Warsaw Sports Marketing Center Blog

Warsaw is Family: Reflecting on the 2017 National Sports Forum Case Cup

In early December, I was presented with the opportunity to be part of a team that would represent the University of Oregon and the Warsaw Sports Marketing Center at the NSF Case Cup Competition. Knowing the magnitude of the National Sports Forum, the challenging format of the competition, and the stiff competition we would face, I hesitantly accepted the offer to fly into the middle of a Minnesotan winter.

The NSF Case Cup is a Masters level case-style competition held each year at the National Sports Forum. The competition is an opportunity for Masters students to compete in a multidisciplinary sports business case study in which teams are given 24 hours to tackle a challenging, real-world sports business problem that simulates the challenges we will face as we begin our professional careers.

This year, Luke Nofsinger, Danielle Barbian, Kelly O’Shaughnessy and myself were tasked with strategically utilizing Major League Soccer’s recent partnership with SeatGeek to boost revenue at Sporting Kansas City, one of the most successful clubs in the MLS. With just 24 hours to understand the case, complete research, brainstorm solutions and produce a 20-minute presentation, the competition was a fast-paced blur that consisted of only three hours of sleep and far too much coffee and junk food. As challenging and exhausting as the competition was, it was all made worth it when we were fortunate enough to be awarded first place, bringing the trophy back to Eugene for the second time.

The victory was definitely a proud moment for our team. We were not only excited to be recognized for our efforts but also proud to have been able to showcase the strength of the Warsaw Sports Marketing Center and the Oregon MBA on a national stage. Heading to Minneapolis, we felt that the academic and experiential learning opportunities provided to us over the last 1.5 years positioned us to be successful at the Case Cup. The extensive exposure to industry and the seemingly endless amount of group work and presentations that we have tackled through our coursework meant we were unfazed by the format of the competition and were able to approach the problem collaboratively and strategically. I can confidently say that our success at the National Sports Forum came from not only the combined talents and experiences of our team, but also from the experiences within the Oregon MBA that have helped us grow and develop into the young professionals we are today.

Perhaps the biggest thing that stuck with me upon leaving Minnesota though had little to do with the Case Cup itself. The support and camaraderie that existed within the alumni of the Warsaw program made a big impact on me. We were lucky enough to be joined by a handful of Warsaw alum at the conference and from the moment we arrived the team felt part of a larger family. This Warsaw community exists across the country and to me has been one of the biggest factors in my enjoyment and success in this program.

The NSF Case Cup Competition was definitely a valuable learning experience for me and my teammates but I think the real value of my time in Minneapolis were the connections I made with industry professionals, alumni and other students. It is one of many experiences that have been afforded me through the Oregon MBA that continue to reaffirm my decision to cross the Pacific Ocean and join the Warsaw Sports Marketing Center. With just over three months until I graduate from this program and all the uncertainty that comes with the job search process, it’s comforting to know that wherever I end up, I will always be a part of the Warsaw Center and Oregon MBA families.

 

Written by Nick Hudson

Nick is a 2nd year MBA student in the University of Oregon's Warsaw Sport Marketing Center. Born in Australia, Nick has worked in events and sponsorship with Tennis Australia, Wasserman and the Prefontaine Classic and previously in a management consulting capacity with Deloitte. Upon graduation in June 2017, Nick hopes to return to the world of sports sponsorship and marketing with an agency or sports property.

Warsaw MBA Students and Oregon SPM Students Connect Over Shared History

Warsaw Sports Marketing first year MBA students, together with the incoming Sports Product Management (SPM) students from the U of O’s Portland campus had the privilege of visiting some powerful pieces of Eugene history in September 2016.

When an email came through to my inbox inviting Warsaw students to join a private tour of “Nike/Eugene” heritage, I was immediately intrigued and RSVP’d. On the morning of the tour, we all met outside Bowerman’s Lab where we were greeted by Steve Bence from Nike.  Bowerman’s Lab is a hidden gem in Eugene; it was a space Bill Bowerman created to work on the design and construction of some of the very first Nike shoes. The rooms in Bowerman’s Lab were quite small, so before we all split into smaller groups for the tour, we congregated outside to hear the story behind the lab. Bence shared details about the history of the lab. The location was all part of Bowerman’s plan, and his location choice helped lead him to some of his greatest innovations. We then heard from Ellen Schmidt-Devlin, the Director of the UO SPM program, who recounted her experiences as a runner on the University of Oregon track team during Bowerman’s launch of Nike. She was one of the women who got to trial shoes while they were in development and played a key role in the evolution of their design. It was exciting to hear her account of Bowerman’s design inspiration and then to take a step back in time and see it all come to life as we toured the lab.

