By: Jason Betzer
Published on February 5, 2014
So you want to work in the sports industry? Like many students and young professionals pursuing an education in sports management and looking to make their big break into the business of sports, long gone are the days when
working in industry is limited to selling tickets or running coverage of the local professional team for your hometown paper.
Projected to grow $145.3 billion between 2010-2015, the sports industry is flourishing with opportunities
in all areas including: sports marketing and sponsorship, sports media (traditional and social media), sports facilities and even higher education institutions which are growing at faster than average projected rate of 15%. However, although there are numerous opportunities to work in sports these days, the competition to land one of them is also higher than ever.
Still up for the challenge? If so, here is a closer step-by-step look at how to break into the sports industry today.
Sports Management Education Programs
Over the past 30 years, there has been a significant amount of growth in sports management education programs. From undergraduate and master’s-level courses to MBAs with a sports management concentration, they are continuing to gain ground in colleges and universities. Between 1980-2010, the number of undergraduate sports management programs grew from just three in the U.S. to over 300, however, there were only 25-35 available in graduate programs by 2010.
Making it more accessible for students and aspiring sports business professionals to better find the right university and program for them, now online with SportsBusinessDaily.com is a database of all the U.S sports management programs available for both undergraduate and post graduate degrees.
For those looking to further build upon their undergraduate degree and give themselves a competitive edge for future sports business employers, some of the MVPs in sports management graduate programs today include Ohio University, the University of Central Florida and University of Massachusetts Amherst.
Established over forty years ago, Ohio University’s Center for Sports Administration is arguably the most hailed program of its kind and boasts 1,200 alumni in leadership positions within intercollegiate athletics, professional sports teams and leagues, sports management and marketing agencies, sports media, and the entertainment industries. This alumni network is considered amongst the strongest of any university program in the country, and provides a wide variety of excellent internship and employment opportunities for graduates of Ohio.
Recognized as a world-wide leader in its field, The Mark H. McCormack Department of Sport Management at UMass Amherst Isenberg School of Management belongs in the top echelon of sports business programs. Created in 1972, it is the second-oldest program of its kind in the world and widely respected for the breadth and quality of its curriculum and research.
A somewhat newer sports management masters program launching just over 10 years ago is The DeVos Sport Business Management Program in the College of Business Administration at the University of Central Florida. The vision of Rich & Helen DeVos, owners of RDV Sports and the Orlando Magic of the National Basketball Association, it is the first of its kind in the area of sport management graduate studies.
Consistently ranked amongst the top sports business graduate programs, University of Oregon’s Warsaw Sports Marketing Center allows students to receive a sports centric MBA from one of the top business schools in the country. With deep ties to Nike and Oregon alumni Phil Knight, Warsaw gives student’s unprecedented access to the business of sporting goods and apparel, as well as a deep dive into the international sports marketing scene.
Seeking Internships & Job Opportunities
The number of agencies, organizations and institutions small and large in the U.S. sports industry today are seemingly endless. Each of these entities hires a number of interns each semester to help support their operations. While obtaining an internship in sports is extremely competitive, it is also a necessity for anyone that want’s to eventually work in the business.
According to Carolyne Savini, SVP of Recruiting atTurnkey Sports and Entertainment, ”For anyone trying to break into the sports industry at the entry level, internship experience is critical. Short of an inside connection, I rarely, if ever, see someone get hired into a job without previous internship experience. The reason is the sports industry is a small, tight-knit community. One can’t hide from a reference. If an employer sees the resume of someone who worked for a team or agency property down the street, a call will be made prior to an interview ever being scheduled to confirm how hard and smart of a worker the applicant is.”
While one can spend countless hours online googling all of the ideal places they would like to work at to see if they have any internship and entry-level job opportunities available, instead there are a growing number of affordable, student-run and organized conferences and job fairs with career launching opportunities that are worth-while to attend.
A handful of recommended conferences for those actively looking and pursuing a career in the sports industry include:
The National Sports Forum: The largest annual cross gathering of the top team sports marketing, sales, promotions and event entertainment executives – from throughout the broad spectrum of teams and leagues, (i.e. NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL, Minor Leagues, Racing, Colleges, etc.), in North America.
Sports Industry Networking And Career Conference (SINC): Similar to the National Sports Forum, SINC offers students and young professionals networking and on the spot interview breakout sessions.
Ivy Sports Symposium: The 9 year old conference that rotates among Ivy League schools has 100+ leading sports industry executive guest speakers, breakout sessions and panel discussions geared towards students. In May 2014, the first Global Ivy Sports Symposium conference will be held in London.
University of Michigan Sports Business Conference: A student-ran conference, it has 25+ leading sports industry executive guest speakers along with the BIG Initiative that recognizes 10 outstanding student leaders who have achieved an exceptional level of success in their undergraduate courses.
MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference: This conference offers a job board along with a research paper contest and has 35+ panel discussions. Many high level sports industry executives attend the conference, although its sheer size can be overwhelming and somewhat unwelcoming to those not used to networking.
Breakthrough Leadership Programs:
Along with the various conferences accessible to those looking for work in the sports industry, a new breakthrough program emerged during the summer of 2012 – Manhattan Sports Business Academy (MSBA). With a mission to identify, prepare and connect the next generation of sports business leaders, MSBA is a summer leadership program based in New York City. Designed for college students and young professionals seeking career acceleration, MSBA takes a 360° approach to immersing participants in today’s professional world.
Following a competitive selection process, MSBA delivers a unique and comprehensive learning experience to an intimate group of members through internship placement, a weekly speaker series, office field trips, mentorship, career workshops, weekend group outings and professional development curriculum.
Providing unparalleled access and experience is at the core of the program, and this starts with MSBA’s personal internship placement service. In conjunction with world-class partner organizations, these internships offer each student their own platform for real exposure, hands-on learning and opportunity through customized arrangements.
“By offering aspiring young professionals the opportunity to live, learn and play in the epicenter of global sports business, MSBA aims to help members uncover their passion points within our diverse industry. A love for sports will only take talented individuals so far. MSBA students are pushed to dig deeper and explore the actual roles and opportunities out there”, explains David Oestreicher, MSBA’s Co-Founder & Managing Director.
Ensuring members understand the industry at every level while building relationships with established executives, participants also share the experience with like-minded peers from around the world. These students get to learn from some of the biggest names in sports business including office visits to leading organizations for a behind-the-scenes look at how they are shaping the sports landscape today.
MSBA also emphasizes mentorship as a key pillar and vital aspect of career development through its trademark dual mentorship program. For ongoing coaching and support, each member is paired with a young professional who still knows what it’s like to enter and thrive in the highly competitive industry. In turn, they also learn how to be high-impact mentors themselves through MSBA’s partnership with the High School of Sports Management in Brooklyn.
“So many want a career in sports but haven’t discovered exactly what makes them tick,” opines Ben Sturner, MSBA Co-Founder. “We accelerate this process and fuel both personal and professional growth. Coming away from MSBA, our members are equipped to make well-educated career decisions with the resources and network necessary to do so,” he adds.