsbad with her three older brothers, Regan played multiple sports. She first picked up softball at seven years old, and eventually moved on to play travel ball. Regan was the first girl to play in the boy’s PONY league for baseball.

“I’m not sure why I wanted to play baseball rather than softball,” Regan said. “I guess I just wanted more of a challenge.”

She continued to challenge herself throughout high school as a three-sport athlete in softball, volleyball and track. Senior year, she was recruited by the head coach at the University of Wyoming for softball.

After playing one year for the Cowgirls, the athletic department dropped the program.

“At first we were really surprised,” Regan remembered. “Luckily I was recruited and eligible to play right away, so it turned out to be fine.”

Moving to Kansas was a transition for Regan, but seemed to be fairly easy.

“The KU campus is so pretty,” Regan said. “I loved how beautiful the buildings were – it was like what I had always dreamed of as a little girl. The athletic department was great and it had a really good softball program with a fantastic coach. I loved Coach Bob (Stanclift). I liked all the girls that I played with; we had a really strong team. I was also getting a degree in journalism and Kansas was ranked No. 2 in the country, which was awesome.”

Regan was pursuing a degree in advertising, through the William Allen White School of Journalism. Her hard work, both on and off the field, led her to earn summer internships with Diener Hauser Bates Advertising in San Francisco and Grey Advertising in New York City. Upon graduation, Diener Hauser Bates offered her first full-time job, doing promotions for movies and entertainment.

Regan continued to work in the movie entertainment industry for some time, under advertising names such as Orion Pictures and Triax Entertainment. Just six years after graduating, she started her own company in The Regan Group.

“If we were to go back 30 years ago, I had no idea I would start my own company,” Regan said. “I just really love marketing and promotions, and working at a couple different companies I made connections to clients that just kind of grew and took on a life of its own to become The Regan Group.

“When I started TRG, Lion’s Gate was a client, then we did work for New Line (Cinema) and Warner Brothers, then Universal and Sony. I spent the first 10 years of my career doing work for movie studios, and then we started doing work for the brands that wanted to tie in to entertainment. Now, we still do quite a bit of entertainment marketing, but we also do brand marketing and consumer promotions.”

The Regan Group has since serviced hundreds of clients, both big and small, through sweepstakes, sales promotions and social media. Some of its clients include Hallmark, Nestle, FX, Ford, HBO, and Square Enix, a gaming company that creates games like “Final Fantasy” and “Tomb Raider”–and includes TRG client and fellow Jayhawk alumnus, John Grant.

One of Regan’s earlier, yet most memorable, projects was working on a promotion for the “Blair Witch Project”, which came to theaters in 1999.

“Way back when, we did a huge social media campaign and word of mouth marketing campaign for the “Blair Witch Project,” Regan said. “Now, that’s a huge part of what we do at TRG every day.”

Regan serves on the Board of Directors for the Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA). Word of mouth marketing includes online and offline projects. Experiences such as bus tours, sampling and simple recommendations of products constitute offline marketing. Online, word of mouth marketing revolves around managing conversations about brands through social media outlets such as Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest to drive sales.

“There’s a lot of different ways to execute social media and word of mouth marketing,” Regan said. “Every campaign we do starts and ends online and has a social media component, whether it’s a hashtag promotion or a sweepstakes people can enter by doing a review on a product. We host parties all around the country where people can sample and try different products and then they post stuff on their Twitter or Facebook. When word of mouth marketing started, we knew it was going to be hot. As a company, we’ve invested in it and we’ve hired people that are experts in that area.”

Aside from using social media for her career, Regan used it for her personal life. She joined eHarmony in 2006 and found her husband, Dan Nelson. Although not a Jayhawk himself, Nelson attended the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana and earned his MBA from the University of Southern California. Nelson now works as a chemical engineer in the Los Angeles area. Together, Regan and Nelson have three kids: a seven-year-old daughter, Molly, and twin two-year-olds, Megan and Sean.

The Regan-Nelson family now lives just about an hour and a half from where Regan grew up. Two of her brothers have returned to live in Carlsbad with their families, and one brother works at TRG. Regan’s mother even worked with her until she passed away in December 2014.

As the founder/CEO of TRG, Regan and her team are constantly faced with challenges. She noted one of the most important things she learned from being a student-athlete at Kansas was teamwork.

“Building camaraderie among the team and being a team player are so important,” Regan said. “I’ve learned so much from being a student-athlete. Setting goals and being accountable to yourself and teammates translates so well into the working world. Be all you can be, push yourself as hard as you can–on and off the field.”

The Regan Group has offices in Los Angeles and New York City. While she resides in the Los Angeles area, Regan travels to the east coast about every three weeks to stay for several days. When possible, Regan has made time in her busy schedule to travel back to Lawrence and visit her alma mater.

“I’ve come back to KU a couple times to speak at a couple different alumni events at the journalism school,” Regan said. “I love to just walk around on campus, it’s so beautiful. I’ll try to catch a football or basketball game, too.”

As she interacts with hundreds of clients day-to-day, Regan will never forget the 15 teammates that made her three years playing softball for the Jayhawks so memorable.

“Last summer when I went, I visited the softball field,” Regan said. “I love just being back there.”

Once a Jayhawk, Always a Jayhawk.