Behind the Scenes of Pro Sports

ConU Conference Dives into the World of Professional Athletics

  • Sports business executives and athletes shared their advice on making it big in the industry at the 18th annual John Molson Sports Marketing Conference. Photo Adam Castonguay

If you’ve ever tuned in to watch the Montreal Canadiens or the L.A. Dodgers over the past few years, or cheered Canada on in the 2010 Winter Olympics, chances are you’ve seen the likes of former Habs president Pierre Boivin, Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti and bronze medalist Joannie Rochette on TV.

But what if you had the chance to see one face-to-face—or better yet meet all three?

At the 18th annual John Molson Sports Business Conference last weekend, hundreds of sports marketing enthusiasts got to do exactly that.

“The John Molson Sports Business Conference is the largest student-run sports business conference in Canada,” said Angela Baker, president of the John Molson Sports Marketing Committee.

“It’s for students [and professionals] interested in sports and hoping to work in the industry someday.”

The three-day event took place from Nov. 7 to Nov. 9 and featured speaker panels, a keynote speech and a wealth of networking opportunities in between. Ticket prices ranged from $20 to $50 depending on the days and events attended.

“In my early career, I had a lot of people who helped me, [people] that I could gain wisdom and counsel from, and every time I have an opportunity to repay that I do,” Colletti, who gave this year’s keynote speech, told The Link.

“Montreal is one of my favourite cities, [and the conference gave me] the opportunity to come talk to some smart young people that have aspirations of getting into sports.”

The conference notably offered attendees a chance to try their hand at solving “real-life cases studies for real-life companies” in a friendly case competition on Thursday.

Panels on Friday and Saturday ranged from the topic of living under the pressure of having your every move scrutinized, to how to break into the business, to how today’s sports franchises are trying to increase fan interest.

Snack breaks in between panels gave conference-goers a chance to speak directly with the panellists and mingle with fellow students and sports business professionals.

Colletti was one of over 20 sports executives and athletes who came to share their thoughts and experiences at the conference. Among them was Memphis Grizzlies general manager Chris Wallace.

“I love to interact with young people who are passionate about getting into the world of sports,” Wallace, who managed the Boston Celtics for 10 seasons before taking on the same role with the Grizzlies in 2007, told The Link.

“Hopefully [the speakers] steer the students’ curiosity and make them even more motivated to jump in this career path—which is very difficult to plan,” he continued.

“You have to jump in the pool and start swimming, do the best you can and oftentimes some amazing things will happen to you.”
You would think such high-profile figures as Colletti and Wallace would come with a hefty price tag, but all speakers agreed to speak for free at the conference; the committee only covered their flights, accommodation and meals.

But the near two-dozen panellists that attended weren’t the only ones invited to speak.

“I sent out a hundred emails to every single general manager and president in the NHL, NBA, NFL and MLB,” said the committee’s director of speakers, Terrence Dobson.

“I wanted to get that person that people would be like, ‘No way we’re gonna get them.’ It was a lot of work but we were able to reach our goal.”

Over 20 Canadian universities sent out delegates to attend the conference, which was also open to professionals for the first time.
“The conference is definitely worth it, just because you’re not going be able to do something like this anywhere else,” said Riché Leveille, a student who came all the way from British Columbia to attend.

“You usually see these people on TV, but they’re not going to give you personal advice like they do here.

“It’s a huge networking event. In Canada, you’re more likely not going to have a job in your hometown, and there are only four or five big cities where you can have these job opportunities,” she continued.

“So to be here and be able to benefit from that, it’s just great.”

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