This past semester I attended two events in which incapsulated the theme of this semester at the University of Michigan: “Sport and the University”. As a Sport Management major, I have gained a keen eye for the industry of sport, and the topics of discussion at the events that have been put on by the university have all caught my eye as “go to” events. While I have been to many, I decided to write upon one of the events I attended this past semester: the Michigan Sports Business Conference.
On October 24th, 2014, hundreds of business sport oriented students from various universities flocked to the Ross Business School to take in a day filled with presentations, interactive learning, and networking opportunities from some of sports largest industry players. Among many others: ESPN Commentator and Ann Arbor resident Mike Tirico came to be a moderator of the first speech with Chief Operating Officer John Collins of the NHL, B1G Commissioner Jim Delany, and my personal favorite former Chief Marketing Officer of Vitamin Water and entrepreneur Rohan Oza. All these speakers carried a common theme throughout: that Learning and growth in any industry, specifically sport, results from the relationships and experiences developed over the course of your life leading to a well-rounded thought process about the world.
After experiencing the conference, I re-read Louis Menand’s article “Live and Learn” in which he discusses three theories for the purpose of higher education. At the conference, the breakout session I attended was one including marketing extraordinaire Rohan Oza. Immediately when I heard him speak about his life and how he became who he is today, I realized that the way he wanted us to connect with him was through the experiences and challenges he had faced throughout his entire life. In an interview conducted by The Telegraph, Rohan emphatically states, “I am a serial entrepreneur, specializing in building lifestyle brands” (The Telegraph). Having been a major factor, if not the only factor, in the marketing efforts of companies such as Sprite, Vitamin Water, Vita Coco, Smart Water, and Pop Chips, Rohan developed a keen sense of how the market looks at a new product from the experiences he has went through. In the interview, Rohan describes his varied upbringing: “Im culturally indian, born in Zambia, raised in Britain, living in America”. Rohan views this as the paramount reason as to how he can spot trends, notice which companies to buy into, and “discover the brands of tomorrow”.
As it relates to Menand and his three theories, Rohan and the other panelists would support Theory two. Theory two describes a college in which produces and breeds well-rounded, worldly citizens for the outside world. In describing Theory Two, Menand (who is coincidentally a “theory two person”) states,
“College exposes future citizens to material that enlightens and empowers them, whatever careers they end up choosing.”
Along with the other speakers at the conference, this is something Rohan would not be able to disagree with. The trials and tribulations of college life, along with the relationships that you build, and how you grow from those experiences will be the deciding factor on finding a successful life – not the A you receive in your accounting class. If grades were the deciding factor in determining a person’s life, Rohan and the other panelists would have sat up there, and talked about how we should be spending every waking moment at the Library “cramming” for the A. But they didn’t, and they wouldn’t! Rohan spoke about how the experiences in his life – lead him to the brands he chooses, and brings him to deals like signing 50 Cent for Vitamin Water. While many throughout the blogosphere contend for a particular theory, none address how college can shape a human like Rohan and theory two would agree with.
Rohan and the other speakers left me – frankly speechless. While it appears MSBC is merely about sports on the surface, when you actually experience the event with people like Rohan, you can truly see how relationships and networking breed successful entrepreneurs and humans.