Name: Sarah Brenner
Degree: Sport Management, 2014
Current Occupation: Vice President, Associate Counsel, Las Vegas Raiders
What have you done since you graduated?
I graduated from the Sport Management Program in 2014, and three weeks later, I started at the University of Michigan Law School. Throughout law school, I tried to keep one foot in the sports world and ended up spending a summer working at Adidas in Portland, Oregon. I also had a brief internship with the Detroit Pistons, working as a business affairs intern in their legal department.
After graduating from law school, I moved out to Los Angeles to work in the real estate department of a law firm, advising clients on large corporate real estate transactions. One of the biggest clients I worked for was a real estate investment fund who partnered with a medical office building operator who would buy and sell medical office buildings around the country. Throughout my three years at the law firm, I worked on different parts of real estate transactions including leasing, financing, purchasing, and sales, etc. At the end of August of this year (2020), I started my new role as vice president, associate counsel with the Las Vegas Raiders.
What do you do in your current role?
I am a business affairs attorney. Generally, I handle the business operations of the entire Raiders organization including sponsorship agreements, community relations, and Raiders Foundation initiatives and events. Additionally, I help with the Raiders’ real estate matters due to the new stadium and practice facility that has been built in Las Vegas.
I had to transition from being a real estate specialist to more of a generalist because on any given day I could have to deal with employment law, HIPPA compliance, real estate law, or trademark and IP law to name a few. Every day is different, and that’s what keeps the job both interesting and difficult.
How has your Kinesiology degree contributed to your success?
It has contributed a lot. I think when people see that I'm an attorney, they immediately assume my law degree is the most important degree I’ve earned. Obviously, my law degree is important, but my Sport Management degree helped me stand out from the crowd and learn very tangible, “real life” business skills. A Sport Management degree from U-M is essentially a business degree with a specialization in sports. The program’s curriculum includes the same finance, statistics, and economics classes that anyone in business school would take. The only difference is our examples come from the sports industry instead of the business world. Learning these skills was very helpful in law school and beyond because I gained a deeper understanding of how the business world works, and I felt like I had a slight edge over some of my classmates and colleagues who may not have learned those same things in other liberal arts majors. My Sport Management degree was also very helpful when I was trying to transition from my law firm into the sports industry. As you can imagine, most sports-legal positions are very coveted, and the opportunities are limited, so having Sport Management on my resume helped support my story of why I wanted to work in sports and why I was qualified to do so. When people interviewed me, they knew, at a minimum, that I already knew how the sports industry works and how sports businesses run and operate. I think that was very helpful and probably contributed to me getting this position with the Raiders.
I appreciated and enjoyed the program’s smaller size. It makes the campus feel more manageable, so anyone who is feeling overwhelmed by the size of Michigan’s campus, or who misses the smaller high school class size, Sport Management provides that for you.
Tell me about your experience in the Kinesiology program?
I loved being in Sport Management. The class sizes were small, so I knew most of my classmates pretty well, and I loved the extra attention that we all got from our professors. One thing that I did not take advantage of in the program that I regret is getting involved with all of the available resources. I wasn’t involved with the Sports Business Association (SBA) or with the Michigan Sports Business Conference (other than as an attendee), and I wish I had worked harder to find those resources while I was a student. However, even though I missed out on those opportunities, I was able to take advantage of other ones. I was a teaching assistant for Kelli Donahue’s SM 101: Public and Small Group Communication classes, and that experience was really valuable for me. Not only did it help reinforce the subject I was teaching, but it also helped me form a really good connection with Kelli and helped me stay involved with the Sport Management program, even six years after graduating. I was also a big fan of visiting professors during their office hours, especially in the classes I was most interested in. Many programs don’t allow for the same kind of personal attention, but I felt that all of the professors in the Sport Management program were very accessible and happy to help their students.
What is the best part of U-M’s Kinesiology program?
I appreciated and enjoyed the program’s smaller size. It makes the campus feel more manageable, so anyone who is feeling overwhelmed by the size of Michigan’s campus, or who misses the smaller high school class size, Sport Management provides that for you. Even beyond that, when you’re in class with the same people over and over again, it allows you to get to know each other better and form meaningful relationships with classmates who will become future colleagues in the sports industry. This setup also provides a different classroom and learning environment that I don't think you'd get in other places. As students, we were more comfortable speaking up in class and participating, and it wasn't as “taboo” or “uncool” to participate which I think helps the learning experience.
What would like prospective students to know?
I’m not sure if this reputation is even out there anymore, but the first thing I want to do is dispel the belief that Sport Management is an “easy” major. It is quite the opposite and is very competitive and has an incredible reputation. I don't think there are very many majors out there that are as well structured as U-M’s Sport Management program. It's very unique and yes, some people can joke because some of your homework could be to watch ESPN or to watch a football or basketball game and pay attention to where the sponsors are putting their content and how teams are activating their various partnerships, but these things are real-life applications that can be taken from the classroom and applied immediately. As a student coming into Michigan, if you are looking for skills that you can take into the real world and use the day after you graduate, the Sport Management Program is where that's going to happen.