In August of 2020, we created a paid fellowship position for students from underserved communities. With the creation of this three-month program, our goal is to remove the societal barriers restricting qualified candidates from entering the sports industry and provide real world experience while building their own professional network. Ultimately, our hope is to create and foster a grassroots pipeline that champions and sets careers in motion. In addition to our program we partnered with Sports Biz Camps to create a Professional Toolkit in order to propel our candidate professionally. With the conclusion of our program, we wanted to spotlight this year’s fellowship recipient and share a glimpse of his fascinating story.

All About Mr. Bonney 

My name is John Bonney, and I’m currently a sophomore studying Business Administration (Finance/Business Analytics) at SUNY, University at Albany in New York. It has been a blessing to be a Consulting and Marketing fellow at Navigate for the past three months where I gained experience in all aspects of the company. My sports business aspirations started when I was a young athlete volunteering in player development with Pro Hoops and teaching myself personal finance. Being curious to learn finance at a young age developed my business acumen which I wanted to incorporate into sports. It can clearly be seen through my personal background how my curiosity and motivation demeanor started.

My family moved to America from Ghana in the late 1990s to pursue a better life, in addition to giving my brothers and I an opportunity to pursue a better life than theirs. My parents always preached to make a name for ourselves in whatever we pursue and carry our Ghanaian heritage with pride. This was ironic because I went through a young phase where I disliked my last name due to constant mispronunciation. Being a child of Ghanaian immigrants, I felt like my name did not show my true identity. However, that changed during one of my middle school workouts at Steady Buckets when I was pounding two basketballs vigorously as if my life depended on it. I was locked in, the shriek of Coach Joe had startled me; he said loudly, “John Bonney!” He looked into my eyes while I dribbled with anger and passion and said, “You have a unique name, make greatness out of it!”. He provoked me into defending my livelihood. My life had changed for years to come because of Coach Joe’s trust and confidence in me. His words created a shift in my mentality after I disgustedly reminisced about changing my name. He never elaborated on his statement, but what I took out of it was “life is bigger than basketball”. That moment developed my character which made me do more than just be a basketball player. I carry my parents and Coach Joe’s statement every day with pride, continuously reminding myself to leave an impact on the next person to remember who I am and my name from any moment.

Earlier in the year, I was very curious and introspective, so I started teaching myself new skills online. I came across Sports Biz Camp by watching a TikTok that was promoting their Hiring Expo Camp. Throughout that event, I received an extensive amount of career advice from industry professionals, learning about their journey. After attending the event, it sparked my entry into the sports business because I was taking necessary steps to develop myself, network, and learn. Navigate’s Fellowship Program was a preferred undergrad position that was promoted after the event and I was confident enough to give myself a chance after attending Sports Biz Camp. Navigate saw potential in me and decided to have me on board. 

Navigate + Sports Biz Camps Experience 

During my three months at Navigate, I gained a vast amount of experience as I rotated through three departments: Business Development, Marketing and Public Relations, and Research and Consulting. It was an amazing opportunity to learn how each department operates, and see where I can fit and contribute the most. On the research side, I learned and developed my expertise in sponsorship valuation, benchmarking, creating reports, and conducting research. This reflected on client projects for Charlotte FC, Miami Heat, Anheuser-Busch, FC Dallas, the CFP expansion PR efforts, thought leadership, and our first annual intern project. Interns had the ability to present their project on any topic that is important to Navigate and the industry so I presented my intern project on Blockchain, Crypto, & NFTS because of its fast advancement into sports and my interest in studying different financial markets. On the marketing and sales side, I gained experience on creating social media content, podcast production, insight into the sales process; and the use of applications such as Focally, ClickUp, and Salesforce. A goal of mine was to work with every Navigator and shadow as many client calls as I could. It was also an exciting opportunity to come out to Chicago for our “Work In Person Day” to meet the team and attend our client’s game, the Chicago Cubs. 

Moreover, Sports Biz Camps organized the first SBC + NVGT Professional Toolkit which helped me develop the essential skills needed to work in an organization. Over five sessions, I learned vital lessons on writing a great email, project management, collaboration, persuasive presentation, and DEI from SBC’s Patrick Stack and the Navigate team. The extensive amount of lessons I learned during this internship filled up my notebook during the first week. 

A quote stated by my mother is “the only thing that stops hope is death, you can do anything in this world”. Being curious encouraged me to be versatile and try to learn as much as possible from all the free resources on the internet. I want to thank Navigate for a great experience helping me to advance my expertise throughout the different departments and create authentic relationships within the team! I treated Navigate like my full-time job to take full advantage of my internship experience. Although I have time to keep trying new spaces, I aspire to work for an agency or sports team in their strategy, consulting, marketing, or sponsorships/partnerships department. Regardless of what the future holds, I am here to positively uplift those around me and my community. I want to mentor young student-athletes to help them become future leaders and expand their universe for the greater purpose beyond sports. Through my future accomplishments, I hope to inspire all young people that want to get into this industry, especially as a person who was once in their shoes, because everyone usually sees the playing side of sports. I am so grateful and excited for what’s to come!

A Bright Future Ahead