SBJ/August 15-21, 2011/In Depth

School looks overseas for consulting work

The director of the sport management MBA program at George Washington University is long on connections in international amateur sports, many of them built while leading study tours to every Olympic Games since 1992.

When she learned that George Washington alum Jose Brito held a seat on the executive board of Rio 2016, she knew there was potential to build out an extensive consulting project.

“I have connections and he has connections,” said Lisa Delpy Neirotti, who has traveled to 56 countries studying the development and organization of the Olympic movement. “He invited me in September, and I met the CEO and all the top executives. After that, it was just a matter of designing the ideas and moving forward.”

This summer, 24 MBA students from George Washington spent two weeks in Brazil, finalizing and delivering results from five projects.

GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY
Students from George Washington University have gone inside the planning for the 2016 Olympics in Brazil.
One examined how the 2016 Games could handle the procurement of everything from furniture to security systems, building off lessons of previous Games. That group recommended the Olympic committee work with organizers of the 2014 FIFA World Cup, also being held in Brazil, to avoid duplication.

Another group analyzed spectator engagement, surveying Brazilians to find ways to attract them not only to the marquee sports, but also to those sports they might be less interested in or familiar with. They also considered how the secondary ticketing market could be used to fill seats at lower-profile events.

One group developed ideas for sponsor activation, focusing on sustainability and social responsibility. Among its recommendations: a program licensing native crafts as a category, with a percent of revenue donated back to indigenous populations.

“They [consulting projects] really can become quite involved, especially when you’re dealing internationally,” said
GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY
The students also visited several baseball training academies in the Dominican Republic.
Delpy Neirotti. “You have to have a faculty member willing to spend time with this, because it’s your reputation at the end — meaning my reputation. So there’s a lot more than most people realize that goes into it.”

The international consulting project begins annually as a seven-week class on the George Washington campus in the spring. Delpy Neirotti gives students the history and background of the clients and gets the students going on their research. That sets the stage for the summer residency.

“We go down there pretty aware of what’s going on,” Delpy Neirotti said. “And then we get the local flavor and talk to people.”

This year, that often proved frustrating. Many of the organizations the students worked with were behind schedule. They were either unable or unwilling to provide the details students needed to make recommendations that were as authoritative as they had hoped.

“It’s difficult, but that’s part of learning,” Delpy Neirotti said. “Sometimes you’re going to be hired by someone who has no clue of what you need and you have to make the best recommendation you can based on the information you have. If things change, that’s not your fault.”

This year, George Washington offered a second international consulting class, this one studying the Dominican Republic for Major League Baseball. Students met with representatives of 14 teams and toured their respective training facilities. They met with local scouts/agents, known as buscones, spoke with representatives of SFX Baseball, which operates an academy in the Dominican Republic, and spoke with parents and educators.

The group’s findings and recommendations came in the form of a white paper that explored conditions at the various training facilities and the viability of incorporating Dominican players into the draft, among other issues. Each student also was responsible for turning in an individual paper on a segment of the study.

“We suggested some things regarding a worldwide draft that people may have talked about but never really thought through and assessed and put down on paper,” Delpy Neirotti said. “I think there’s value in that.”

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