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After our tour of Bowerman’s Lab, we drove across town to visit Pre’s Rock. Up windy roads and tucked into a neighborhood we found a memorial for the late Steve Prefontaine. I had first heard about Pre when I was a runner on my high school’s track and cross country teams. My coach, Rey Garza, was one of many who were inspired by and believed in Pre’s legacy – so much that he’d named his son Steve, after him. Often at practice Coach Rey would tell us the stories he’d heard of Pre’s running career, so visiting Pre’s Rock for the first time was an exciting and sobering moment for me. Many runners and Pre fans travel thousands of miles to come dedicate their running memorabilia in Pre’s name. We saw t-shirts, sweat bands, race bibs, finisher medals, beads and cheer poms all decorating the memorial. Bence, who was good friends with Pre and ran with him during his college years, shared with us some of his favorite personal memories.  It has been decades since Pre’s passing, so it is truly remarkable to see the impact he still has on the entire running community.

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Our third stop on the tour was on the University of Oregon campus – Hayward Field. Hayward Field holds a special place in the hearts of runners across the globe, whether they’ve actually visited the track or not.  There is no other track in the United States that is as well-known and rich in history as Hayward Field. Some of the best athletes in the world have competed on the field, and some of the fastest runners in the world have toed the line on the track. It’s home to many of the most prestigious international meets, including the annual Prefontaine Classic. It’s the kind of place that gives you goosebumps. I’ve already ran past the field a few times since I moved to Eugene – just for the extra inspiration.

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Our next stop for the day was at the state-of-the-art John E. Jaqua Academic Center for Student Athletes. We all filed into the auditorium and found our seats in bright yellow theater-style chairs. We heard a speech from Whitney Wagoner, Director of the Warsaw Sports Marketing Center, and she shared some of the goals and the history of the Warsaw program.  Schmidt-Devlin spoke next about the Sports Product Management program and welcomed the second class of SPM students. They each talked about the significance of the two programs in the sports community, and future plans for more collaboration between both programs. Last, but not least, David Higdon, NASCAR’s VP of Integrated Marketing Communications and the Chair of the Warsaw Center Advisory Board, got us pumped for the tailgate and the game we attended that afternoon.

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Inspired and energized by the morning’s activities and speakers, we all flocked over to the Ducks football game for some food and networking at the joint Warsaw-SPM tailgate.

These once-in-a-lifetime opportunities are what differentiates the University of Oregon’s sports programs and what ultimately sold me on choosing to pursue my MBA here. I know this day will be one of the highlights of my University of Oregon MBA career.

Written by Amber Santos

Santos is a Class of 2018 Oregon MBA student with a passion for marketing, running and the outdoors. Before moving to Eugene for the MBA program, Santos grew up in California and earned her undergraduate B.S. in Business Administration; marketing, with a minor in fashion merchandising from California State University, Long Beach. She spent her time between degrees working in the advertising world in Los Angeles. As an Oregon MBA within the Warsaw Sports Marketing cohort, Santos plans to further develop her skillset and pursue a career in sports apparel marketing upon graduation.

1st Year Oregon MBA's

Oregon does it different.

I never really expected to be a student again. When I walked across the stage at my college graduation in 2008, I was pretty sure it was the last time I would ever do that. With my shiny new degree firmly in hand, I transitioned seamlessly into my 9-to-(often-way-past)-5 job at an advertising agency in Chicago. I had the opportunity to work with passionate, smart, ambitious people who all loved what they did. Turns out, I was good at my job and I was rewarded for it. But after 7 years of marketing consumer-packaged goods, I found myself in a rut. I wasn’t inspired by the work I was doing, and the grind of agency life was starting to get to me. I was looking for something else, but I didn’t know what.

My introduction to the OMBA happened by chance. A visit to family friends in Phoenix one week in March 2015 turned into a meeting with a woman who was, at the time, about to graduate from the program. She spoke passionately about her time in Eugene, her experience with her cohort, and about the unique opportunity that the Warsaw Center offered her.  Something clicked into place for me that night. The realization that I could combine my passion for sports and my belief in the power of being a fan, with a strong business education and roll that all into a career that I could get excited about. How could I not jump at that opportunity?

But as any good strategist does, I approached my application process from multiple angles, exploring programs that offered similar-but-not-quite-the-same options to what we do here. I kept coming back to Oregon. “There’s something different about the MBA at Oregon,” my alumni friend said that night in March. She was right, and it was clear from the very beginning of the application process. The family-like attitude, the welcoming communication, the strong desire to really get to know me – the Oregon MBA just felt different than every other program I applied to. If I was going to leave my job and my life to dive head first into a full time program, I had to be damn sure I was moving forward. And my first visit to Eugene, my first day on campus, felt like stepping into a whole new world of possibility.

