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Inaugural Michigan Ross Sports Tech Conference Brings Together Diverse Industry Leaders in Sports, Entertainment, and Tech to Spark Innovative Conversations


The Business+Tech initiative at the Ross School of Business and the Ross Sports Business Association co-hosted the first-ever Michigan Ross Sports Tech Conference in late March. The conference featured an all-star lineup of industry leaders, with events focused on the convergence of sports and tech.

The one-day conference consisted of networking opportunities, panels, fireside chats, and a keynote speech by Rich Kleiman, co-founder of Thirty Five Ventures and Brooklyn Nets player Kevin Durant’s business partner. The events covered a range of topics from player analytics to sports streaming trends, athletic tech wearables, and the new generation of esports. Each event provided attendees the opportunity to hear insider insights from leaders in sports technology from the National Football League, National Basketball Association, Major League Baseball as well as collegiate teams, academia, media, and top technology companies.

Events were geared toward anyone interested in the sports, entertainment, and technology industries.

Justin Rufen-Blanchette, MBA ’22, one of the conference’s student organizers, explained the goal of the Michigan Ross Sports Tech Conference is to establish Michigan Ross as a leader in business and technology. “Rising professionals interested in the intersection of sports, technology, and innovation should consider attending Michigan Ross to be a part of the next generation of industry leaders,” he said.

The virtual format of the event provided a unique opportunity to expand the reach of the conference this year, as the conference attracted attendees and presenters who participated from around the world.  

“The virtual offering has given us the luxury to have a wide variety of guest speakers that may not have had the ability to fly to Ann Arbor and speak with our audience,” said Rufen-Blanchette. “This has made our conference particularly unique because of the high caliber panelists from the top companies in different industries that we were able to garner.”

Rufen-Blanchette said that he and his leadership team handpicked each panelist that they wanted to speak at the conference. Besides Kleiman, other speakers a part of the impressive lineup included: Justin Friedman, director of Fan Data and Analytics at the NFL; Kate Johnson, director of Global Marketing Partnerships at Google; Kelly Linstroth, senior director of marketing for the Chicago Cubs; Chris Hintermeister, director of Ecosystem Strategy & Partnerships at Gatorade; Burke Magnus, executive vice president of Programming and Scheduling for ESPN; and Michael Schneider, vice president of Brand, Live, and Licensed Marketing at Hulu. 

Sports and Tech at Michigan Ross

Fellow event organizer Alexia Sabogal, MBA ‘ 22, said her biggest takeaway from the Michigan Ross Sports Tech Conference was that there was a deep interest for sports and tech at Michigan Ross. 

“There is a strong appetite and interest for sports and tech at Ross,” she said. “In general, it’s a unique subset of both the sports and tech industries that has increased in importance during the pandemic, but also is something that is going to not only remain relevant, but grow over the years, and with that come different opportunities to be part of it.”

Sabogal said that the opportunities for students interested in sports and tech at Michigan Ross are vast. 

“There are different sports-focused clubs on both the BBA and MBA levels that students can turn to for resources and questions,” she said. “Students can join the Sports Business Association, Tech Club, and the Entertainment and Digital Media Club.”

In addition, Sabogal shared that one of the goals of the conference was to highlight the new Business+Tech initiative at Michigan Ross. 

The Business+Tech initiative will act as a one-stop-shop for students to learn more about the tech industry, the different classes that are available at Ross to prepare them for the industry, and the opportunity to engage in different tech-related projects.

Alexia Sabogal, MBA ‘ 22

Sabogal advised students who are looking to get into the sports and tech industry to be proactive and network. 

“Most internships and jobs won't always land in your lap, so it's really up to you to go out there and seek those opportunities. For example, for BBAs, one direction to look is to the MBAs who have come from the industry you're looking to break into,” explained Sabogal. 

Lastly, she emphasized utilizing the power of the vast Ross alumni network. 

“For both BBAs and MBAs, it's the strong network of alums who are always willing to speak to a fellow Wolverine and help make the connections. Continuously looking for opportunities and meeting people will grow your network and increase your chances of successfully breaking into either industry.”

Learn more about the Michigan Ross Sports Tech Conference