The University of Oregon’s Sports Product Management program offers two paths to a career with sports and outdoor brands.
If you’re passionate about the sports product industry, or if you’re just curious about how sports and outdoor products are created, the Sports Product Management program may be right for you. There are more careers in the sports and outdoor industries than just designers and sales, but getting your foot in the door without experience and access can be very difficult.
One way to develop relevant knowledge and experience is with a master’s program that brings in industry professionals to teach the business of the full product creation process, including real-world projects and internships directly with brands.
Since 2015, the University of Oregon’s Sports Product Management (SPM) program has prepared students for careers with brands like Nike, Columbia Sportswear, Under Armour, Athleta, Sorel, icebreaker, KEEN, Dakine, and Hydro Flask, among others.
We’ve covered the program before, but here we’ll dig deeper into what students can expect from classes and projects while enrolled to jobs upon graduation.
Stitching Together a New Career
The SPM program guides students through different aspects of sports and outdoor product companies, from design to production. Upon graduation, U of O says, students come out prepared for new careers, advancing existing ones in the industry, or starting their own brand.
Students start by working in the onsite Innovation Lab, learning the basics of sewing, and then begin crafting apparel or shoes from scratch. This exposes them to each step of the process, including patterning, material cutting, and sewing. Onsite students have access to sewing machines, 3D and laser printers, as well as other tools for their projects.
And not to worry — online students are sent the necessary toolkits each term so they can build products at home.
Gradually, student teams work on an integrative project throughout the duration of the program. In the last academic quarter, they form new teams to work alongside a brand in the industry as consultants for varying projects for which partner brands have a need.
And the program also includes two major trips. The first-year trip takes students to the ISPO Munich trade show (onsite program only), highlighting product innovations from around the world. There, students can see the latest designs and innovations while networking. In past trips, this even led to brand and factory partnerships, as well as students securing new materials suppliers.
In the second-year trip, students travel to Asia to see firsthand how large-scale factories operate. On this trip, factory executives offer their expertise and advice on how the supply side works on a daily basis.
Additionally, there’s a partnership with Operation Hope, a nonprofit that outfits doctors who travel to underprivileged parts of the world to provide medical aid. Students will spend a full day making as many operating skull caps as they can. Aside from the cause, this teaches them a real-world lesson in costing and production planning.
The Places You’ll Go
Before detailing the curriculum, it’s worth highlighting the end goal of a master’s degree: a career. Common positions looking for the skills and experience from the SPM program include:
- Product Line Management
- Product Development
- Materials Development/Innovation
- Sourcing and Costing
- Brand Marketing
But nothing speaks for the program more than its alumni. Austin Hodges graduated in 2017 and is now the Head of Global NBA Marketing for Adidas. He credits the program for providing him with “skills to accelerate my career growth that would have taken years of working to gain.”
“It’s like sports,” Hodges added. “A coach gives you the tools and puts you in a position to make the most of your potential.”
Jon Ferrera graduated in 2019 and is an allocation analyst with Nike. “As students, we learn everything from product design and concept ideation to the Go-to-Market strategies within the global landscape,” Ferrera said. “Challenge anything and everything, have a vision without being afraid to fail, and last but certainly not least, tell a story.”
2 Paths to a Master’s Degree
The University of Oregon Sports Product Management track includes two options: onsite or online. The faster track is an immersive 18-month program in Portland. However, the 21-month online path accommodates those who want to pursue a master’s degree while working or living elsewhere.
The curriculum takes students through the product creation process, from an initial concept to the boxed end product. Typical first-year courses focus on consumer insights, design development, wear testing, and branding and marketing. Then there’s an internship with a brand or factory that works directly with brands in the sports and outdoor sectors.
Meanwhile, online learning isn’t completely remote. There are 3-day learning weekends, also referred to as “residencies,” almost every term that immerse students in Portland’s sports and outdoor industry with company visits and socials that include face time with professionals and professors.
In the fall of the second year, SPM students (online and onsite) spend a week in Asia to learn more about the brand, as well as consumer and manufacturing sectors.
The next Sports Product Management program begins in September and is currently accepting applications. The Portland onsite students complete five 10-week terms over 18 months, and the online students complete seven 10-week terms over 21 months.
This article is sponsored by the University of Oregon. Check out the Sports Product Management program today.