The UO Sports Product Management program kicked off its inaugural four-week Executive Leadership series in June with an intensive program designed to maximize the personal and professional development of each participant. The program incorporates the best elements of the 18-month master of science in Sports Product Management program, condensing and elevating the conversation for director-level industry professionals.
Participants said the four weeks, 160 curriculum hours, and 35 guest speakers and instructors combined for a transformative experience.
Carly Fennel, a biomechanical engineer, said, “You have changed my perspective.”
Fennel was one of 29 participants representing 15 companies from around the world, including adidas, Camelbak, Dakine, OnRuning, Lacrosse, LuluLemon, Nike, Wilson, Yakima, several factories with locations around the globe, and local startups.
Participants had the option to attend all four weeks of the Executive Leadership series or select to attend a single week. Each week was broken down into a different aspect of the product process: consumer insights and branding, product excellence, speed-to-market, and global marketplace.
There were several defining moments during the month-long program, one of which was conversations with Matt Powell, senior industry analyst at NPD Group and a guest speaker in a roundtable discussion, as well as during the Industry Speaker Series event. Powell spoke about the retail landscape and trends for leading brands while fielding questions from the sold-out audience of 200.
Ashton Eaton also served as muse and active participant during the program, inspiring the team’s projects and actively providing product feedback each week and at each checkpoint. Eaton is vocal about his interest in voyaging to the red planet on a SpaceX expedition, so the product brief for this year’s program was “develop a product for Ashton Eaton on Mars.”
The sports and outdoor industry executives were tasked with translating his insights on space product performance to benefits to a broader market here on Earth. The outcomes were conceptual and creative—if not far-fetched—allowing participants to expand their thinking and be innovative in an otherwise familiar process.
Program participants also traveled to our Eugene campus to experience research methods in a lab setting. The cohort had the opportunity to run simulations in the college’s Business Research Institute and the university’s human physiology labs. A behind-the-scenes tour of some sports facilities and taking in the NCAA Track and Field finals rounded out the visit.
The best moments, however, were captured in the classroom. The cohort in year one was motivated, open, and engaged throughout the program.
“Being together with brands and factories made the experience truly unique and valuable. You can’t get that sort of understanding without being able to debrief at lunch with your peers who work on the other side of the supply chain,” said Stephanie Brown, a financial analyst for Lululemon.
Edwin Keh, CEO of the Hong Kong Research Institute of Textile and Apparel and the program’s lead instructor during the third week, challenged the group to, “think about your businesses differently, with a future mindset because things are changing fast and your business models will demand you change with it.”
He concluded with one of the program’s overarching themes, “The question for you all is ‘Can you work at 85 percent capacity so you have room in your job to solve the problems of the future?’ Because you are likely working at 110 percent and you don’t have bandwidth to try new things.”