Pacific League Marketing (PLM) and The University of Massachusetts Amherst’s Mark H. McCormack Department of Sport Management in the Isenberg School of Management have entered into a global partnership focused on delivering consulting and education services to Japanese sports stakeholders since 2020.
The McCormack Department of Sport Management is the second oldest sports management program in the world and has been ranked #1 in the world for five of the last six years. As a part of the partnership, McCormack interviewed notable alumni of the school who are involved in the front lines of sports business around the world, to gather insights regarding their careers and their business.
My name is Lauren Yung and I am a Sr. Associate at United States Olympic and Paralympic Properties (USOPP). I’ve been at the company for about two years, a period that covered both Tokyo 2020 and Beijing 2022, though my team does not directly support the delivery of those Games. Before joining USOPP, I was in graduate school earning my MBA and MS in Sport Management.
A life-long athlete, I have tried many sports ranging from martial arts to soccer, eventually landing on volleyball, which I both played and coached collegiately. After college, I was fortunate to continue my athletic career playing women’s tackle (American) football, winning three consecutive National Championships. Sport has been instrumental to so many stages of my life – it is a privilege to work in this space professionally to ensure that experience is available to as many as possible.
I work on the Commercial Development and Innovation (CDI) team at United States Olympic & Paralympic Properties (USOPP). USOPP is the joint venture created to manage the commercial rights of both the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee (USOPC), a National Olympic & Paralympic Committee (NOC/NPC) and LA28, the Organizing Committee of the Olympic Games (OCOG).
Both the USOPC and LA28 are responsible for the promotion of the Olympic & Paralympic Movement in the U.S., though in different ways. The USOPC is responsible for supporting and developing Team USA athletes, while LA28 prepares to host the world’s athletes and fans during the 2028 Summer Games.
In my role, I am responsible for supporting both entities in their respective goals through commercial strategy and initiatives. This can be in the form of sponsorship or in new, emerging or innovative models. As a result, my day to day entails lots of reading and research on peer properties and emerging business trends. With my team, we then work across the two organizations and different functional groups to determine what opportunities exist to further develop and power the Movement.
While sports have always been a part of my life, it did not always occur to me that it could be a career. That clarity would not come until after my first job out of college, which in hindsight, was rather fortuitous – I started my career at Nielsen, in their quantitative market research division. While at Nielsen, I developed strong, hard skills including data analysis, survey development, and deck creation. Perhaps more importantly, however, it helped me develop my own internal compass for discovery – regardless of the topic.
Eventually, I learned that I wanted that topic to be sports. This realization came after many long hours working as an assistant volleyball coach at a local college (in addition to my work at Nielsen) out of sheer joy and personal passion. After some research, I found that it might be possible to merge my day job with my personal love for sports.
This transition was facilitated by graduate school, specifically the UMass Dual Degree program which helped me earn an MBA and MS in Sport Management. Curriculum included both coursework and internships which allowed me to hone my interests and skillsets. The program also helped to facilitate genuine, authentic connections with those in the industry.
My current role is somewhat related to the academic practicum I completed while at UMass – a project designed to examine the commercial opportunities for the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Movement. Not only did it prepare me for my current role, but it allowed me to display my work to key stakeholders within in the property. While many other factors contributed towards securing my current job, my graduate program, in its totality truly positioned me to take advantage of opportunities that arose.
My sports career is still young and in development. That said, I think my career has been many years in the making, extending to my first job out of college which was not in sports. In fact, it may stem from even earlier – I truly believe my current role and career position is a culmination of the many stages of my life including growing up with competitive sports. I regularly draw upon experiences from those previous stages, both sport and non-sport alike.
A good friend of mine once said, “luck is when opportunity meets preparation” and while I feel very lucky to be where I am today, I also believe it was due to many years of preparation and dedication that allowed me to take advantage of opportunities when they came up.
Sport has always been a part of my life. I can chart my own personal development and milestones across my athletic career. More importantly, however, I know I am not alone in that experience. Whether a recreational athlete or the most elite athlete, sport has unique properties and capabilities of bringing people together, creating bridges, facilitating connections, and pushing individuals to be their best. Sport is inspiring and heartbreaking; personal and communal; new and old. The ability for sports to transcend languages, cultures, generations, and numerous other identities make it a tremendous equalizer…when allowed to do so.
There is still much of sport that is restricted or inaccessible to many. Gatekeeping is very real. As a female athlete, fan, and now professional, the playing field has not always been level. Working in sport allows me to push the boundaries and assumptions of sport to ensure that the wonderful benefits and experiences I have had through sport, are shared with more and more people, regardless of who they are, where they come from, or how they identify.
Like many who work in sports, I love sports, both playing and watching. Thus, having a job that allows me to think about that on regular basis is awesome. More than that, however, is that sport can be very mission and impact driven. To me, this unmatched platform for good and change is the main reason I find sports and sports businesses so interesting.
Like many other established industries, the world of sports does not necessarily change quickly. Yes, properties can innovate, something that we have witnessed at an unprecedented rate in recent years. That said, innovation outside of the current system and environment is extremely difficult. The sports market is large and vast and rich – it can support all kinds of fandom. Still, the gap between newcomers and those established players have yet to be closed or disrupted the same way other industries have been. I think it is coming – there have been some disruptors changing the model, but it is not easy despite the whitespace that exists.
Working in sport can be tremendously rewarding – while it is an old industry, it is active and an in a period of great growth and innovation. Because of that, the time has never been better to switch into the world of sports and pull from non-sport experiences. Of course, an understanding of the unique business of sport is extremely important – but pairing it with new thinking and perspectives can be invaluable.
interviewed by Takehiko Nakamura