ALEXANDRA YAO/THE VARSITY

The University of Toronto Sports and Business Association’s (UTSB) annual Sports Industry Conference took place on March 6, 2015 at the Rotman School of Management. The day was packed with speakers and panels of leaders of all sorts in the sports industry.

“This [can be] your first step into the industry. Whether it’s networking, gaining very awesome insights, getting some sort of tips. Just networking with the people on your table might be another way to go,” said Ted Machizawa, current president of UTSB.

David Kincaid, who serves as the Managing Partner & Founder for Level 5 Strategy Group moderated the opening panel, “Why Invest in Sports”. The panelists consisted of Justine Fedak, Head of Brand, Advertising & Sponsorship, BMO; Scott Moore, President, Sportsnet & NHL Properties at Rogers; and Ken Otto, President, Family, Dining & CDO, Cara Operations. The first panel of the event dealt with the factors that drive large corporations to take note of sports of all sorts and how sponsorships are leveraged.

The second panel, “Same Script, Different Story” was moderated by copywriter and contributor for TSN Bar Down, Daniel Bruno. This panel dealt with the dramatically changing technology and mediums that networks use to engage with their audiences within sports broadcasting and reporting industry.

Panelists included, Evanka Osmak, sports anchor, Sportsnet; James Mirtle, NHL writer, The Globe and Mail; Steve McAllister, managing editor, Yahoo Sports Magazine; and Scott Morrison, journalist, Sportsnet.

Arguably, the most anticipated panel of the conference, the third was “Big Data & How We View Sports”. The growth of sports analytics has recently been on a tear. Analytics has grown at different rates in the various sports. Alex Burwasser, who is the Sports Analyst at Bloomberg Sports, moderated the panel.

The panel consisted of Jason Rosenfeld, Director of Basketball Analytics, NBA; Kevin Abrams, Assistant General Manager, New York Giants; Neil Smith, sports analyst, Sportsnet, and Former General Manager, NHL.

Smith pointed out that in the near future of hockey analytics “we will be able to break down things in ways we have never seen before.”

The entire panel referred to Michael Lewis’ book, Moneyball, as to where sports analytics really started to take on a wave. Within the next decade, as analytics advance a huge number of job openings will be available in all NBA teams and also the NBA front office, said Rosenfeld, who holds the first ever basketball analytics position at the NBA head office.

A big challenge the sports industry faces is filtering out the noise versus useful information that teams can use when it comes to data. Psychology is another aspect of analytics that is overlooked when everyone is focused on crunching numbers. Teams are looking for ways to test athletes to decide if a player is ready to play at the pro-level.

Susan Krashinsky moderated the final panel, “Disruptive Marketing in Sports”. Krashinsky is an Advertising & Marketing Reporter for The Globe And Mail. Panelists included Keith Degrace, Vice-President of Marketing, Red Bull Canada; Susan O’Brien, Vice-President of Strategic Marketing, Canadian Tire; Kevin Foley, founding parter, Project 10; and John McCauley, senior director of Marketing, MLSE.

The final two speakers were Rob Elwood and John Bitove. Elwood is the host of the number one sports podcast on iTunes, “Who Are You: The Life Lessons of Sports.” Bitove served as the final keynote, and he is best known as founder of both the Toronto Raptors and the Air Canada Centre.

Bitove discussed the growth of the game and culture of basketball in Canada when the Raptors arrived in 1995, as well as the expected growth in upcoming years.

“Team Canada will soon have its full roster of 12 players playing in the NBA,” said Bitove, who founded the Raptors when he was just 33.

“When the Canadian and American dollar are equal, then Montreal and Vancouver will have teams,” said Bitove when asked about future Canadian NBA teams.

Avish Sood, Co-Founder of UTSB, said that the conference has grown exponentially over the years. Sood is currently working with the Toronto 2015 Pan Am Games in a sponsorship position.

“I [still] help out with organizing in terms of the strategy and in terms of getting the speakers,” says Sood.

“Through this conference, I learned to be a professional. I learned how to send emails properly, [and] deal with executives, VP’s, presidents,” says Sood.

Sood explains that there are many opportunities for students to get involved in UTSB, especially first and second year students.

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