Sports business group launches conference

The Michigan Daily
By: Zena Dave, Daily Staff Reporter
Published on September 25, 2012

When University alum Dustin Cairo met Business and Kinesiology senior Brandon Rhodes, the two soon realized that they shared a similar vision — to bring a sports business conference to the University.

After drafting a 20-page business plan and presenting their ideas to the Ross School of Business and the School of Kinesiology, Cairo and Rhodes recruited about 30 undergraduate students to assist in creating the Michigan Sport Business Conference, which will take place on Nov. 9 in Blau Auditorium at the Business School.

“When we first started … it was a student-driven initiative,” Rhodes said. “We didn’t really lean on any faculty or staff to get this event off the ground, so we basically got our committee together and brainstormed people who we thought would want to speak (at the conference).”

Cairo and Rhodes initially reached out to University alum Stephen Master, the head of the Nielsen Company Sports Group — which provides marketing information to advertisers in the sports sector — in hopes of locking him in as their first speaker at the conference.

“He thought this was an awesome idea and wanted to get behind it,” Cairo said. “He was the one who kind of spearheaded putting together an advisory board of industry leaders that would help us reach out to speakers and sponsors and so forth to help us get this moving.”

Planned speakers at the conference include notable industry leaders such as University Athletic Director Dave Brandon, Big Ten Network President Mark Silverman and ESPN Sports Business Reporter Darren Rovell, who played a large part in the conference’s promotion.

Rhodes said social media proved to be helpful in promoting the conference, which is why the group is allowing students to register for the event through the MSBC Facebook page.

“(Rovell has more than) 200,000 followers on Twitter, and when he tweeted us out, that was when everything really started falling into place,” Rhodes said. “I would start getting over 20 e-mails a day from people who wanted to come to the event and help us out.”

Once the MSBC committee was able to recruit more speakers, they chose a theme for this year’s conference — the changing face of sports. The group also created four speaker panels representative of various aspects of sports business, including the changing revenue model of college sports, media reach within the world of sports, advertising and sponsorship of sports, and the branding of anchors.

Cairo said his main goal in creating the panels was to ensure that each attendee would have a meaningful experience at the conference.

“For freshmen and sophomores, besides the networking aspect, a lot of this will be helping them figure out what it is they want to do,” Cairo said. “We thought that these four panel topics would help do that.”

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