Colleges Headline Sports Business

ESPN’s John Skipper And Adam Schefter Speak To Attendees Of 2nd Annual Michigan Sport Business Conference

The following recap was written by Belmont University Law School student and aspiring sports/entertainment agent Mark J. Burns.

December  13, 2011 - Brisol, CT - Executive Board Room: John Skipper..Credit: Joe Faraoni/ESPN
ESPN President John Skipper served as the Keynote Speaker at the Michigan Sport Business Conference. Credit: Joe Faraoni/ESPN

Last week, the University of Michigan hosted the 2nd Annual Michigan Sport Business Conference, which was held at the Stephen M. Ross School of Business.  The day-long event featured undergraduate and graduate students, aspiring sports business professionals, and seasoned veterans from all across the industry.  The 32-member team, led by Co-Presidents Michael Freedman and David Herman, put on a great conference that hopefully will become one of the industry’s ‘must attend’ yearly events.

“When you spend a lot of time planning an event, you want to make sure you have everything covered at all times,” said Michael Freedman, Co-President of the Michigan Sport Business Conference.  “The Michigan Network, as well as our Board of Advisors, helped us get the speakers, but it was up to each team member to make sure the production and execution were perfect.  Sitting there while Adam Schefter was talking, I was able to take a deep breath of relief and feel an overwhelming sense of pride of what our team did.

Freedman added: “I’m very happy with how the event went.  VP Marketing Joey Fox and his team did a great job to get the seats filled, while Jeremy Ross and his team executed the day-of production seamlessly.  When you have a group of all-stars committed to one cause, you don’t have to worry about much.”

The three group panels — The Global Reach of Sport, Sport Presidency, and Brand Expansion Through Sport — along with the Keynote Speaker, ESPN President, John Skipper, all provided the students and sports business professionals with a 360 degree view of the current state of sport.  The conference concluded with a surprise call-in from ESPN’s NFL Insider, Adam Schefter, to answer a few questions from the attendees.

Below are 10 of the high-level takeaways from John Skipper’s Keynote, which was moderated by ESPN Announcer, Mike Tirico.

  1. ESPN’s mission statement is ‘To Serve Sports Fans’; Skipper strongly believes in short, crisp, and easy-to-remember mission statements.
  2. According to Skipper, sports is the most important and valuable segment within the entertainment and media world.
  3. ESPN’s brand statement is ‘Sports with Authority and Personality’.
  4. Only 87 people who are women or people of color work in the national media.  60 work at ESPN.
  5. Over 90% of national sportswriters are white males.
  6. ESPN wants to do 60,000 hours of content in 2014, with 1,000 of those hours being women’s sports.
  7. Women comprise 30% of ESPN’s audience.
  8. ESPN is no longer concerned with producing television.  Rather, it is all about producing content that plays on a video screen.
  9. ESPN strives to find sports fans…anytime, anywhere.
  10. One of the ugliest aspects of sports is fans who have no perspective.

Below are 15 of the best takeaways, both advice-related and industry-related, from the speaker panels.

  1. The move toward digital ticketing is perhaps inevitable.  A number of teams are experimenting with different features.
  2. Teams must provide connectivity and enable consumers to be part of something much bigger than just attending the games.
  3. Having WI-FI at sporting events/football games is going to be like electricity; soon, everyone will have it.
  4. Sports is the biggest relationship industry in America.
  5. Generating content for viewers is still the name of the game; the medium through which viewers consume (television, tablet, phone, etc.) does not matter.
  6. Learning how to write — regardless of where you might work in the sports world — is arguably one of the best skill-sets to master.
  7. Relationships are not built through text messaging; they are built through personal contact.  In other words, face-to-face interaction is the best form of connecting with other sports business professionals.
  8. Look for the National Hockey League to conduct regular season games in Europe in the near future, with the Detroit Red Wings being a part of that; at the same time, the NFL continues to increase the number of games being played overseas.
  9. The days of spots and dots are over.  Brands want meaningful connections and activation.
  10. Sports give companies an excuse/permission to enter peoples’ lives.
  11. Much talk about how teams can enhance fans’ gameday experience from the time they leave their home until the time they return; teams then need to look at lifestyle marketing.
  12. Three keys to success: business acumen, innovation, and pure hard work.
  13. A handful of speakers reiterated that the best way to break into the sports industry is through sales.
  14. Job/internship advice — Excel at whatever it is you do.  Have a proven track record of success to get hired.
  15. Emotional capital cannot be replicated with in-home viewers.

By Darren Heitner

Darren Heitner created Sports Agent Blog as a New Year's Resolution on December 31, 2005. Originally titled, "I Want To Be A Sports Agent," the website was founded with the intention of causing Heitner to learn more about the profession that he wanted to join, meet reputable individuals in the space and force himself to stay on top of the latest news and trends.

Heitner now runs Heitner Legal, P.L.L.C., which is a law firm with many practice areas, including sports law and contract law. Heitner has represented numerous athletes and sports agents as legal counsel. He has also served as an Adjunct Professor at Indiana University Bloomington from 2011-2014, where he created and taught a course titled, Sport Agency Management, which included subjects ranging from NCAA regulations to athlete agent certification and the rules governing the profession. Heitner serves as an Adjunct Professor at the University of Florida Levin College of Law, where he teaches a Sports Law class that includes case law surrounding athlete agents and the NCAA rules.