So here I am, eight years after that first graduation, settling back into the familiar role of student. I’m three weeks in, and I have to say – an MBA is a whole new level of “student-ing”. Our 52-person cohort (the largest the program has accepted to date) spent two full weeks in MBA GO! Eight whole days of teaming, talking, sharing, learning and building each other up. Every business school will introduce its new class to the case study method, teach them how to navigate the university’s calendar and remind everyone to utilize career services ASAP. But again, the OMBA proved that we do things differently. Sure we did all those expected things during orientation, but there was also a clear focus from the beginning on establishing communication and teamwork skills – skills industry leaders say they need more of from MBA graduates. There were whole sessions dedicated to self-care, to building trust among our teams, and to helping us identify strengths and build confidence in one another. At the end of it, I came out ready to tackle the challenge ahead of me in the next two years. But I also came out feeling like I have 52 new best friends that I can rely on to pick me up when I stumble, which I inevitably will. I have 52 new teammates that I want to see succeed as much as I want to succeed myself. And that’s the biggest part of the Oregon difference that I’ve seen so far.

We’re committed to excellence here, but to achieve excellence, we must all be the best version of ourselves. And that’s really why I’m here. Orientation started us down that path, and for me it crystalized what I was looking for all along – new challenges to push me into a better version of myself. And a team around me striving for the same thing.

Written by Laura Condella

Laura is a 2018 MBA with the Warsaw Center for Sports Marketing. She's a creative problem solver with over 8 years of experience helping a variety of brands from packaged goods to sports & entertainment organizations build their business through authentic connections with shoppers & fans. She's passionate about the power of sports in community building and the impact being a fan. Hockey fan, baseball lover, Chicago native.

Lessons from the Oregon MBA Part II: Interview with Oregon Advanced Strategy Professor Dr. Michael Crooke

PART II: Interview with Dr. Michael Crooke, on sustainability, business, and the Oregon MBA. Conducted April 13, 2016 by Anna Raithel, Center for Sustainable Business Practices MBA, 2017.

If we know that sustainability is important for companies and that sustainable choices often lead to profits, why do you think more companies aren’t choosing the sustainable approach?

The first thing to say is that there aren’t any sustainable companies. There isn’t one company on the planet that is actually sustainable, that is, net neutral impact on the planet. We overuse that term. I would say, “We are on a path towards sustainability.” Companies that don’t subscribe to this way of thinking are becoming more rare. Many of the world’s largest organizations now subscribe to a GRI (Global Reporting Initiative). The first step is to measure where you are and what you are doing, and then set goals for how you want to improve. You’re not judged on how good or bad you are, you’re judged on if you are improving. Sustainability initiatives managers are smart – they can see that this is coming but they don’t know how to do it. One of my clients simply had to bring millennials into their strategic planning process, and now they have all kinds of new ideas around sustainability. 250 companies hold ¾ of the world’s GDP; the power is with the corporations. That’s where change has to happen.

 

Is sustainability being driven by corporations’ deeper sense of responsibility? Or are firms responding to consumer demand?

 I think it’s both. It’s very difficult to argue that global warming isn’t real. It’s a powerful rising of the tide and it’s happening in real time, so companies know they need to get in front of that. If they’re on the backside of that and their competitors launch a similar product that’s more sustainably made, they’re not only going to have lower costs down the road, but the customers are going to follow those companies. I had the opportunity to speak with Steve Jobs in 2008 and spent about an hour with him in his office. He thought that within 15 years the environmental aspect of his product was going to be as important as the form and function of his product. He was such a visionary, he could see beyond the horizon, and he was already building that into the company.

Consumers are demanding it. They want to see it in everything they do, what they wear, what they eat, the kind of house they live in, etc., just like any trend. When we started using organic cotton at Patagonia our jeans were $85. Now you can basically buy the same pair of organic jeans at Wal-Mart for $13. Whole Foods started supplying organic food to the masses and now Costco is the #1 organic food supplier in the world. It’s happening at different rates in different places, but overall from a regression line point of view I think it’s a rising tide and everyone will be able to benefit.

 

What is the role of government and policy in driving sustainability?

 Think of the greatest environmental presidents of our time. Why is Nixon one of them? That’s when the Clean Water Act was passed, and the Endangered Species Act – all of these major policies happened under Nixon, a Republican. I think the leadership has to come from government. Think about what those laws have done and how the basis for environmentalism was created in the 1970’s. Go back to the beginning and think about the food movement and Rachel Carson and Silent Spring (1962), and the power a book like that can have. I think it’s certainly synergistic, but the bottom line is that you need a progressive government. You need a government that understands and protects the people in our capitalistic society. There are a lot of people that believe in the Adam Smith model that a manager’s duty is to make money for shareholders. [There is] no mention of shared value or of societal value. That’s where you start to see b-corporations and nonprofits. Government is very important and it has to work hand in hand with the pioneers; the Yvon Chouinards, the Rachel Carsons, the Anita Roddicks of the world.

