The business of sports lacks diversity and inclusion, according to recent findings from students at University of Oregon’s Lundquist College of Business and the School of Journalism and Communication. To address this issue, students from UO proposed funneling the preexisting FOX Sports audience toward a digital platform designed to build awareness that careers in sports business are possible among marginalized and underrepresented communities.
These conclusions were presented to FOX Sports executives in late February, part of FOX Sports University, a collaborative project between FOX Sports and the Lundquist College’s Warsaw Sports Marketing Center, among other institutions.
Aimed at middle school and high school students, the student-proposed platform, curated by FOX Sports, would include aspects of social media, mentorship opportunities, resume tips, and a job board—essentially, a virtual on-ramp to the sports business industry for many disadvantaged populations.
Farbod Markazi is a senior in business administration with a sports business concentration, and he is currently working as an intern with FOX Sports. He participated in FOX Sports University, and said such experiential learning opportunities are what makes Lundquist College and the Warsaw Sports Marketing Center so special. All students involved in the project were drawn from the membership list of the Warsaw Sports Business Club.
“Being able present on something that would provide more people access to the sports industry, that meant a lot to me,” he continued. “Not only were we tasked with something that could be implemented at FOX Sports. This is a topic that is extremely important.”
According to Whitney Wagoner, director of the Warsaw Sports Marketing Center, feedback from FOX Sports executives echoed Markazi’s sentiments: UO student groups were by far the most impressive, professional, and well put-together of any participating institution.
“FOX executives were over-the-top in their appreciation and awe,” Wagoner said. “Not only about the ideas presented, but also the level of professionalism presented by the students.”
These plans for a digital platform were developed by students, among other initiatives, through a combination of secondary and primary research, including college student surveys and interviews with executives and hiring teams at FOX Sports.
UO alumna Barbara Blangiardi, senior vice president of strategies and creative partnerships at FOX Sports and a member of the Warsaw Sports Marketing Center board of advisors, said the FOX Sports University project made her particularly proud.
“The students did a terrific job and were not only able to put their marketing skills to practical use, they learned a tremendous amount about the obstacles facing many populations when it comes to career knowledge and advancement opportunities that I believe will make us all better leaders going forward,” said Blangiardi.
Discussions are already underway at FOX Sports to implement some of the student ideas in future human resources and corporate social responsibility projects.
Student research also showed that students from underrepresented communities are often counseled to attend junior colleges instead of four-year colleges where sports business programs are offered. Furthermore, even when students do attend a four-year college, they’re simply not aware sports business programs exist at their school.
This underscored for Wagoner the importance of marketing Warsaw Center services within the University of Oregon community: a tangible manifestation of trying to do better in terms of inclusion, both at the Warsaw Sports Marketing Center and in the sports business industry as a whole, Wagoner said.
—Will Kennedy, Lundquist College Communications