Building a Global Sports Business Network

Sports Business Institute (SBI) Prepares Alumni for Challenging Careers in the Diverse World of Sports

February 21, 2012

A recent Wall Street Journal story captured the seemingly endless power of sports entertainment, pointing to the fact that a record 111.3 million people tuned in to watch the Super Bowl. "It was the third time in as many years that the Super Bowl has reset the bar for the largest number of viewers for a single telecast in U.S.," according to the WSJ.

The Sports Business Institute (SBI) at USC Marshall has been keenly aware of this trend, providing expertise in the diverse areas of the sports industry and training undergraduates and MBAs who want to be a part of the rapidly growing sports business sector.

Headed by Professor David Carter, the SBI and the graduate student-run Marshall Sports Business Organization (MSBO), which Carter oversees as a faculty advisor, have developed a reputation for the ability to connect driven USC Marshall students with opportunities in the sports industry and the rapidly changing field of sports entertainment in Los Angeles and beyond.

Carter, who is a national authority on sports business and strategic marketing, and the author of four books about the sport business industry, leverages his strong industry connections that he continues to develop through his consulting practice and Sports Business Institute Commissioners' Series to help students find a niche in a competitive business. For those students who are dedicated, grounded and can figure out how to apply their skills and talents in other areas to the sports space, such as real estate, marketing or finance, "they are getting it done and getting in," said Carter.

A recent example is Carrie Xu MBA '11, a Shanghai native who was hired last fall as the Pac-12's senior manager-international, the first conference official hired to focus on overseas development, specifically in China.

Xu, who has a degree in economics from Fudan University, worked for Nike in China before coming to USC Marshall, where she specialized in marketing. As part of her coursework at Marshall, Xu took Carter's sports business classes, became involved with the MSBO and focused her internships at sports- related companies like Nike, where she worked on its international marketing initiatives.

"I had many eye-opening experiences through the Sports Business Institute and MSBO, including the Commissioner series. I also worked as a student volunteer for World Congress of Sports, which was hosted by SBI in 2010. That event encouraged and inspired me and helped me think out what I wanted to do," said Xu.

Along with the backing of Carter and the SBI, Xu has a specialized skill-set tailor-made for this unique opportunity. She knows the languages, business cultures and sports industries of both nations. In this new arena for the Pac-12, Xu is tasked with developing a global roadmap for the conference, with an initial focus on China, where the conference is seeing the most growth in its international student body and applicants. "Carrie is one student—but her experience speaks to the global network of sports executives that we are building through coursework, our events and thought leadership," said Carter.

The SBI and the MSBO are also creating networks of alumni who are keen to give back, coming to campus to talk with students and eager to cement a network within the sports industry.

Like Vincent Ircandia MBA '11 who is currently manager of business operations and analytics for the Los Angeles Kings at its El Segundo headquarters. Ircandia spoke to students in Carter's sports business class in December as part of a panel of Marshall alumni who work in sports. He has also met individually with students who are serious about pursuing careers in the business of sports. This February, he will speak to undergraduates.

"I had a lot of help through discussions, and when I was at Marshall I drew on every name I could who came through the school and went into sports. It's important to me to reciprocate now that I'm on my own path," he said.

Ircandia is also an example of an MBA candidate who parlayed his experience in investment banking, MBA education and sports industry experience into his role at the Kings, where he is involved in pricing, inventory management, web analytics and forecasting. He started as an intern with the franchise and began working with the team on a part-time basis through his second year of graduate school, finally joining full-time after graduation.

A native of Calgary, Canada, Ircandia said his experiences doing research with the SBI, serving as president of the MSBO and the mentorship of David Carter helped him develop relationships that allowed him to make a career change.

For Todd Jacobs MBA '08, the SBI and the Marshall Sports Business Organization were what ultimately drew the Pennsylvania native to USC Marshall and Los Angeles.

During his first semester in the graduate program he became involved with the student-run club and worked to forge a closer connection between the MSBO and the institute. He eventually served as the first research assistant on the recently published Money Games: Profiting from the Convergence of Sports and Entertainment, laying the groundwork for the project and finalizing a publishing deal with Stanford University Press, as well as securing more than $300,000 in funding for the project. Jacobs, who worked at sports talent agency International Management Group after graduating from Bucknell University, knew he wanted to continue to pursue a career in sports. It was Carter who helped him focus. "I tried to figure out, 'what's a good place for me to have a long career at a company that fits my passions and gives an overview of the industry?"

Ultimately, that company was Nike, where he secured a summer internship with the help of the career placement office after reaching out to the company for a class consulting project. "Doing that helped me get plugged in and continue a conversation with Nike," said Jacobs. He joined the company at its Oregon headquarters as a senior strategic planning analyst of U.S. retail business and is now brand marketing strategy and integration manager for Nike North America.

"Being a part of these organizations was a great way to differentiate myself and helped me get my resume noticed and get me interviews," said Jacobs, who will also be flying in to talk with Carter's current students this month. "That set me apart."