UO launches initiative to support student-athlete marketing

As college athletics enters a new era, the Lundquist College of Business’s Warsaw Sports Marketing Center is joining forces with the School of Journalism and Communication to launch the Oregon Accelerator, a first-of-its-kind, full-service, student-led marketing and branding collective to help support UO athletes.

The Oregon Accelerator will help guide student-athletes as they seek to optimize opportunities available to them as part of new NCAA rules and Oregon Senate Bill 5, which allow college athletes to be compensated for use of their name, image and likeness, often referred to as NIL, outside official team activities.

“We’ve been a leader in educating and inspiring the next generation of sports business marketers, brand strategists and game-changing content creators and innovators,” said Sarah E. Nutter, the Edward E. Maletis Dean of the Lundquist College of Business. “We are proud to partner on this uniquely Oregon initiative, which combines our academic mission and best-in-class academic programs to empower Oregon athletics and our student-athletes to set the standard on this playing field, too.”

The Oregon Accelerator — which exemplifies the power of the new university-wide Sport and Wellness Initiative — will leverage the combined strengths and reputations of the Lundquist College of Business and the School of Journalism and Communication in advertising, public relations, marketing, sports business, sponsorship, strategy, financial literacy and entrepreneurship to build a student marketing/branding/creative studio.

“Hands-on learning is a hallmark of the University of Oregon, and the Oregon Accelerator adds to the robust opportunities we provide students to hone their talent and gain direct portfolio-building experiences that align with their career goals,” said Juan-Carlos Molleda, Edwin L. Artzt Dean of the School of Journalism and Communication. “In addition to mentoring in creative strategy and content production, our faculty can contribute insights on communication ethics, law and psychology, as well as the use of emergent and immersive media technologies.”

Aided and advised by faculty members and alumni, the collective will consist of students from many disciplines. All students will be eligible to participate, but the majority will come from the Warsaw Sports Marketing Center, School of Journalism and Communication, and Lundquist College of Business.

“NIL allows all our student-athletes opportunities to brand themselves,” noted Troy Elias, director of the advertising program and an associate professor at the School of Journalism and Communication. “The Oregon Accelerator will maximize NIL potential by providing social media strategy and management, business development, videography/photography, media relations, marketing and promotions and engagement tracking and analytics, among other services.”

The Oregon Accelerator is ramping up operations during fall 2021 thanks to a personal donation from UO journalism alumna Barbara Blangiardi, senior vice president of strategies and creative partnerships at Fox Sports. Blangiardi serves on the advisory boards for both the Warsaw Sports Marketing Center and the School of Journalism and Communication. In addition to seed funding, she provided valuable insights to students and faculty as they developed the concept for the Oregon Accelerator.

“At Oregon, we hail innovation as our tradition, especially in sport. I am proud to help continue that tradition with this trendsetting approach, which will support opportunities created by NIL not only for our student-athletes, but for other students as well, furthering our leadership position both on the sports field and in the business of sports,” Blangiardi said. “We are once again bringing to life our vision: ‘Only at Oregon.’”

“We are incredibly grateful for Barbara’s support and passion in helping us launch the Oregon Accelerator,” said Craig Leon, MBA program manager for the Warsaw Sports Marketing Center and an elite professional runner with direct experience navigating sponsorship and NIL opportunities.

Leon said that much of the work to conceptualize, research, and propose the idea for the collective was student-led, with guidance and coaching from numerous faculty members. In particular, Oregon MBA students interviewed coaches, student-athletes, and business and journalism and communication students to create an operational plan for the Oregon Accelerator.

The Oregon Accelerator adds to and supplements the separate work from Division Street, Inc., a company launched by prominent UO alumni to accelerate opportunities in the fast-changing landscape of NIL. Former Oregon superstar Sabrina Ionescu will serve as chief athlete officer for Division Street. Ionescu is a 2020 graduate of the School of Journalism and Communication’s master in advertising and brand responsibility program, a one-of-a-kind professional graduate program created to address issues of ethical brand strategy and development.