A few decades ago, football players would have found it hard to believe their sport would one day be a multi-billion dollar industry.
They would have found it hard to believe so many people would pay so much to watch the game at all.
Early football pitches represented something more akin to a medieval battlefield, with players kicking each other through the mud.
Football tactics amounted to nothing much more then dribbling in the general direction of the goal and hoping no one tackled you.
The English, after all, considered passing to be unmanly.
Over the course of a century, amateurs who engaged in part-time kickabouts followed by trips down to the pub transformed into highly paid professionals with fame and adulation equivalent to rock stars.
The evolution of football epitomizes the evolution of sports business as a whole. One can no longer say “it’s just a game”.
Careers, companies and national dignity are on the line every time professional athletes take to the field.
An industry of industries
The Roman Empire understood the power of sport, and emperors frequently used the games as a means of currying favour amongst their people.
The Romans also understood the power of sport as business.
Even though their famous Colosseum drew audiences from all over the empire, they could never have envisioned the industry as it is today.
The 2012 Super Bowl XLVI had a viewership of 167 million worldwide and 111 million in the U.S, making it the most watched television broadcast of any kind in America,
while the 2006 Soccer World Cup had a viewership of 715 million (Wikipedia).
The Ancient Greeks understood the importance of physical fitness, especially through sport.
But again, modern society has taken their philosophies to a new level, with advances in health science making the benefits of promoting fitness through sport evident,
and advances in technology providing more efficient means of doing so.
The gym has become a central part of culture as it was with the Ancient Greeks.
Then there’re the social benefits that sport provides, whether it’s being utilized by companies as part of team-building activities, or by non-profit organizations to help the disadvantaged.
It’s a universal form of communication that can transcend all language barriers.
This is something recognised by organizations like Travellers Worldwide know well, which use the benefits of sport to help refugee children from war-torn countries settle into their new environments.
Sport as a business caters to those seeking fitness, those seeking entertainment, and those seeking social engagement.
With the emergence of extreme sports, we see yet another service the industry can provide, as it becomes a means for adrenaline junkies to obtain their fix.
Film audiences thought it was impressive when Batman soared through the window of a high-rise building in Hong Kong to abduct a criminal accountant in The Dark Knight.
For extreme sports enthusiasts who engage in “wingsuit flying”, that’s just what they do on their days off.
Making it in Sports Business
Lou Imbriano, CEO of marketing firm TrinityOne, has 25 years of experience in the sports industry.
He believes anyone hoping to succeed in sports business needs to bear in mind three fundamental principles:
- Change: Sports business is constantly changing, and you need to be able to identify emerging trends and adapt quickly.
- Fans: Never forget that the fans are the foundation of sports business. They’re the ones who fill up the stadiums, and they’re the ones who buy the shirts.
- Advice: When it comes to seeking advice, remember that sport elicits more rampant enthusiasm than most other industries, and such enthusiasm may fool people into believing they’re experts.
Someone who has no involvement in the information technology field will likely refrain from providing advice on information technology,
but the same person will be all too eager to provide their opinion on a sports enterprise, even if their only involvement is watching from an armchair with a beer can in their hand.
Seek advice from people who have real experience in that field and not from people who have experience “with sports”.
Sports businesses cater to many different needs, and transcend cultural boundaries.
Whether you’re an agent, a coach, a manager, part of the marketing team, or the guy running the cafeteria, there’s no shortage of potential career paths should you choose to study sports business.
License: Creative Commons
Matthew Flax writes for Now Learning, a higher education portal that promotes a variety of tertiary education opportunities in Australia, including graduate certificate courses in sport management.