Education to Move Students from the Lecture Hall to the Workforce | Sports Destination Management

Education to Move Students from the Lecture Hall to the Workforce

May 21, 2020 | By: Eric Bartels

© Sharaf Maksumov |
Now more than ever and whether we wantto believe it or not, the sports business industry should be considered and included as an entertainment optionfor people when looking at the entertainment industry as a whole. 

Look no further than the late NBA Commissioner David Stern and his passion and commitment to grow the once unstable basketball league in the early 1980s into a global marketing behemoth on the same scale as the Walt Disney Company.

Over the past 30 years, the media industry has taken what has been often referred to as the “sports and recreation” marketplace and helped catalyze the business, bringing people together from around the world through technology and media. As a result, and according to Pricewaterhouse Coopers (PwC) the global entertainment and media industry is expected to grow to $6.7 billion over the next 10 years, or by 2030.

So, what does that mean for event management administrators? In one word: opportunities. The opportunities to attract a wide range of traditional (such as volleyball tournaments) to non-traditional (such as esports tournaments) events to your cities, and communities can be limitless. Additionally, for aspiring sports business professionals, the same can be said. The opportunities to enter the sports industry today are vast and diverse.

Currently, most men and women aspiring to work in the sports industry may have their eyes set on professional sports or intercollegiate athletics employment after seeing countless videos of their favorite players and teams on digital and social media platforms. However, there are many more organizations where sports marketing and management degree majors can focus their careers, including the major brands (Coca-Cola, Visa, etc.) marketing through the sports industry in the plethora of facilities, such as arenas, ballparks, golf clubs and stadiums around the country where events are staged. 

In addition to college athletics and professional sports, there are numerous parks and recreation programs, non-profit associations as well as local and regional youth sports programs in communities across the country where career opportunities may abound for young professionals. Further, there is no shortage of jobs as well. Marketing, sales, ticketing and communication (or public relations) are only a small number of departments (or positional titles) found within many sports businesses today.

Although the ways to enter the sports industry are vast, as a student, so too are the ways to build the necessary skills and tools to stay current, or ahead, in this ever-evolving industry. Further, many sports marketing and management programs may emphasize a specific area of study (law, management, etc.) in order to stand out from other similarly perceived programs. Therefore, due diligence on the part of aspiring sports marketing and management students will be necessary to see how his//var/www/vhosts/ career aspirations align with the program’s core curriculum. 

For example, at Full Sail University, an undergraduate degree in Sports Marketing and Media is offered, bringing together four key pillars in the sports industry – sports, marketing, media and technology. By the time a student reaches the conclusion of the program, he or she has drilled down more deeply to understand that without the convergence of these primary pillars, it may be difficult to find successful fan engagement in today’s world. 

During their time as students, undergrads may take a range of courses from Business Project Management to Mobility and Technology Marketing, and from Storytelling in Marketing to Marketing Plans and Campaign Development.

Similarly, at the graduate level, Full Sail offers an Entertainment Business degree with a Sports Management track. This degree supports the content offered at the undergraduate degree level. However, as with many other universities today, the master’s degree also challenges students to think more broadly as the courses will develop their leadership, technology and management skills. 

Our university (like others) works to provide students with what we, at least, like to call a “prac-ademic approach,” a hybrid term that means blending theoretical principles with the practical approaches taken by many sports business professionals. Often, the inclusion of real-world case studies into course work that are gleaned from our instructor’s own experiences in the field have built a better runway for student learning. As a result, many students, and now alumni, who have entered the field look back at those experiences as some of the most rewarding times during their student careers. 

Additionally, and as the sports industry continues to mature, it’s imperative that students entering the business have some form of hands-on experience, where skill development continues to adapt and evolve. Whether looking at professional sports teams or even associations, most organizations prefer to onboard budding sports marketing professionals with some kind of prior experience. 

Therefore, in nearly every program nationwide, students are encouraged  to get involved and build their body of work outside the classroom, too. In Central Florida, there is no shortage of sporting events and competitions. From local youth sports competitions (i.e. AAU) to events as large as the NFL Pro Bowl game, students can choose from an array of opportunities to build on their knowledge and skills foundation in the classroom, while connecting with sports business professionals in the marketplace. 

As another example, one of the most popular student initiatives on our campus was formed nearly 10 years ago when the WWE brought its NXT series, to our university’s performance venue, Full Sail Live. This allowed Sports Marketing & Media degree students opportunities to get involved and support the events and show tapings held on campus, but many of our other degree programs (Film Production, Show Production, etc.) and their respective students were positively impacted by getting hands-on experience shadowing and learning side-by-side with industry professionals. The opportunity for students to get immediate feedback from some of the best event, marketing and production professionals is invaluable. 

Additionally, internships are another terrific avenue where sports marketing and management students may see incredible experience. Typically, sports organizations will invest in a student over a prescribed length of time (sometimes between three to 12 months), rather than during a single-day event or event series. Rather, this gives the entity an opportunity to learn more about the individual and see if they are a good fit for the organization. The same can be said for the student as they should closely examine the sports business to see if the business leadership, culture and future opportunities to grow make for a good match, too.

By today’s standards, sports marketing and management employers are requiring a diverse skill set to match a fast-paced and often frenetic environment. Quite often, there are common skills sought and often in demand, such as effective communication; solid work ethic; critical analysis and the ability to multi-task to manage a handful of projects.

As we look to the future, esports has and will continue to compete for attention among traditional sports (basketball, soccer, etc.) viewership. For many Millennials and Generation Z, video game playing often surpasses sports television viewership as millions of livestreamed and pre-recorded videos are consumed by audiences on a daily basis. Esports tournaments, both large and small, have sprouted up around the country and what was once considered a niche activity now has a worldwide following.

 It’s simple. Sport and competition are both deeply rooted in the fabric of our society. At an early age, children are introduced to sporting activities. Some will gain an interest in a particular sport and be able to rise to the highest level in professional sport. While others will have an opportunity to support athletes, teams, (and gamers) at the varying levels by taking on jobs and roles to coach, promote, market and even sell the events and competitions to the marketplace. 

At its core, sport is another form of entertainment. It has the ability to form emotional bonds and forge opportunities to create memorable experiences with its audience. Perhaps, those sports marketing and management students who find success in the industry will see its impact also.  SDM