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The right product on the right athlete can make all the difference. History tells us this, our bodies feel it and the most successful businesses today dedicate entire research teams to this.

The journey to create that product to help us run a bit faster, feel a tad lighter or hit the ball a little further has no shortage of passionate origin stories. It started as early as the third century, when barefoot Olympic runners switched to sandals. In 1800, cricketer Jack Robinson put on wooden boards to protect his shins, placing a barrier between his tibia and ball hurtling at an average speed of 161km/h and an end to unnecessary agony that had, until then, led to players almost losing their legs. Four decades later, Charles Goodyear saw his 20-year toil to make rubber that did not stink, melt or crack bear fruit with the creation of vulcanized rubber, the very material that changed tennis and modern football forever.

Today, more breakthrough products help us finish a marathon in less than two hours, smash barriers for female Muslims, watch a video replay of game-changing situations in football, and catapult Paralympians into victory. That’s not all. In a world grappling with a climate crisis, sports are increasingly more green-proofed and sustainable too.

It takes a team to build exciting products like these; and a leader to see it to completion. In the US, one master’s program is creating tomorrow’s leaders in the sports and outdoor product industry: University of Oregon Sports Product Management.

University of Oregon, Lundquist College of Business

Source: University of Oregon, Lundquist College of Business

With a comprehensive master’s program that can be taken up in more ways than one, the program is nurturing aspiring experts in the business of making the next, latest and most advanced apparel, footwear, and equipment. Austin Hodges credits his Master of Science in Sports Product Management (SPM) program for propelling his career from a manager for a small-medium enterprise to the Head of Global NBA Marketing at Adidas today. “It gives you perspective and understanding of a variety of functions that would take years of working to gain. The tools were all I needed. It’s like sports. Your coach can’t make you better, but they can give you the tools and put you in a position to make the most of your potential,” he says.

The tools are gained while students learn the business of the entire product creation process. There are consumer insights, competitive analysis, marketplace opportunities to be reviewed; product briefs, marketing, and costing to be developed; financial analysis, global feasibility, product testing and go-to-market strategies to determine. With the assistance of leaders in the sports and outdoor product industry who serve as instructors, mentors, coaches, and guest speakers, students are set to become future leaders in the sports and outdoor industry.

During the on-site Portland master’s program, students complete an industry internship that immerses them in a sports or outdoor product company in the US or abroad with esteemed companies such as Nike, Columbia Sportswear, Under Armour, Keen, Hydro Flask, and Ching Luh. To learn more about seven talented SPM students who were able to intern at Nike over the summer, watch this video.

University of Oregon, Lundquist College of Business

Source: University of Oregon, Lundquist College of Business

One degree, two ways

The Sports Product Management program is offered in two formats: on-site and online. The first takes place in Portland, Oregon — home to an alpha cluster in the sports and outdoor product industry and 90 percent of the more than 800 sports product related companies in the state. Portland master’s students complete five immersive terms over 18 months in this dynamic location, and it begins by being paired with a mentor in their first term to build an advisory relationship.

Students are then assigned to a team, where their coaches, usually from the industry themselves, provide support and guidance as teams take their product concepts all the way to market. There are global travel opportunities too, including to ISPO Munich, the industry’s largest trade show, as well as visits to the global headquarters of Adidas and Under Armour.

The online version consists of seven terms taking place over the course of 21 months. Built with the best practices of online learning and to provide flexibility to working professionals, students will be able to blend live-streamed classes with offline classes and on-site learning weekends. This format is no less immersive, with the second year of the program incorporating a seven-day trip to several destinations, which may include Singapore, Hong Kong, China, Vietnam, and Japan.

University of Oregon, Lundquist College of Business

Source: University of Oregon, Lundquist College of Business

A master’s program created with industry, for future industry leaders

This experience of learning inside and outside the classroom, learning and applying their knowledge at the same time, helps produce graduates who are equipped to rise above the competition. Class of 2019 graduate Jon Ferrara credits his experiential education from the program to helping him put the right product, at the right place, at the right time in his current role as an allocation analyst for Nike.

“The program gives you a lot of in-person learning opportunities that allow you to understand how these large corporations within the industry operate. We learn everything from product design and concept ideation to the Go-to-Market strategies within the global landscape. But along with these big organisations, such as Nike, adidas, etc., we have the opportunity to see how the product is made, whether that is through an overseas internship at a factory or through a week-long trip through Asia where you get to visit the different types of factories within the supply chain,” he says.

To learn more about this one-of-a-kind Master of Science in Sports Product Management, click here.

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