Get in the Game!: Sports Business is Flourishing at Canadian Universities


These are exciting times for those working in the Canadian sport industry. Earlier this year, the Governor General declared 2015 the Year of Sport. Since then, the Jays captured the nation’s attention, the Raptors became a consistent playoff team and announced they will host the 2016 All-Star Game, and the Pan-Ams and FIFA Women’s World Cup were both international successes.

With a focus on future sport managers, sport business programs at Canadian universities range from 4-year undergraduate programs (ex. the Laurentian University’s Sport Administration (SPAD program) to Master’s programs like the MHK Sport Management program at the University of Ottawa. Beyond formal educational settings, several universities have student-organized and operated sport business clubs/committees/councils that engage students and young sport business professionals through a range of initiatives.

uOttawa Sports Business Club – University of Ottawa

At the University of Ottawa, the uOttawa Sports Business Club (uOSBC) was founded in 2014 by several students in the MHK Sport Management program as a legacy project for future classes. As President Kimberly Fleming indicates, uOSBC “aims to unite individuals who love sport, and provide unique opportunities through our own initiatives and those that we participate in.” Currently the club focuses on creating exclusive content for the uOSBC website and engaging students on campus through events. Upcoming events include a guided tour of TD Place Stadium followed by attendance at the Redblacks/Blue Bombers game (this Friday October 16!) and the JMSM conference in November. The club is also exploring the possibility of a speaker series in 2016. Fleming also states that the club will continue to engage in “community sports events through volunteering and through hosting of philanthropic events similar to our Sledge Hockey Event earlier this year.” To stay connected with uOSBC visit our website and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

This past month, uOSBC has reached out to similar groups at other Canadian universities to understand what these clubs have to offer!

John Molson Sports Marketing – Concordia University

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The John Molson Sports Marketing Committee is comprised of students from Concordia’s John Molson School of Business. As the committee’s president, Mikael Clement explained, the “committee’s mission is to add value for students interested in pursuing a career in the sports industry.” As was explained by Andrew Maggio in a recent uOSBC post, the focus of JMSM is their annual JMSM Sports Business Conference, which this year will be celebrating its 20th anniversary and expects to host 300 delegates. The 2015 edition of the conference will take place from November 5-7 and is open to the general public (with a university student target). Clement explains that going forward, JMSM will look to continue to “create the best sports business conference experience in the country.” uOSBC is excited to be sending a delegation to this year’s conference. November cannot come soon enough! For more information visit JMSM’s trendy website.

Sports Management Laurier – Wilfrid Laurier University

Sports Management Laurier (SML) is a sport management club at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo. As Zak Rybansky, the VP Membership on the SML Executive Team explains, the purpose of SML is to “further educate our members on the sport industry, allowing them to get an understanding of what it takes to make it, while providing them with opportunities to build relationships with other members and professionals in the sports world.” This year, SML has created a unique offering of events that are both on campus (ex. bringing speakers in to talk to the members) and in the field (ex. trips to MLSE conference, and interactive tour with TSN). Currently these events are only available to SML members, but as Rybansky explains SML is looking to grow with goals of one day “holding a sport conference as well as developing a sports management course at the school.” SML hopes that these goals will involve partnering with other sports business clubs and making events accessible to a wider audience. For more information on upcoming SML events visit SML on Facebook or on Twitter.

Queen’s Sports Industry Conference – Queen’s University Queen’s Sports Industry Conference (QSIC) is an executive committee from Queen’s University in Kingston. As Co-Chair Carly Nicholson described, “the purpose of QSIC is to inspire the sport industry leaders of tomorrow by creating an interactive environment to learn how to break into, and succeed in the sports industry.” QSIC hosts several events local to Queen’s including a golf tournament, fantasy draft, and an MLSE networking event, but its keystone event is the annual Queen’s Sports Industry Conference. This year’s conference will be held January 21-23 and is open to all students. This year’s event includes a case competition, a variety of keynote speakers and panel discussions, an interactive workshop, and a Sportsnet simulation. Another way that external students can get involved with QSIC is through the Campus Ambassadors program where applicants at other universities can apply to act as a liaison between their university and QSIC. For more information on QSIC visit their website. Their opening video is guaranteed to get you excited about sports business.

Desautels Sports Management Club – McGill University

Desautels Sports Management Club (DSMC) is a student-run club at McGill University in Montreal. Club President Thomas Kirouac explains that DSMC aims to “foster understanding and development of our members’ knowledge of the sports management industry.” The club welcomes all students at McGill that have an interest in sports business. Currently, DSMC is planning on hosting a speaker series at McGill as well as sending delegations of club members to 4-5 external conferences (including MIT’s Sloan Sports Analytics Conference). Going forward, Kirouac states that DSMC will look to “expand our membership base in order to provide quality speakers and an overall improved member experience.” DSMC offers a great way for any McGill student to explore the sports management industry. For more information on how to get involved, visit the DSMC website and follow them on Facebook.

Canadian Sports Business Network

New to the Canadian sports landscape is the Canadian Sports Business Network (CSBN). Co-Founder Matthew Paladino shared with us that “the purpose of the CSBN is to connect students with industry professionals while providing career planning and development resources.” The CSBN believes that there are many students across Canada who wish to pursue a career in sports, but that have difficulties breaking into the industry. On the docket for CSBN is the release of an e-book that will help students develop a “networking game plan”. CSBN has also been publishing a monthly “CSBN Pressbox Insider” newsletter that is dedicated to bringing together articles and opportunities on the topic of Canadian sports business. CSBN is currently in the beginning stages of development, but have already amassed hundreds of followers and their potential for growth seems limitless. Stay connected with CSBN through their Facebook group.

The common theme in talking shop with these clubs/committees/councils is the passion that exists within them and the genuine buzz in the Canadian sports business industry. As was indicated, many of these student-operated groups are currently succeeding in offering their members/audiences opportunities to explore the sports industry through various spectacular events. After some thought, other venues where I can envision these organizations providing and receiving value are through CIS Varsity Athletic Programs and Exchanges Abroad.

CIS Varsity Athletic Programs – Most universities in Canada participate in the CIS. Varsity sport managers are stretched thin managing multiple sports teams, websites, social media, etc. As well, varsity athletic programs do not necessarily have the funding to outsource necessary research into how to improve the delivery, marketing, sponsorship of varsity sport. Wouldn’t it be great if these varsity programs tapped into the potential that the sports business clubs on campus hold by engaging them through research projects and case studies?

Exchanges Abroad – Whether this means doing ‘web-pal’ monthly Skype sessions with organizations abroad, a weekend visit to a major NCAA Division 1 school, or a summer internship on another continent, the possibilities for growth, exchange of knowledge, and exposure to new ideas is unlimited. A great example of this type of initiative is the Commonwealth Games Canada ‘Sport Leaders Abroad’ program that ran from 2011-2014. This program placed Canadian sports professionals with sport organizations around the world to help provide these organizations with best practices, while allowing Canadians to develop and learn through new experiences.

As university sports business clubs continue to grow, I predict that clubs will continue to look both domestically and internationally for new experiences. As mentioned, sports business is an industry on the rise. Sports business clubs provide students and young professionals outstanding opportunities to organize initiatives, attend events, and generally engage with the sports industry. As these organizations continue to collaborate with each other and with established sports teams, sponsors, organizations, the foundations of the sports industry will continue to strengthen.

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