 

Do you think there could be a point where sustainability will no longer offer a competitive advantage because it’s such common practice?

 I don’t see that, certainly not in my lifetime. If you take the absolute ideal of what sustainability could be, Michael Braungart’s Cradle To Cradle (2002), you get done with your shirt, throw it into your garden, it composts, the organic and inorganic compounds go back into the soil, and there was no net loss of nutrients in that product. We’re a long ways off from that. But that’s the brilliance of Cradle To Cradle, to lay that concept out and really look at what that panacea could be. Or like the rocket fuel that was proposed at the New Venture Championships in Portland. The fuel was 50-60% more environmentally friendly, it worked better, and rockets could go farther. Sustainability was at the heart of that whole technology and they won the competition. We might be forced into that sort of thinking. We might not have a choice. Mars might not be ready yet.

Written by Anna Raithel

Anna is pursuing an MBA with a focus in Sustainable Business Practices, graduating 2017.

Lessons from the Oregon MBA: A Two Part Interview with Oregon Advanced Strategy Professor Dr. Michael Crooke

PART I: Interview with Dr. Michael Crooke, on sustainability, business, and the Oregon MBA. Conducted April 13, 2016 by Anna Raithel, Center for Sustainable Business Practices MBA, 2017.

 

How do YOU define sustainability?

 Sustainability is our ability to deliver the planet in its current state indefinitely into the future. We’re on a path to sustainability but we’re still moving backwards at an alarming rate. Sustainability to me is ultimately the Cradle To Cradle (Michael Braungart and William McDonough, 2002) type of a definition; that we’re consuming only what is grown. It’s like a sustainable forest – the board feet coming off are equal to the board feet being grown, and you can use it in perpetuity. I want people to think about how business has the power to turn things around. If business doesn’t get on board and start developing value chains that win in the competitive arena, then all is lost because that is where the power is. That is why it is so exciting to be talking about sustainability at a business school. Magnificent, off the chart changes happen when Wal-Mart changes packaging for two or three items, in regard to waste and CO2. Or the way Nike changes the way they knit a shoe, or the materials used like waterless dyes. The technology and these products are sustainably superior to what they replaced. That is what will turn things around.

 

How is sustainability integrated into business? What kind of value does it add?

At the University of Oregon we talk about sustainability as being embedded in the value chain of an organization. It’s not something you do “outside”, that after you do good you do well – it’s actually embedded. We feel that the differentiated companies of the 21st century, the ones that have a long term competitive advantage, they will have a rising tide of sustainability embedded in their value chain as part of their value proposition to the customer. Customers of today are becoming more and more sophisticated in terms of which brands they support and are loyal to. Every time the customer touches the brand it has to say the same things. Once you get that trust of the consumer you have a more valuable brand. The customers are willing to pay more and that creates a higher margin. It’s an interesting way to think about sustainability – that you do it because you want to have a competitive advantage, but you also believe in it, it’s part of your values.

 

What makes the Oregon MBA so special?

 We are using business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis. The people who come through our program are going out there and changing the world. They’re doing it one small step at a time but with impact. These are smart, hungry, and aggressive individuals. They’re on a career track, working in situations in which they are highly engaged. They want to be a part of the solution, and business is a big part of that solution. This is a very hands-on, experiential program. When our students step out the doors of University of Oregon they’re ready to go – engaged and contributing from day one.

I came here as a professor for the same reasons. After my business career I was teaching at Pepperdine University and I kept getting pulled back to University of Oregon, and now I can’t imagine being anywhere else. So it happens to the professors too.

 

What do you hope is your students’ main takeaway from their time with you?

 I hope they understand that I’ve made so many mistakes, and when they make mistakes they have to move forward based on their training and their gut. They have to move with their values and at the same time realize that if they don’t take any risks they’re not going to make any mistakes. You can pivot, and you don’t have to get that perfect job right out the gate. It’s going to be a curvy road and if you go with your heart, you have strong ethics and values, you can’t really go wrong. You try to align yourself with like-minded people, with mentors, with people that want to get you up the learning curve quickly. You just don’t know what you’re going to encounter on the journey.

Written by Anna Raithel

Anna is pursuing an MBA with a focus in Sustainable Business Practices, graduating 2017.

