In sports entertainment, fortune favors the bold
Worcester State University hosted its Sports Management Summit at the DeFeudis Wellness Center on its campus. The Summit gathered business leaders from professional sports teams like the Boston Bruins and New England Patriots, athletic administrators from institutions like the College of the Holy Cross, and decision makers at media companies like ESPN and BallerTV.
Dela Gbordzoe, MBA ‘19, is BallerTV’s General Manager and was a featured speaker on the Summit’s Diverse Voices in Sports panel. Moderated by Steven Branch, Associate Director, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in MIT Sloan’s Career Development Office, the panel offered its audience a nuanced view of the sports and media landscape with practitioners who were diverse, credentialed, experienced, and successful. Below are excerpts from our interview, edited lightly for length and clarity.
What led you to MIT Sloan?
I wasn’t originally looking at MIT Sloan when I was researching business schools. I didn’t think I would have a chance at a top school like it. I was part of the Management Leadership for Tomorrow (MLT) MBA Prep program, Class of 2017. We visited MIT and I met students who were doing stuff I hadn’t ever heard of at other schools.
My MLT Coach, Krista, pushed me to think harder about MIT and shoot for the stars. After getting the call that I was taken off the waitlist in May 2017, I was ready to make this the easiest “yes” I’ve made in my professional career.
What's it like to matriculate at MIT Sloan?
Like many students, I was thinking, “How the heck did I even get here? Am I MIT material?” I arrived in Cambridge for orientation after a solo three-day road trip from Houston and during that drive, I spent a lot of time thinking about what I wanted to do at MIT Sloan and decided that I was going to hit the ground running from day one.
It was a surreal moment, getting out of my car and walking across the lawn in front of The Dome to get my student ID. “I’ve made it!” I thought. “I’ve beaten the odds and am an actual MIT student.” Following orientation, I took a deep breath and realized that I belonged.
Did you join an affinity group? Describe that experience.
I was in a bunch of affinity groups while at MIT Sloan. I co-founded the MIT Sloan Male Allies club, worked on the redesign of the website for Breaking the Mold/Hack for Inclusion, was the Co-President of the Black Business Students Association and the admissions liaison for the Africa Business Club.
The experience was rewarding! I never had an opportunity to join affinity groups before attending MIT Sloan, and I made it my mission to help create a more inclusive place and ensure more students of color not only considered MIT Sloan, but also put in the work to earn admission.
Discover why inclusion is a good business strategy.
Describe what you hope attendees learned from the event.
I recommended setting fear aside. Don't be afraid to knock on every door you can find to break into the sports industry. Many of us use artificial intelligence (AI), data, and analytics to disrupt sports. We aren’t all working directly for teams or leagues.
There’s no traditional path into sports anymore and you don’t have to spend hundreds of hours working for a pro team for free to get into the industry. Fortune truly does favor the bold in sports. You need hunger to succeed.
How would audiences find the information shared in the panel useful?
The best part of the panel was how diverse we were in backgrounds, genders, and perspectives. Judging by the long lines waiting for us after we finished, it seemed our messages of perseverance, patience and confidence really resonated with students.
I wanted to encourage the room to avoid tired tropes about the lack of diversity in sports and focus more on how to leverage social media platforms and mentorship connections to chart their own paths.
Steve collected and shared several resources for participants. I also suggested:
- Studying the organizational charts of the companies/teams people might target. Organizations invested in giving underrepresented minorities and women a chance generally promote them into visible positions of power.
- Figuring out who you know. Search for advocates and allies in the industry. Convert opportunities to interact with industry veterans into opportunities to chart your own path. Form relationships with people who might help you succeed. People I met during my time at MIT Sloan helped me get where I am.
What’s a day in the life of a General Manager at BallerTV?
I spend a lot of time gathering data to make decisions on how we can properly execute live-streaming sporting events whose rights we own. I start my morning by stretching for 15 minutes to get myself in the right mindset to tackle the day.
Next, I’ll meet with my project management team to talk through the next two weeks’ events and ensure we’re ready to go. We can film as many as 100 events per week. I’ll also review our events to understand their profit margin potential and ensure they meet our margin targets.
I might meet with Marketing, Product, Streaming Rights, or other operations teams to discuss challenges related to event operations. We also check in on long-term projects to keep those workstreams moving forward. .
Every day is different. There’s something exciting about responding to the immediate and planning for the long-term.
Is there one big MIT Sloan-based takeaway you’d like readers to know?
Work as hard as possible to not leave business school with any regrets. I wouldn’t trade my time at Sloan for anything. It was an incredible, transformative experience.