Tag Archives: WSBI

Wharton Sports Business Initiative: The Alumni Perspective

Alumni Advisory Panel

So as the President of the Undergraduate Sports Business Club here at school, I was asked to give a presentation to the Alumni Advisory Panel, updating them on the recent activity and successes the club has had over the past semester. They were really impressed with all of the things we’ve been able to accomplish, particularly our fundraising efforts. We were able to raise over $800 for The V Foundation for Cancer Research through our Hoopin’ 4 Hope Charity Basketball Tournament, and have already secured a partnership with Versus to sponsor next semester’s tournament to benefit the Philadelphia Special Olympics.

Thoughts on Social Impact

Right before I went up to speak, I was lucky enough to catch the end of the discussion on the role of social impact, where to begin, and how to get the ball rolling. In a room full of owners, executives, and academics, it was very interesting to hear their take on the ‘trend’ of social impact that is sweeping through the sports industry. Here are 3 key points I was able to take away:

1. No consensus on the importance of philanthropy and community involvement
When looking to engage teams, leagues, players, etc in causes directed towards positive social impact, there is a lot of debate as to where to start. It was mentioned tonight that, particularly in the NHL, it’s a matter of taking baby steps and really walking the players through it. The average age of an NHL player is 23; a lot of these guys haven’t grown up and matured enough to see the value in reinvesting their money into their communities. The value of philanthropy is something that has to be taught to these players, by taking them by the hand and teaching them the importance of giving back. Since a lot of these guys have had their lives managed for them from such young ages, and they really don’t know what harsh realities the average person faces on a day-to-day basis.

In addition to the battle to get players to see the value in social and community involvement, there is the even bigger obstacle of getting them to a place where they are motivated to ‘give their money away.’ It was said of NFL players in particular that there is a very clear split in those guys who have a hard time understanding the logic behind foregoing a shopping spree or two in order to contribute to a charitable cause and those who ‘just get it.’ Lots of players, especially the younger ones, are often more interested in finding ways to make more money than finding ways to donate it. However, there is a very high percentage of players who are very committed to social impact, as demonstrated by the numerous foundations started by NFL players working towards a variety of causes that are relevant to communities across the country.

So overall, when looking to engage athletes, there is no clear starting point for where league and team leaders should begin to et their players on board. It looks like it’s going to have to be done on a case-by-case basis, with each team and league evaluating the mindsets of its players and starting from there.

2. Lack of collaboration across leagues/sports
It seems as though leagues may be losing sight of the overall goals of philanthropy and community involvement; though they have the best of intentions when looking to develop league-wide initiatives, the sense of ownership over these initiatives my just be eroding the underlying cause and purpose the programs themselves serve.

Initiatives like NBA Cares and the NFL’s Training Camp For Life serve to ameliorate very prevalent and significant issues in the communities and markets they reach. However, when league executives get caught up in the name attached to the program- emphasizing the distinction between NBA/NFL/MLB/NHL programs- there’s something lost, something taken away from the strength and effectiveness of the initiative itself.

In my mind, it would be much more effective to drop the league and sport distinctions and develop collaborative programs with athletes of all sports who live and/or work in a common city or market. It seems as though collaborative efforts only come to fruition on the wake of tragedy and natural disaster. It shouldn’t take Katrina or a tsunami to get athletes to join forces across sports to work towards a common goal in a community. Going forward, I would like to see more unity among athletes who share cities and regions to join forces in an effort to make a positive impact; whether it be done by home town or simply by the locations of the teams these athletes play for, communities would be better served through combined efforts of all the athletes who live, work, and play in them.

3. Debate over the role initiatives like WSBI should play
Is it about grooming the next MBA class to graduate and come into managing the top franchises and leagues? Should the focus be on integrating a comprehensive social impact piece into consulting plans and business models? To me, one of our alums said it best when he said we should be out in Philadelphia, engaging our communities- be it through donated time, services or facilities- in a way that demonstrates that social impact is something that we find to be of significant importance, leading by example and setting the tone for other entities in the sports business to also make it a top priority.

Social impact is and should be regarded as more than just a passing trend, and it will be up to the next generations of owners, executives, agents, marketers, and everyone else connected to the sports industry to further ingrain a passion and an appreciation for philanthropy community involvement.

Overall, it was a phenomenal experience getting to present to and interact with such a vast diversity of Wharton grads who hold such unique positions in the sports industry. I hope to find myself among them one day soon, having had an opportunity to make a difference in the sports industry, one that will hopefully mitigate some of the discrepancies that were identified in the conversations held today.