One Small Patch of Fabric – A Lot of Weight

 

Sponsorship is a huge part of the sports business world and a significant portion of most professional franchises’ revenues. Outside the United States, it is commonplace to have the team’s sponsors’ branding on all team apparel, especially game jerseys. For many years, however, US sports have resisted this trend (and resulting revenue) by banning on-jersey sponsorships. This month the NBA approved a three-year pilot program to begin in the 2017-18 season allowing on-jersey advertisements. Long a subject of debate in and around the league, the program was approved 28-2 by the NBA team owners. The 2.5-inch-by-2.5-inch patch will appear on the left shoulder of the player’s jersey opposite the Nike swoosh. The 2017-18 season will also bring the beginning of Nike’s exclusive apparel deal with the NBA, an eight-year deal with an estimated value of over $1B. The NBA logo will remain on the back of the jersey where it was moved two years ago.

Seattle Sounders Jersey featuring sponsorship of Microsoft’s XBOX product

In 2006, Major League Soccer became the first American professional league to allow its teams to sell ad space on-jersey. Shortly thereafter, the WNBA followed suit, also allowing the on-jersey ads. Signs that the four major sports leagues might allow on-jersey ads have been apparent for years: the NFL allowed practice jerseys to be sponsored in 2009 and the NBA put the Kia brand patch, the official automotive partner of the NBA, on the 2016 All-Star Game jerseys. Nonetheless, it remained unclear whether the owners would approve the on-jersey ads for regular season games.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver

Sponsorship is not only a revenue source for teams, but also allows brands to build a deep connection with “their” team. Brands sponsoring a team seek to build an association with the fans between its brand and the team. “Jersey sponsorships provide deeper engagement with partners looking to build a unique association with our teams and the additional investment will help grow the game in exciting ways,” said NBA Commissioner Adam Silver. Silver cites the changing media landscape and the fact that “people are watching far less commercials” as the reason why companies need additional opportunities to connect with their consumers. Commissioner Silver projects the pilot program will generate over $100 million for the League. To make the deal more attractive to the League owners in smaller markets, half of the revenue generated from this ad space for each team will be put in the revenue-sharing pool and half will be kept by the team.
However, the reaction has not all been positive as many people are resistant to the break from tradition and the further “commercializing” of American sports. As a compromise, the NBA will not allow merchandise with the new corporate logos to be sold except in official team stores at the team’s discretion. This was also the reason for the relatively small, and some hope inconspicuous, patch.
While most would say I am a traditionalist, as an MBA focusing in sports marketing with a particular interest in sponsorship, I believe the League should have the ability to exercise this option if they so choose. The NBA is a business after all.

Written by Robert Cella

As I transition into sports business industry, I am a current MBA candidate at the Warsaw Sports Marketing Center. I am energized and passionate as I make this career change into sponsorships and corporate partnerships. With experience in small business operations, financial advising and international business, I am well-positioned to succeed in this area upon graduation in 2017.

3 snapshots into the Center for Sustainable Business Practices MBA tour to San Francisco

At the end of March, the Oregon MBA offers our spring experiential learning business tour to San Francisco. During the week-long visit students are able to network with companies around the bay area and gain perspective on their industry from a diverse set of professionals. In this post three Center for Sustainable Business Practices students provide a brief glimpse into a few of their favorite visits. Big thanks to the contributing authors.

Green Sport Alliance

By Ben Fields:

While on our experiential learning trip to San Francisco the we had the opportunity to meet with Erik Distler, Senior Resource Specialist with the Green Sport Alliance. We gathered with Erik on a sunny day in Yerba Buena Gardens. He was keen to explore our unique backgrounds and interests related to sustainability, as well as share both his professional background and the personal journey that took him from Pricewaterhouse Coopers (PwC0 to the nonprofit world.

Erik described how his time in sustainable consulting at PwC gave him the tools to communicate the business arguments for sustainable business practices. His ability to not only present a business case for sustainable practices, but also help PwC’s clients communicate their stories around sustainability, enabled Erik to become an invaluable asset. This storytelling ability is what opened his opportunity with the Green Sports Alliance where he now brings sustainability to the sporting world and beyond through partnerships with ESPN. Erik related how he has seen demand grow and discussed future opportunities as the field continues to develop.

After listening to our stories, Erik described how stories from his journey with sustainable business could help us understand the landscape from a professional view. He provided unique prospective and insight to help us understand how to leverage our experience in the Center for Sustainable Business Practices to find our place in this changing climate of sustainable business. Meeting with Erik allowed us time for introspection about the opportunities in front of us and provided inspiration about what the future may hold.

Facebook

By Max Fleisher:

On Wednesday morning, March 30th, we braved the impossibly traffic-free 101 to visit with the Sustainability team at Facebook HQ. Our host was Lyrica McTiernan, Sustainability Manager, who was joined by Louisa Smythe McGuirk, Sustainability Analyst. Lyrica has been at Facebook for over 5 years, and has witnessed what she described as a “journey of maturity of understanding of sustainability at Facebook”. Louisa is primarily focused on metrics, measuring how FB is progressing on its sustainability goals. Her first project involved calculating Facebook’s carbon footprint, the 5th time such an assessment had been completed. The primary goal in doing the carbon footprint is identifying the most actionable items for the largest impact. Facebook currently does not do specific reporting like GRI, and the general consensus is the time and energy required is not worthwhile. The scope of carbon reporting is expanding as Facebook moves into consumer technology with their acquisition of Oculus.

