From the Stan Smith in 1965 to the Air Jordan 1 in 1985 and carbon-fiber plates and advanced foam technology in 2016, these innovations are at the center of some of the most iconic moments in recent history.
Overseeing how these products come to life, from conception until they are removed from the shelves — or, at times, upcycled — fascinated Sherry Dai. At the University of Oregon Lundquist College of Business, she got to put her “passion for athletics into the sports product industry and produce good-looking, high-performance apparel to help athletes and all individuals perform at their best” with the Master of Science in Sports Product Management (SPM). Today, the proud Lundquist graduate is a researcher at the Nike Sports Research Lab.
The Sports Product Management program at the Lundquist College of Business is the leading professional steppingstone for every enthusiast looking to join the world of sports and outdoor products. Here, Dai gained the knowledge, skills and experience to join the business of product creation. She learned to fuse sports and outdoor apparel, footwear, and equipment with global business, sustainability, and innovation; reviewed consumer insights, competitive analysis, marketplace opportunities; developed product briefs, marketing, and costing; as well as determined financial analysis, global feasibility, product testing and go-to-market strategies.
This experiential program starts with insights, with classes on Product Line Management, Human Physiology and Consumer Research, among others, where students gain skills in consumer insights, competitive analysis and marketplace opportunity. The next two terms in their first year focus on Creation and Business – where they take classes like Design Thinking, Green Materials, and Sustainable Logistics. During their final year, they gain skills in global awareness, demand planning, product testing, e-commerce, sell-in and product launch. At the SPM Innovation Lab, students get to use specialized equipment to design, make, and test prototype products.
An advisory board of senior executive from companies such as Nike, Columbia and New Balance ensure the program aligns with industry needs. This is a major advantage as the industry is in high demand for talent with a mix of experience and education. Armed with a University of Oregon Sports Product Management Master’s degree, Dai now fits this bill.
Dai grew up as a competitive swimmer and competed as an athlete in college. She then went on to earn a bachelor’s and master’s degree in physical education and sports biomechanics from a university in Taiwan, where she took part in research projects on sports bras and functional pants. Keen to dig deeper, she sought advice from her professor, a PhD alum from the University of Oregon, who recommended the SPM program at his alma mater.
“I wanted to turn my passion for sports into my career. I could see myself being a sports product industry leader, to achieve my goal, I had to keep learning new things, and gain hands-on and real-world experience. Sports biomechanics is a detailed analysis of sports movements in order to reduce the risk of injury and improve sports performance, it is scientific. The Sports Product Management Program is learning the business of product creation,” Dai shares. “I knew it was the best choice for my professional enrichment as an aspiring sports product leader.”
The Sports Product Management program produces alumni with the knowledge of the entire product creation process — Dai, is a testament to that. In classes, she learned from instructors who have extensive professional experience working in leadership roles within various functional areas of small and large sports product companies. Their expertise is combined with the academic insight of professors who are subject-matter experts and internationally recognised for their research in sports products.
At each step of the students’ journeys, they build valuable relationships with leaders in the industry. They are matched with a program mentor and coach from the industry, get to hear from and network with guest speakers, as well as seek internship opportunities from companies such as Adidas, Nike, Columbia Sportswear, Under Armour, Keen, HydroFlask, and more. “I met Erika Gentry, Cindy Trames, and Alex Maier from Nike Swim,” shares Dai.
These meetings are far from serendipitous — they are by design. The program is hands-on and practical. An internship with a brand or factory that works directly with brands in the sports and outdoor sectors is integral to the SPM program.
During the summer of 2019, Dai, as a student, interned at Arena, a company that makes competitive swimwear. “I worked closely with the product line manager and marketing team and also went to the USA Swimming National Championship and learned about marketing strategies for products.”
The University of Oregon Sports Product Management program is offered two ways: onsite in Portland, Oregon or online from anywhere. The faster track is an immersive 18-month onsite program in Portland. However, the 21-month online path accommodates those who want to pursue a master’s degree while working or living elsewhere. You can view the onsite full roadmap here and the online full roadmap here.
South Korean sneakerhead JK (Jang kyu) Lee and SPM alumnus got the head start he needed to realize his dream to work in the sports product industry.
“I remember there were several networking events held by the program, but what was really helpful was the interview exercise with the HR teams from multiple companies,” shares Lee. “This really helped me to realize what I lack most, and what my strengths are.”
Today, Lee is a Product Engineer for Nike. “Every day is different and quite dynamic. We deal with issues that occur during the development, and this never stops,” he explains. He credits the SPM program for expanding his understanding on the business side of the sports product industry. “I knew nothing but the shoe itself, but after going through the program, I had a much clearer vision on how a product is brought to life to meet the needs of consumers,” he shares. “Even though I am more focused on the engineering side of product development now, the SPM program helped me understand the purpose for each product I get to work on.”