On Wednesday, March 12, the University of Toronto Sports and Business Association (UTSB) hosted its third annual Sports Industry Conference at the Rotman School of Management. The conference drew over 300 students, alumni, and industry members for a full day of panels and networking opportunities. Keynote speakers at the event were Michael Landsberg, Host of TSN’s “Off the Record,” and star Toronto FC striker and Scarborough native Dwayne De Rosario.
“Sports is a universal topic,” said Malcolm Mo, UTSB president. “No matter what program you’re in, no matter what country you’re from, you can come together and you can talk about sport and have a good discussion about it.”
The conference is student-run, and requires a long time to organize; the team of 30 undergraduate students are selected in April in order to plan the event.
With the organization being founded just three years ago, the conference has grown very quickly.
“Last year was our second year, and we held our conference at the Royal Ontario Museum,” said Mo. “That was a great success, and this year we’ve kicked it up a notch and brought it back to campus where we’re hosting at the Rotman School of Business.”
“Athlete Branding in the New Age” was the first panel topic of the day, moderated by Rotman professor Richard Powers. The four panelists were Corey Friesen (Director of Marketing, Under Armour Americas), Matt Maccarone (National Sports Marketing, Nike), Greg Wood (Head of Marketing and Partnership, UFC), and Bruce Popko (Senior Vice President Business Development, with the Buffalo Bills).
Later in the day, Bloomberg Sports sponsored the second panel discussion on analytics in and off the playing field. The panelists, ranging from Reid Mitchell (Director Hockey and Scouting with the Toronto Maple Leafs) to Alex Rucker (Senior Analytics Consultant with the Toronto Raptors), discussed the constant development of analytics and sport, and the gap between the publically known data on teams and athletes, and that known only by those affiliated with the organizations.
The final panel of the day focused on “Twitter and the New Age of Fan Interaction.” Moderated by TSN’s Gurdeep Ahluwalia, panelists discussed the ups and downs of Twitter, shared Twitter horror stories, and discussed how players, teams, and companies are using the social media site in order to enhance their images and strategically plan advertisements to go live during certain games in order to hit their target audiences. They explained how using the social network is becoming more effective with the growing popularity of the site, and how brands market their products strategically on the site while fans watch games on TV. Sitting on this panel were David Hopkinson (Chief Commercial Officer, MLSE), Debora Silveira (Account Executive, Twitter Canada), Keith Gordon (President of NFL Players Inc.), and James Duthie (Host at TSN).
After the discussions, conference delegates were invited to attend a career fair and trade floor where they had the opportunity to meet professionals and get more information about work and volunteer opportunities. Organizations present included the Jays Care Foundation, Blade Tech Hockey, and Chartered Professional Accountants Ontario, among others