Facebook Campus

Facebook Campus

Lyrica and Louisa walked us through their large (and growing) department, highlighting both the breadth and depth of the team, with key focuses of data center design, energy efficiency, and water use. These foci make sense given the sustainability team’s placement within the infrastructure department. Facebook is building a number of new wholly owned data centers, and Lyrica is involved with the design of the facilities to incorporate new technologies like swamp cooling to reduce energy and water use intensity. There is an overall goal at Facebook to reach 50% clean and renewable energy by 2018. Lyrica emphasized that this is only an interim goal, meant to be achievable in a reasonable timeframe. We were left with the tenet: “Sustainability is future proofing.”

Sustainable Accounting Standards Board (SASB)

By Joey Jaraczewski:

On Thursday March 31st, the Oregon MBA had the good fortune to meet with the Sustainable Accounting Standards Board (SASB). SASB seeks to be the sustainable complement to the 10-K annual report by creating the standards by which public entities can measure and report their Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) efforts. Put another way, where FASB standardizes how companies report their financial accounting, SASB standardizes how companies identify and report their sustainability track record. These standards provide information that is decision-useful and complementary to financial accounting information. Put another way, SASB is making an awesome contribution to the stewardship of people, planet, and financial returns.

The CSBP came to SASB at an amazing time. The day before our visit, SASB had released the last of eleven sets of provisional standards to the public, marking the end of a four-year process of creating and tinkering. SASB was proud to show off their Materiality Map which reporters could use to identify what to report. This Materiality Map is important for streamlining standards into the market.

These standards are coming to a receptive marketplace, as there is a clear trend towards more comprehensive reporting of ESG from the public and private sectors. In Europe, the EU is mandating that their member states report on ESG metrics. Meanwhile, in the United States, investors clamor for greater transparency and accuracy of corporate sustainability reporting. There are certainly hurdles ahead of SASB, however, the information that standards are trying to capture is crucial for markets to gain greater long-term efficiency. Indeed, many stakeholders across the value chain are coming to realize the importance of a company’s relationship with the environment and employees.

CSBP visits San Fransisco

The Center for Sustainable Business Practices MBA

The release of the provisional standards also represents an area of opportunity for MBA students through SASB certification in the Fundamentals of Sustainability Accounting (FSA). Achieving FSA Certification would be beneficial training for students that are considering careers in sustainability. Furthermore, holding certification creates a critical edge of expertise in a market clamoring to understand the role of ESG in investing.

Written by Natalie Colvin

Natalie is a 2016 MBA from the Center for Sustainable Business Practices. The experience of living abroad in Costa Rica, instilled in Natalie a passion for improving the world. After completing her MBA, she hopes to bring this passion to a career in corporate environmental and advocacy campaigns. Natalie received a dual undergraduate degree in development anthropology and Latin American studies from the University of Arizona honors college where she was also on the equestrian team.

Warsaw by the Bay: 2016 Edition

Warsaw by the Bay

Sunrise over the Bay Bridge before the start of Day 1.

Last week, the Oregon MBA headed south down I-5 to San Francisco and the surrounding Bay Area for an experiential learning week visiting companies in our respective industries of interest. The Warsaw Center had an incredible lineup of companies beginning Monday morning and ending Friday afternoon. With 12 company meetings and a networking event in San Francisco and the surrounding Bay Area in a span of 5 days, the trip was a whirlwind, but it was one of the most incredible experiences I have had in my professional career thus far. I will only touch on a few of our company visits, but you can check out our whole itinerary in the graphic below:

WarsawBayAreaVisits

My experience in Warsaw this year has been eye-opening. Before coming into the program, I was unaware of the breadth of directions one can choose to take in the sports business industry. Our Bay Area Trip touched on every one of those areas of opportunity. The companies that we visited revolved around a diverse set of products and services including: agency services, consumer packaged goods, apparel, equipment, professional teams, e-sports/gaming, social media/technology, and sponsorship.

What was striking to me, was that despite their differences, the companies that we visited were actually narrowing their focus onto the same issue: how can we understand our customer better? It seems too obvious, right? If you are trying to sell your product or service to a customer, you should know who they are. But in this digital age where purchases are being made across screens instead of face-to-face, that process has become increasingly complex and difficult to execute. Companies are now looking for ways to understand both what consumers want and why they want it.

