For many, the thrill of professional sports is palpable. Their lives almost seem to revolve around the successes and failures of their favorite teams. What many might not know is that the business side of the industry can be just as invigorating. The strategic business moves off the field are often just as critical—and potentially as exciting—as the game on the field. Behind every successful franchise lies a team of management professionals responsible for handling everything from talent acquisition to public relations. Although this career track is competitive, it has the potential to be deeply rewarding.
In the world of sports management, graduate-level education is often the minimum requirement for entry. If you want to make your mark in this industry, obtaining a Master of Business Administration can be very advantageous.
The right MBA program can equip you with the analytical mindset, data interpretation skills, and leadership savvy required for the field’s most noteworthy jobs. Once you’ve earned this important credential, you’ll be prepared to take on positions such as:
- Professional Sports Marketing Director
Professional sports teams rely on strategic branding and clear messaging to inspire fan engagement in the short-term. The right marketing initiatives can also inspire the long-term commitment needed to transform today’s fans into lifelong team enthusiasts. Skilled Marketing Directors—professionals who seek to understand their team’s fanbase—are essential to short- and long-term success. They are often responsible for:
- Developing action-oriented and innovative marketing campaigns to boost season ticket sales.
- Growing viewership for TV broadcasts and using tools, such as social media, to help develop and energize a loyal fanbase.
- Leading marketing department employees, providing the guidance and vision necessary to promote cohesive messaging among marketing team members.
- Developing corporate business partners—from direct advertising campaigns to athlete endorsements.
- Collaborating with other pro sports teams—as well as media outlets and local businesses—on community-oriented initiatives, such as charity events.
Future pro sports marketing directors can benefit from MBA courses with an emphasis in marketing management. These specialized courses delve into social media tools, distribution channels, brand extensions, analytics, and other principles that help marketing leaders execute their creative visions.
The right MBA, such as what is available through UTC’s Rollins College of Business, can give marketing directors insight into a number of critical departmental areas and strategies, from the budget to personnel. Upon graduating, they should be prepared to streamline marketing department operations while still keeping an eye toward innovation.
- Professional SportsPublic Relations Director
Pro sports marketing directors are not the only professionals responsible for shaping the public’s perception of teams, individual players, and facilities. Similarly, PR directors have an important role to play. These communications-oriented professionals cultivate positive perceptions of pro sports team with media outlets, as well as the public. They also supervise PR specialists to ensure that the organization’s messaging is consistent.
Under the PR director’s leadership, the public learns of important sports developments through press releases, interviews, social media posts, and promotional events. To ensure that their messages are as visible as possible, PR directors cultivate strong relationships with important news outlets, including local and national TV channels, radio stations, newspapers, or even sports bloggers. These professionals serve as essential liaisons between media resources and team management.
Aspiring pro sports PR directors benefit from in depth accounting classes within the MBA program, as they’re often responsible for creating and maintaining strict PR budgets. A thorough understanding of organizational theory is also critical, as concepts such as group dynamics play into the overarching performance of PR departments.
- Professional SportsGeneral Manager
While marketing professionals work best with advertisers and media outlets, management professionals excel at handling the day-to-day affairs that keep athletic organizations running. General managers (GMs), for example, take on a variety of crucial responsibilities that impact both individual and team dynamics. These responsibilities often include:
- Representing the interests of the team by announcing key (and sometimes controversial) decisions to the public.
- Managing a successful rookie draft by scouting, selecting, and signing players.
- Hiring coaches and delegating responsibilities between management and coaching staff.
- Reporting to the team owner and helping shape their vision for the team.
Successful GMs possess a comprehensive range of managerial, analytical, and leadership skills that promote success in a dynamic, fast-paced industry. An MBA can help prepare them for this high-pressure environment by introducing them to the foundations of organizational behavior, valuation techniques, and project management. Additionally, aspiring GMs use MBA programs to master the entrepreneurial principles that underscore strategic innovation.
- Professional SportsCap Analyst
Those who enjoy the number-crunching aspects of business management may be drawn to the analytical, problem-solving nature of the cap analyst. The “cap” in cap analyst speaks to the important role of determining salary caps for players as well as personnel.
Essential to both the financial health and the overall performance of the teams they work with, cap analysts assess player value and integrate these findings into contract negotiations. Using targeted statistical methods and pricing models, they determine how to allocate resources for attracting the best talent. They work to:
- Investigate and develop relationships with extension-eligible and free agent athletes.
- Determine the fair market value for free agents and comparable athletes.
- Study team trends to inform future cap projections and integrate these findings into current negotiations while keeping an eye on long-term team objectives.
MBA programs provide valuable preparation for the complicated, detail-oriented world of the modern pro sports cap analyst. Data analytics courses like those offered as part of the UTC MBA with Business Analytics concentration, in particular, help aspiring cap analysts develop a detailed understanding of key performance indicators, regression modeling, and cluster analysis.
- Pro Sports Agents
While general managers and cap analysts maintain a team-oriented focus, sports agents work closely with specific athletes to secure the best possible contracts for their clients. As with sales professionals conveying the value of a product or service, sports agents “sell” teams on the value of investing in their client athletes—and advocating for the highest compensation possible.
No two days look exactly alike for sports agents. Much of their routine revolves around the specific needs of the athletes or coaches they represent. Common responsibilities include:
- Scouting unsigned players (such as college athletes or free agents lacking representation) to find new clients.
- Consulting with athletes to determine both financial and athletic objectives.
- Developing short and long-term plans to move clients towards these goals.
- Evaluating and advocating for no-trade clauses, opt-outs, or performance-based incentives.
- Working with sponsors to secure endorsement deals for athletes and procuring other income-generating opportunities as allowed within team contracts.
- Handling PR concerns on behalf of athletes—especially in the event of controversy.
An MBA can help future sports agents develop a deep understanding of business contracts, game theory, and competitive pricing supported by trusted economic models. Sports agents should also understand organizational behavior as they navigate the subtle complexities of team culture.
Opportunities abound for sports-minded management professionals. If you are passionate about pro sports, an MBA could give you both the skills and the resume boost you need to stand out in an exciting and challenging field. Don’t miss this opportunity to make your mark in the world of pro sports.
For more information on how the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga’s MBA program can help you pursue your career goals, contact us at https://www.utc.edu/mba.
From public relations director to cap analyst, a variety of pro sports management careers are available to ambitious individuals equipped with their MBA.