A UO MBA Student is Creating a Digital Platform for Student Female Athletes
By: Gabi LaRiccia
Erin Harville is a second-year MBA student at the University of Oregon. She is currently working on building a digital platform to amplify female voices and increase visibility for women in sports on a collegiate level.
“I am trying to create a system for female athletes to sign NIL deals by allowing them to share their stories, their admissions, their values, and their interests from a webpage providing all of their information,” Harville said.
According to Senate Bill 1505, on July 1, 2021, student-athletes were given the opportunity to profit off of their name, image, and likeness (NIL). College athletics is already a billion-dollar industry, and with NIL in the fold, this number is expected to skyrocket.
Harville has graphic design, creative advertising, and strategic communication experience in college athletics. She was a freelance designer and visual strategist for INFLCR leading up to the July 1 NIL launch.
Nolan Dean is a second-year MBA student at the UO who is working alongside Harville. Dean has prior experience in business consulting and operational management and through his works, his goal is to help create this platform for female collegiate athletes.
“This platform is about connecting the values of the athlete with the brand and potentially setting up an ongoing relationship that could lead to a job after graduation, but we are also hoping to amplify women’s voices and raise visibility for women in sports,” Dean said.
According to the NCAA, the members of the NCAA voted to allow college athletes to benefit from name, image, and likeness opportunities, no matter where their school is located. The policy in all three divisions also preserves the commitment to avoid pay-for-play and improper inducements tied to choosing to attend a particular school.
The digital platform will be called PowHER PlayHER, and it will be a customizable and easy-to-use digital home for female athletes to increase the speed and agility of NIL deals. With women competing in non-revenue-generating college sports, they are often overshadowed by male talent and not offered similar opportunities. This digital platform will provide female athletes with equal opportunities that amplify their values to brands to ensure NIL deals have more meaning than a dollar sign.
When Harville asked female student-athletes where people could directly go to get to know the players and who they are as individuals, they were unable to think of one app or website that paints the full picture of who they are as student-athletes.
“I think it’s incredibly relevant, especially at a time like this, to create opportunities for equity in sports,” Hannah LaRiccia, a second-year MBA student at the UO, said.
LaRiccia is in the same cohort as Harville and Dean and has seen first-hand the development progress that has been made.
Harville and Dean have a combined 12 years of sports industry experience. They are in the Warsaw Sports Marketing Center and given their combined knowledge, this provides them with two separate lenses to combine a business and creative aspect to the digital platform to increase visibility.
This digital platform is in the development phase. When completed, it will include an easy-to-use interface (mobile and web). There will be quick onboarding questionnaires, site templates, and mockups to choose from, as well as options for customization for female athletes.
“We are in the very beginning launch phases where we are applying and looking for investors, applying to pitch competitions, connecting with UO alumni, working on press releases, and working hard to get our name out there,” Harville said.
Harville has secured a domain and social media handles for the venture thus far, and she intends to establish a web and social media presence by April 2022. The goal is to leverage the popularity of appeal that supports women in sports by selling PowHER PlayHER merch to increase brand awareness and collect contact information from end-users.
Harville understands that when creating a platform like this, you need funds. She determined that in order to reach high performance in the first year; they needed to have an initial investment of $250,000. With these initial funds, she can hire a website developer and begin marketing targeted towards campuses, national college events, and social media ads.