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5 Sport Management Jobs for Non-Athletes

September 17

Chances are when someone brings up sports, sport management jobs aren’t necessarily your first thought. When we think about the sports industry we tend to immediately think about major tournaments and the athletes competing in them. Things like the glory of the Olympic Games, the excitement of the Super Bowl, the pressure of the World Cup and the pride and rivalry of college football games. But the athletes aren’t the only ones hard at work before, during and after those games and tournaments.

Behind the scenes is a team of professionals who work day in and day out to ensure that the facilities, athletes, business and tournaments are taken care of and successful. The sports industry is currently on track to reach $80.3 billion by 2022 in North America alone,1 and offers a wide range of positions for those who seek to join it. Which role you choose really depends on what you’re passionate about.

Don’t Sit on the Sidelines

While sport management jobs tend to be behind the scenes positions, it hardly means these professionals are sitting on the sidelines. Jobs in sport management can sometimes quite literally get you on the field. These careers can include accounting, facility management, advertising, researching and more. Whether your goal is to work in the community to instill the love of sports in the local youth or to climb the ranks and join a professional organization, it’s important to remember that this fast-growing field is competitive at every level. This means that there are positions that may require a master’s in sport management, it also means that having a master’s to your name may set you apart from the rest of the competition.

So how do you begin to determine which role may be right for you? We’ll explore five sport management jobs and what it takes to succeed in them below:

  1. Market Research Analyst:2 As the popularity of professional sports teams in the major leagues grow, the licensed sports merchandise market is expected to reach nearly $49 billion by 2024.3 A market research analyst usually works behind the scenes by are given credit for helping their organizations generate high levels of licensing revenue. For teams who conduct research to learn which merchandise has the greatest potential for high sales, the market research analyst is a key player. They ensure that their team avoids wasting time on subpar or unsold products by conducting vital market research examining the merit of merchandise endorsed by players. In terms of sports licensing, market research analysts are tasked with studying the current market conditions to help their organization become more aware of where potential sales may lie. The market research analyst will usually gather information through interviews, focus groups, surveys, public opinion polls and questionnaires to learn which products fans are thinking about purchasing. The responsibilities of a market research analyst involve forecasting sales trends, gauging the effectiveness of current marketing strategies that are in place, implementing methods to collect consumer data, utilizing software to study market conditions, translating their findings into more palatable written reports and then presenting the results to the organization’s executives.
  2. Facilities Director:3 Also known as an athletic facilities manager, a sports facilities director is focused on overseeing the daily operations of football and soccer fields, baseball stadiums, tennis courts, pools, golf courses and many other athletic venues. A sports facilities director works hard behind the scenes to ensure that game day goes off without a hitch and that the quality of play and safety of athletic teams is up to par. In order to maintain smooth operations for their venue, a sports facilities director must be a jack-of-all-trades and possess a wide variety of skills. Since they generally manage at least 10 or more employees, strong leadership abilities are essential for a sports facilities director. Managerial, strategic planning and decision-making skills are also crucial for these individuals to handle situations confidently.
  3. Corporate Sponsorship:4 Modern professionals who handle corporate sponsorships have increased their focus on quantifying the return on interest (ROI) or demonstrating that the partnership has provided a return on their objectives (ROO). These professionals need to have a good understanding of why the sponsors are spending money with them, and they need the ability to quantify their value to the partners. To do this, those tasked with securing corporate sponsorship deals must prove that they can accomplish a variety of goals that include but aren’t limited to driving customers to retail, ideally by getting fans into the partners' physical stores. A great way to do this is with player appearances at specific locations. Driving sales, this could be with coupons on the back of tickets or by leveraging a suite to entertain and woo potential clients. Lead generation is one of the most valuable things a team can offer in corporate sponsorship. On-site activations such as raffling off a prize in exchange for fans providing their contact information can provide this valuable asset for partners. Increasing brand awareness is another key offering as is brand engagement. Partners are looking for an integrated sponsorship strategy, so corporate sponsorship professionals should be able to demonstrate that their team has a clear and thorough understanding of the partner’s business objectives and how the team will leverage necessary assets to drive meaningful and quantifiable business results.
  4. Sports Analytics Professional:5 Sports analytics as a practice has been around for ages, but recent advances in technology and data collection have broadened the capabilities and scope of this field. Most professional teams utilize data and statistics to analyze things from batting averages to distance covered in soccer games. Teams and sports that employ sports analytics will hire statisticians who are tasked with establishing parameters for measurement, such as hit or fumble rates, and consistently collect data from a broad sample. They’ll then curate and optimize the data so that the results are accurate and usable. This data will be used to manage individual and team performance for things like optimal exercise programs and nutritional plans to maximize fitness levels. Teams will also use sports analytics to develop everything from on-field tactics to draft strategies. Most of the professionals who work in sports analytics are statisticians who have a background in mathematics as well as some sort of specialization in sport management.
  5. League Administrator:3 Athletic leagues can range from youth sports to amateur athletics and professional organizations in basically every sport imaginable. Like any other organization, leagues need oversight and governance to properly operate. And that’s where league administrators come in. These professionals are upper-level managers who are personally responsible for coordinating the entire league’s operations. League administrators must shoulder the task of ensuring that everything occurring on and off of the field goes smoothly for their league. They ensure compliance with the governing rules of the sport, organize and schedule game, form financial goals, recruit coaches, promote the league, manage drafts, report issues to the governing board, plan the playoff tournament (when applicable) and more. To be successful in this role you’ll need to hone your leadership and interpersonal skills, as league administrators frequently communicate with players, general managers, coaches, governing agencies, and sometimes even the public. There are a few league administrators who function as spokespeople, which makes public speaking an excellent skill to have. Attention to detail, time management, and excellent organizational skills are also necessary for success, as well as analytical abilities to balance the league’s finances. For those looking to break into the senior-level administrative roles in professional leagues, a master’s in sport management is almost essential.

Things to Keep in Mind

The five jobs we described are just a few of the many varied opportunities in sport management. It’s never a bad idea to fully explore what this broad field has to offer to non-athletes, but you should keep a few factors in mind while you search for the right job and the right team. Think about how the organization treats everyone from their players to their lowest staff member. Consider how you want to be managed, and if the organization’s style matches what you’re looking for. Think about the size of the organization, where they’re at compared to the competition, if there’s room for growth and improvement and how successful the team is.

And remember, because master’s degree holders typically earn average salaries nearly 20 percent higher than those with only a bachelor’s degree,6 a master’s in sport management salary could reach outcomes that are above the median pay for many of these positions.

Are You Ready to Rise With Us?

If climbing the ranks of the sport management industries is your goal, getting an online master’s in sport management* degree from the University of Kansas can accelerate your journey. Athletes gravitate towards talented trainers and successful teams, why shouldn’t you? The degree program is part of KU’s Department of Health, Sport, and Exercise Sciences, whose first chair was Dr. James Naismith, the inventor of basketball. Consider how earning a master’s title from a university that knows a thing or two about winning titles can help accelerate your career in the sport management field. Request a brochure today!

*This program is a Master of Science in Education (M.S.E.) degree in health, sport management, and exercise science with an emphasis in sport management.