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Our hosts at Clif Bar spoke about driving trial of their product at points of need. This is a simple concept, but one that really struck me as profound. For a brand as successful as Clif Bar, #1 in their category and a recognizable brand to both elite athletes and the general consumer, this tenant leads them to continue strong grassroots marketing efforts at events. This gives Clif Bar a chance to connect with their target customers in person, who otherwise might be buying Clif Bars anonymously off of grocery store shelves to stock up for their training or their next race. Ultimately, Clif Bar is meeting their customers at the “why” of their purchase by staying present at the races, meets, etc. where consumers will need their product.

The concept of understanding the consumers’ needs came up again at EA when we heard from Zach Anderson, VP of Marketing Science & Analytics. Anderson talked about consumers (or “players” in EA speak) being like diamonds; they have many facets to their lives. If EA wants to satisfy their players through their gaming platforms, then it is important to obtain as holistic a picture as possible of who is playing their games. EA dives deeply into the exploration of what players are doing and what kind of decisions they are making in order to determine the “why” behind player behavior. Ultimately, this effort provides deep insights into who EA’s players are and what motivates their actions, which helps EA improve its bottom line and continue to cultivate a meaningful experience for their players moving forward.

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Both North Face and Marmot appear to be in stages of gradual shifts within their marketing, as the outdoor apparel industry continues to try to define its broad reaching culture and customer. Today, Patagonia, Columbia and North Face are everywhere on college campuses (think Better Sweaters, Denali jackets and Jester backpacks) as well as on the rock faces and hiking trails. Living a healthy and active lifestyle is trending, which is great for these companies, but it is also a challenge to determine how they should be communicating their brand to a customer base using their products for a very wide range of purposes. The competitors actually seemed to be on the same page, as they talked about a change in their brand communications from core aspirational to more relatable and accessible. This transition is best exhibited in the evolution of Marmot’s ads over the past several years: Check out the “Momentum” spot from 2013, followed by their 2015 commercial and their most recent Marmot super bowl commercial. Their most recent campaign is targeted at the “evolved consumer”, called “Fall in Love with the Outside”. The brand is focusing less on the fact that their jackets can reach the top of Mt. Everest (which they can and have!) and more on the fact that anyone can enjoy the outdoors at any skill or interest level.

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We were also very fortunate to tour 4 stadiums home to 4 different sports in the Bay Area: Levi’s Stadium, home of the 49ers, the SAP Center, home of the San Jose Sharks, Avaya Stadium, home of the San Jose Earthquakes, and the Golden 1 Center the future home of the Sacramento Kings currently under construction (see hard hat group photo below!). From the newest stadium being built by the Kings to the more lived in SAP Center, each of the organizations were creating innovations to drive increased engagement among their customers in a world where less people are willing to get off the couch to go to a game. The Avaya Stadium is home to the largest outdoor bar in the United States, which sits at one end of the field and looks like a very relaxing, enjoyable way to watch a soccer game. There was an enormous amount of technology that went into Levi’s Stadium, including beacon technology which can communicate with fans during a game about where the short concession lines are or remind them of their seat location. Levi’s Stadium also includes an outer ring for getting around the stadium apart from the hallway that contains the concessions. Have you ever tried meeting a friend on the other side of a stadium during halftime? It’s nearly impossible to dodge the crowds and get to where you want to go. Levi’s came up with a great solution to that customer need. The Golden 1 Center, in Sacramento, has been heavily informed by consumer insights through focus groups and surveys and will be a state of the art stadium and entertainment hub beginning next year.

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Overall, our trip to the Bay Area highlighted the fact that companies are quickly trying to adapt in order to maintain touch points, relationships, and relevancy with their customers as the digital world continues to evolve consumer behavior. It was fascinating to see how this overarching initiative spanned the industry in a variety of forms.

Thank you to Craig Leon for coordinating a great lineup of visits and to our gracious hosts at Clif Bar, Twitter, Visa, IMG, GMR, VF Corporation, EA, the Sharks, the 49ers, the Earthquakes, Marmot, and the Kings for opening your doors to our program.

 

Written by Lauren Sokol

Lauren, Warsaw Sports Marketing Center ('17), comes to the Oregon MBA after spending three years coaching Division III Women's Lacrosse in the northeast.

Sports + CSR

Recently I joined the Warsaw Sports Marketing Center on their experiential learning trip to NYC. This included visits to ESPN, the NFL, the NBA and the New York Road Runners. Since I was the only student from the Center for Sustainable Business Practices on these visits, I thought discussing what corporate social responsibility means in the world of sports would be an interesting blog post.

In a session on sustainability reporting at the SXSW Eco Conference 2015 that I attended last year, Tim Mohin said that companies should measure and report on the impact areas that are most relevant to their business. For professional sports teams and leagues, this means focusing on youth, community, and physical and mental health.

