Upon initial consideration, you may assume that Luke Zak is your typical MBA candidate within the Warsaw Sports Marketing Center. Even after a brief conversation, you may still fail to appreciate his unique path into the sports industry. “I’m a pretty standard Minneapolitan by many metrics. I like my craft beer; I like biking; I like just enjoying the city,” Zak noted when asked to provide a personal elevator pitch.
But a more rigorous analysis reveals that Zak’s foray into sports has been anything but standard. As an undergraduate, Zak helped develop an intramural quidditch league at the University of Minnesota, which has now become one of the longest tenured leagues in the country. Upon entering the MBA program at the University of Oregon, he stated that his ultimate goal was to elevate the game of quidditch to become a viable international sport which might one day appear in the Olympics.
Even with extensive knowledge of the industry, you may ask yourself: “Quidditch?!”
Yes, quidditch. And after taking a deeper dive into the sport’s structure of governing bodies and competitions, this goal becomes more realistic.
Before turning 20 years old, Zak gained firsthand exposure to the sport.
“Very quickly I got sucked into the community and took on more and more opportunities for getting involved with organization, running tournaments, helping with league logistic. Before I knew it, I was the Midwest regional director for U.S. quidditch—helping to oversee the grassroots expansion of the sport.”
Eventually, Zak held the title of events director at Major League Quidditch and became involved with local quidditch and ultimate frisbee organizations in the Minneapolis area.
Those involved with quidditch recognize the growth potential of this nascent sport, given its rapid proliferation across college campuses and its opportunities for enhanced diversity and inclusion. For example, the sport carries a gender maximum rule, which requires each team to incorporate more than one gender identity amongst its players.
“There’s opportunity for queer players, non-binary players, other gender non-conforming players, and women in the sport,” Zak said.
Zak initially came to Eugene to acquire the business acumen needed to make his goal of growing quidditch more actionable, however, once at the Lundquist College he was blown away by the scope of the sports industry after engaging in the academic and experiential opportunities provided by the Warsaw Center.
This summer, Zak joined the brands team at Wasserman as an intern within the strategy and measurement department to explore the business of sport in greater detail. His work focused on the American Express account, which managed partnerships between the brand and its domestic sponsored properties.
Wasserman allowed Zak to experience the sports industry from “the center of the wheel” as he describes it. His department blurred the lines between different sports and company verticals, and his capstone project analyzed the changing experiential environment of esports properties for brand activations.
“I was able to come in and provide meaningful insight from the things I learned in class,” Zak explained.
Still, Zak keeps his passion for quidditch in mind when exploring new opportunities, but he is now aware of all the ways to get involved. He’s expanded his career interests to international sport organizations in general.
“In the short term, I really do love what those international sporting competitions stand for and how they can bring people together. My experience working with international groups from that quidditch perspective has really stoked my desire to be involved on a broader level in the international sport space.”
Zak is looking forward to the Paris 2024 and Los Angeles 2028 Olympic games, and is holding out hope that quidditch could be included in them.
—Max Mennemeier, MBA Class of 2021