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Alyson Furch Has Always Seen the Value of the Underdog

As the head of communications for Underdog Venture Team, the sports media and content strategist has made a career of shining a light on the ‘sixth man.’
Sports media and content strategist Alyson Furch

Sports Illustrated and Empower Onyx are putting the spotlight on the diverse journeys of Black women across sports—from the veteran athletes, to up-and-coming stars, coaches, executives and more—in the series, Elle-evate: 100 Influential Black Women in Sports.


Alyson Furch, head of communications for Underdog Venture Team, was brought up in a family that encouraged the exploration of entertainment, literature, culture, arts and sports. This way of life laid the foundation for her to always keep an open mind, and to never put herself or her interests in a box. Ultimately, she would advocate for her clients and athletes to do the same.

Furch, a self-proclaimed jack of all trades and master of none, has said that being a Black woman in sports often puts her in a position where she is striving to be seen, heard and valued. And this is one the reasons why she took interest in the idea of the “sixth man,” athletes who may not have been in the spotlight but who she thought had a lot to offer the masses.

In the early 2000s, Furch recognized that not everyone had the cache that came with players like Michael Jordan or Lebron James. Nevertheless, she saw their shine and held up the mirror for them to see it too. She started with players like Zach LaVine and Klay Thompson, and Joakim Noah, who Furch chuckles about when she recalls him saying, “I’m a basketball player and I’m also known for being smart, talking hard and playing ball. So don’t come at me with a dag-on photo shoot.” And like all of her clients, she met him where he was and made sure he was shown in the most favorable light.

“I put him on the cover of GQ. It happened within the context of what he was comfortable with,” she says. “He told me, ‘Gun violence is the thing that moves my heart in this community. Chicago embraced me as this French, African New Yorker who came here as a child. And they loved me. What can I do with my platform?’ Through his foundation, everything he and his family has focused on is around gun [violence] prevention, and firearm education. So I had to figure out a way to show him that I was not trying to rebuild him in some way. And that I was trying to champion that. And tell that story without taking away his core value as a hard-nosed athlete.”

Furch’s idea to market and brand these players didn’t come without push back. But she had Shauna Smith, who she worked with at BDA Sports Management and is now the director of operations for Stanford Volleyball, as a friend as well as a professional advocate. “Shauna was the person that went in there and probably had a lot of tough conversations that I was not aware of,” says Furch. “Sometimes you have to be able to be the person that's the whisperer. That is who she was well before I got there. She really championed my ability and my comfortability to go in there and advocate for athletes.”

RJ_NBAAwards - Alyson Furch

Prior to working at BDA Sports, Furch was with the Knicks for several years, working with about 200 players, before working for Madison Square Garden Sports. “I worked with the agents because they started to reach out to me and keep me abreast of partnerships, branding, community-driven events that players were doing that had nothing to do with the team,” says Furch. “They’d always have trouble getting that buy-in or getting resources from the organization. So, I started to be that person for the Knicks’ athletes.” From there she went on to become the head of media content BDA Sports and eventually took her current position at Underdog, while also developing her own business, LeRoi Creative.

“I think that I’ve become a mini master of a lot of different areas,” says Furch, whose business focuses on ideation and implementation of integrated sports partnerships. “I’ve gotten into this tech space, which is super-duper important. I’m very much into the digital space as well as content creation. And I help clients navigate understanding athletes’ scheduling, availability, management, and talent direction which folds into discussions about their creative possibilities. I built LeRoi Creative LLC because I was doing these kinds of things.”

Furch has her parents to thank for catching the sports bug and playing volleyball and basketball throughout the years. Her father and mother were athletes in college, and she and her sister followed suit. “They’re huge sports people,” says the Seton Hall graduate. “My father passed away in the last week of 2018. And I was going through some of his things, and I discovered a lot of his handwritten letters that he’d written to GMs and coaches of NBA teams. Because at that time it was like, you got to go put it out there. Agents and agencies weren’t commonplace unless you were a Michael Jordan. I ended up naming my company after him.”

After moving across the country from Arizona to New Jersey to play college volleyball, Furch has been dedicated to mentoring athletes at Seton Hall because she took a leap of faith when she was in their shoes. The adjustment process can be daunting, so she lends an ear and any advice to guide them through their journeys. “The kids that are coming from far away ask, ‘How did you deal with the culture shock?’” she says. “They’ve been playing the sport since they were five, but everything else has been the hard part. They have to learn how to juggle their practice and training schedule, workouts, work-study and class schedule. So, it’s been important for me to have these conversations with these 19-, 20-, and 21-year-olds.”

Furch recognizes that it was normal to feel the challenge of adjusting and charting her path, particularly as a Black girl. “When I was in college playing volleyball there were three of us,” she says. “And now there are two of them. So, they’re becoming my little crew because a lot of it just comes down to the way you speak, and just having those conversations with them and letting them know it all works out.” 

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Bryna Jean-Marie is a contributor for Empower Onyx, a diverse multi-channel platform celebrating the stories and transformative power of sports for Black women and girls.