Ayana Duncanson ’13, ’15 MBA read “Sports Business Journal” frequently when she was a student at the University of New Haven, and now she has been recognized by the very publication that inspired her career path.
February 2, 2021
As a sport management major, Ayana Duncanson ’13, ’15 MBA was grateful to have access to Sports Business Journal, an award-winning sports business publication. She read it frequently and dreamed of, one day, being recognized in the journal for her own work in the field.
This dream was recently realized, as she was recognized among the journal’s 2020 New Voices Under 30 honorees. She joined representatives from the National Football League, CBS Sports, CAA (a leading talent agency company), NASCAR, the PGA Tour, and Amazon, among other companies, in being honored.
“It means so much to me,” she said. “I have been fortunate to have a number of people in my life who have been incredibly supportive, both professionally and personally, so I really want this recognition to include them. I hope I can continue to make the people around me proud.”
Sports Business Journal’s New Voices Under 30 recognizes young, diverse, and impactful leaders, entrepreneurs, risk takers, and disrupters in the sports business industry who represent the next generation of professionals. Duncanson and her fellow honorees were recognized in a virtual event earlier this month.
A Player Services Manager for the NFL Players Association, Duncanson works with athletes and brands to drive revenue-generating opportunities for athletes across the league, including through endorsements and social media campaigns. She enjoys being a “matchmaker” between brands and athletes.
Duncanson, who was a member of the women’s basketball team as a Charger, is most passionate about the athlete advocacy part of her role. She loves learning about athletes’ families, their passions, and their work beyond the field.
“I enjoy the levity and fun nature of my work,” she said. “Although I have stressful days and times when I am working around the clock, I am able to curate memorable experiences for fans, players, and brands. It is so much fun.”
‘Be good to people’
Duncanson says the power of advocacy and empowerment have been critical to her own success. As a student at the University, she landed her first internship at Octagon, a leading sports and entertainment agency, following an opportunity to visit the company during her sophomore year – a visit that her professor, Gil Fried, J.D., organized.
“From that moment to receiving this award, I’ve been fortunate to have people who don’t necessarily look like me advocate for me,” she said.
Grateful for the mentorship she has had in the workplace, Duncanson says the representation and support of women have been invaluable.
“Every boss I’ve ever had has been a woman,” she said. “They’ve all mentored me. Whether they knew it or not, I was picking up on how they managed their work-life balance, or the honest reality that, sometimes, there really isn’t any. I learned from the way they moved through office politics and spoke up in meetings. My dreams were never dwarfed because I always saw that there was a place for me at every next step of my journey.”
A member of the University’s Alumni Association Board of Directors, Duncanson has fond memories of her time as a Charger. She is passionate about supporting current students and encouraging them to have an experience that was just as meaningful as hers. She offers this advice to them.
“Cherish your time at the University,” she said. “Enjoy every second, look around, soak it in. Take advantage of all the resources around you. Professionals love giving back to students and talking about their careers, so network as much as possible, and be a sponge. Don’t just focus on networking up, but network across. Your classmates could very well be your professional peers, or someday, be the connection you need to get a job. Be genuine, be kind, and be good to people.”