Today’s Sports Industry Offers More Diverse Career Paths
Opportunities Abound for Those Willing to Think Beyond “General Manager”
When Brice Clinton first considered a career in the sports industry, he had one particular job in mind: the general manager of a Major League Baseball team. But with only 30 of those positions in the nation, he realized he needed to think more broadly.
As a graduate of the Master of Arts in Sports Administration (MSA) program at Northwestern University School of Professional Studies, Clinton discovered a wide range of ways to build a career in the sports industry. He is currently a senior sales engineer for CSG International’s Content Direct, a global interactive media company, and teaches at Northwestern in the same program from which he graduated.
Many students eye the sports administration field with a similar mindset to what Clinton once had.
“Becoming a general manager of a major league sports team is the ultimate goal for most students who pursue a career in the sports industry because it is the only position highlighted on a variety of sports-oriented media platforms,” says AJ Sheth, an MSA graduate. Though he was already working for a pro sports team, he became interested in sports marketing.
“I wanted to learn more about sports agencies, so I took Lesa Ukman’s sponsorship course,” says Sheth. “Her class was a career changer. She taught me how sports marketing agencies operated and their importance in the sports industry for brands and consumers.” He now works for sports marketing agency Front Row Marketing.
Industry analysts estimate that global sports revenues will top $100 billion this year, and marketing agencies are just one piece of the action. New technologies, widening fan bases and a growing public interest in fitness are all leading to more diverse career opportunities in the field.
“There is a lot to do in sports that we don't even think about,” says Clinton. “So many careers are tangentially related. The sports world needs people with innovative ideas.”
Thinking of a career in sports administration? Here are five fields to consider:
Technology & Analytics: “There are so many interesting and compelling jobs in technology that you can mold to the sports industry,” says Clinton, who teaches Information Technology in Sports. “Teams can use technology to grow their business and engage fans both at home and in the stadiums.”
One field on the rise is analytics. Adam Grossman, co-author of The Sports Strategist, teaches students how to use technology to collect data, analyze it, and make recommendations on everything from player performance to setting ticket prices.
Emerging technologies are leading to brand-new career opportunities for those positioned to take advantage of them. Grossman points to burgeoning fields like performance analytics, wearable technology, and video coaching systems.
Marketing & Community Outreach: Marketing opportunities are available in customer relations, media relations, fundraising, and customer-engagement initiatives like promotions and contests. Sports organizations also need managers for their social media accounts and community outreach activities such and charity events and player appearances.
Many sports marketing jobs also require technology skills. Grossman is the founder of Block Six Analytics, which uses technology-based approaches to help sports organizations grow fan loyalty and sponsorships by measuring data such as content engagement.
Sales: No business can stay competitive without strong sales, and sports organizations are no exception. Salespeople are needed to sell event tickets and manage the accounts for lucrative season ticket holders. They also sell sponsorships and ad placements—from the ads on a team’s website to the company names on players’ jerseys.
Facilities & Events: The venues where events are held take year-round management, creating positions such as a Director of Facilities. High-profile events, like the Kentucky Derby or annual PGA tournaments, require personnel ranging from a VP of Operations to managers of marketing, merchandising and finance.
Fitness & Recreation: The fitness industry has been a growth industry for decades. Sports and fitness retail is an often-overlooked field for sports administration graduates. Businesses targeting the hobbyist—think sporting goods stores, sports apparel companies, and wearable technology companies like Fitbit—are all sources of job opportunities, as are performance supplements and beverages like Gatorade. And don’t forget fantasy sports companies, who hire some of the same positions as real sports teams.
Regardless of the path chosen, it’s important to develop skills that set you apart.
“Anyone who's looking to get into the sports industry needs a specific skill set that can differentiate you from the other candidates,” says Grossman. “You need to be able to immediately add value to an organization, such as being able to identify potential customers or knowing how to capitalize off of them.”
Article by Kelsey Rexroat