In case you live under a rock or don’t follow the latest sports gossip, the NFL has come under fire in the last few years due to some high-profile domestic violence cases amongst key players. In response, the NFL has introduced numerous initiatives to address domestic violence with players and in the community. While the NFL would tell you that this is part of their commitment to social responsibility, I would argue that this is simply good PR.

Missing from the conversations this week, however, was a discussion of the environmental impacts of professional sports games. These games require substantial electricity and generate large amounts of waste, but managing these impacts often falls on the stadiums themselves. And most of the time, stadiums don’t even have recycling bins. To improve corporate social responsibility in the professional sports industry, teams and leagues should partner with their home stadiums to decrease their environmental impact.

The San Francisco 49ers are a perfect example of how a professional team can address both social and environmental responsibility. Their brand new Levi’s stadium is LEED Gold certified and is the first to utilize recycled water for field irrigation and other essential stadium functions. According to an article by the Green Sports Alliance, “the cooperation between the 49ers and local government and other organizations shows that strong partnerships can help to conserve natural resources and set new environmental standards for sports venues.”

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The 49ers stadium is touted as the greenest stadium in the NFL

Experiential learning trips with my cohort are always eye opening, and I’m glad I had this opportunity to dig deeper into what CSR means in the sports industry.

Written by Katie Clark

Katie is a second year MBA student in the Center for Sustainable Business Practices. Over the summer, Katie worked for Happy Family Brands as the Corporate Social Responsibility Intern, where she managed multiple supply chain projects and provided employee education on topics in sustainability. She hopes to bring this experience and her MBA coursework to a strategic sustainability position in a mission-driven company in the outdoor product or natural foods industry.

Catalyst

Snow was falling softly on the ground in the parking lot outside of the police station as my phone went off. I had just finished a meeting with Flagstaff PD regarding their strategy of “community policing” in the wake of a fallen officer. The meeting still on my mind, I answered a call from Paul Allen, UO’s Director of Admissions, which led to my acceptance into Oregon MBA. As I started my car and defrosted my windshield, I breathed a victorious sigh. I was going to business school.

Some might say that I had a wild roving youth, and one which doesn’t translate well to paper.

Singing for 'We Were There' in winter 2014

Singing for ‘We Were There’, winter 2014

Recognizing this shortcoming, I threw myself into creating the case for why I was a prime candidate to leave my current path and get on the Oregon trail. All of my community-college-attending, essay-editing, resume-tweaking, and GMAT re-taking efforts were steps toward rebranding myself and building that case. The funny part of the whole process? It’s what doesn’t translate well to paper that translates best to the program itself.

A large part of our discussions at Oregon are retrospective and reflective. Every day we are encouraged to synthesize our considerable learning in the light of our direct experience. After all, if you cannot find personal relevance with the material, you will not understand it properly. Different minds subjected to different training, interpret the same data differently (duh). The fun part of the program is collaborating with my peers to combine these interpretations and create additional value.

It is here that I find that my wide and varied skill set aids me most. My background in education allows me to facilitate group discussion for effective decision-making. My work as a tour manager aids me immensely in understanding accounting and finance, while experience as an event planner gives me the linear mindset required for project management. I draw from my time as a punk rock front man to be a commanding presenter, and my experience in the tattoo industry taught me that innovation is iteration. Buffalo Wild Wings taught me supply chain, while Criollo Latin Kitchen taught me supply chain integration. Hosting taught me capacity management, serving taught me how to segment markets, and bartending showed me that hustle is scarce and hunger is your greatest asset

Visiting Theo Chocolate with the OMBA, winter 2016

Visiting Theo Chocolate with the OMBA, winter 2016

Most importantly, however, was the time I spent as a crisis responder for victim’s rights. Becoming a crisis responder was one of my last projects before coming to the OMBA, inspired by last year’s civil unrest and a heightened consciousness of gender issues. Crisis response taught me that risk is ever present and many a well thought out deal goes bad. Crisis response causes me to remember that there is a much larger world outside of the Oregon MBA, one which is created at the community level, and one which demands conscious change agents.

If I could, I would go back to that parking lot and ask myself, “How does your experience color the way you process information? How do you leverage your insight into effective leadership? How do you find freedom in focus?” The answers to these questions are those which show a person’s true quality beyond their worth on paper. Yet, I know I would never have been able to answer them before coming here.

Written by Joey Jaraczewski

Jaraczewski joins the Oregon MBA with a passion for changing the food industry. He grew up in rural Arizona and has spent the past four years exploring the world of food from multiple angles. He’s worked as a server and bartender in Flagstaff and traveled across the country visiting farms, feedlots, food distribution warehouses, and retailers. As an Oregon MBA on the sustainability track, Jaraczewski plans to build on that experience to explore ways to build a more sustainable food system for generations to come. Jaraczewski will graduate as an Oregon MBA with the class of 2017.