The Olympics and the Lundquist College go together like green and yellow—or perhaps gold.
We had so many Business Ducks in Rio, it would be tough to list all of them here.
Although all represented their school and countries well, two Lundquist Ducks won spots on the podium. Brianne Theisen-Eaton ’11 brought home the bronze in the heptathlon for Canada. Former business student Galen Rupp also earned a bronze medal for the United States in the men’s marathon event.
The track in Rio saw two other runners with a head for business: Jenna Prandini ’16 and Devon Allen. Academic and track All-American Prandini finished her business and economics coursework winter term and turned pro with Puma this spring. She qualified during the Track and Field Trials in Eugene and sprinted the 200 meter event in Rio. Prandini told Around the O she is already using her business knowledge as she navigates sponsors, agents, and taxes as a professional athlete.
“Now I get to work more on the business side of track, and I can see where what I learned in class can help me in the real world,” she said.
Meanwhile, Allen, a current sports marketing student, ran the men’s 110-meter hurdles in Rio.
“It’s been an honor to represent my country and the University of Oregon alongside so many other Ducks," he said. "As a sports marketing student, I am in the unique position of experiencing the games from so many angles: sponsorship and marketing student, participating athlete, and fan."
With the games behind him, Allen is turning his focus to another position in which he excels: wide receiver for Oregon football.
Theisen-Eaton, Rupp, Prandini, and Allen joined an incredible 16 other current students and Duck alumni competing in Rio’s events. But the Olympic connections didn’t end there.
Sports Product Management Program director and instructor Ellen Schmidt-Devlin ’81 (health education), MBA ’12, traveled to Rio to present to the Nike Brazil Pacers, a group of approximately 60 people who lead all the runs Nike organizes around Rio. The group watched the action together as the women’s 10,000 meter World Record was set.
Former Warsaw Sports Marketing Center managing director Paul Swangard ’90 (journalism), MBA ’99, was also in Rio as the lead English speaking in-stadium announcer for Track and Field at Olympic Stadium.
A professional athlete himself, Warsaw Sports Marketing Center’s MBA Program Manager Craig Leon provide expert commentary on athlete sponsorship. In short, it’s really, really tough to make a living, even as an Olympian, he told Wired.
Tough, but possible. Eugene resident, University of Oregon alumnus, and husband to Brianne Theisen-Eaton, gold medalist Ashton Eaton ’10 (psychology) is considered by many to be the world’s greatest athlete. His sponsors include Visa, Coca-Cola, Chobani, Gilette, and others.
In fact, both Eatons appeared in television spots for Visa, which were brought to us by a team including Warsaw Sports Marketing Club and Women in Business alumna Kara Linse ’06, now director of global sponsorship marketing, Olympic Games at Visa.
Another business Duck, Alex Haltom ’08, developed and executed the creation of the BMW Olympic and Paralympic athlete ambassador team. Meredith McCurdy, MBA ’08, and Amy Corbett ’99 worked in freelance sponsorship activation at the games, and Char Zoller, MBA ’15, served as operations coordinator for NBC Olympics.
Of course, the work began much earlier in July when Eugene hosted the U.S. Olympic Team Trials–Track and Field. The student and alumni turnout was incredibly strong, with representation in several aspects of the trials.
Nonprofit organization Tracktown USA helped bring the trials to Eugene. Both Tracktown USA and Festival Village producer Etzel Agency employs UO Lundquist alumni as full-time employees and also hired our students for temporary event support.
One could often hear a Duck on the air with Rob Vermillion, MBA ’07, on the main stage as emcee at the Festival Village; Jordan Kent ’06 supplying TV coverage for Comcast Sports Net, as well as handling in-stadium public announcer work; and the voice of Hayward Field, Paul Swangard, announcing.
Schmidt-Devlin also spoke during the trails about Bill Bowerman and the innovative products he created while presenting to different groups of Nike employees from around the United States in the Bowerman Lab. Schmidt-Devlin worked with Bowerman as an athlete and later employee in the 1970s and 1980s.
Warsaw Sports Marketing Center director Whitney Wagoner ’96, meanwhile, served on the trials’ sustainability committee.
T. Bettina Cornwell, Edwin E. and June Woldt Cone Professor of Marketing, and a group of student researchers took to UO’s historic Hayward Field during the Olympic Trials in the interest of science. Though the team isn’t sharing their specific research findings goals just yet, they did gather the following information of note from 290 attendees surveyed at the trials:
- 55 percent came from outside the region. 86 percent saw a record being set, and 43 percent met an athlete they admire.
- 81 percent perceived the event as environmentally friendly, and 83 percent said it was well organized.
- 83 percent were proud (proud or very proud) of the athletes, and 57 percent were totally convinced that the athletes were prepared for Rio (88 percent agreed or totally agreed).
The Lundquist College is extremely proud of our faculty, student, and alumni contributions to sports, sports business, and sports entertainment.
As Allen told the Washington Post, “You go to Kentucky to go to the NBA; you go to Oregon to go to the Olympics.”
And we’ll add: you go to the UO Lundquist College to market, produce, and coordinate the Olympics.
If you are a Lundquist Duck and would like to share your Olympic experience, please email firstname.lastname@example.org for possible inclusion in a future story.
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