With the evolution of education, one aspect which is very much visible is the emergence of newer academic areas and study programmes. The role of education today is not confined to gaining knowledge only. It has today become a path leading to a successful career and a better future. As a result, we see more specialized academic programmes catering to dedicated fields. One such growing programme is Sports Management. As Dr Adam Karg says, “Considering its full impact, the sport industry employs thousands, delivers services to millions and generates billions of dollars in both established and emerging economies.”

Read on to find out more about Sports Management as an academic field, as Dr Adam Karg gets candid on the topic. He is a Lecturer in the Sport Management Programme at Deakin University in Melbourne, Australia. Dr Adam Karg is engaged in a wide range of consulting and research activities with national and state sporting organisations, governing bodies, charities, sport technology start-ups and sport clubs, and is a co-author of the Australasian region’s leading Sport Marketing textbook “Strategic Sport Marketing, 4th edition”.

What are the scopes and opportunities of sports marketing and management as an academic area? Why management programme in sports management is gaining importance?
Considering its full impact, the sport industry employs thousands, delivers services to millions and generates billions of dollars in both established and emerging economies. The increasing emergence of professional organisations in India is reflective of more established sport markets worldwide, where many countries support a range of sport-related industries. In line with this, there are a range of academic bodies who work with sport management institutions, associations and groups to connect and move the industry forward.

What is the role of universities and business schools in the area of Sports Management?
Universities deliver a multifaceted focus of teaching, research and industry service and leadership for the sport industry. Educating future sport managers in areas across governance, facility management, social or legal issues and marketing plays a key role. Also, conceptualising key questions, undertaking research and interacting with and leading discussions are all key functions of sport management programmes across the world.

How should a management programme in sports be seen vis-à-vis a general management programme? What are the specific skills that a specialized sports management programme offer?
Certainly at the professional level, there are aspects of the sport industry that have reached professional status and act very much like ’generic’ corporate businesses or organisations. However, there are unique aspects of the industry such as a greater need for co-operation between organisations, the highly emotional nature of sport consumption, and the public nature of sport that leads to the need to balance outcomes for multiple and complex sets of stakeholders.

As such, what has emerged is a specific sport management discipline, with specific structures, theories and frameworks relevant to the industry. Some examples include sport development frameworks, governance system and specific marketing theories developed for the sport context. In short, the role of the sport manager necessitates both a business background and knowledge and understanding of the sport industry as a unique and distinct one.

What is the impact of new forms of marketing on consumers and organisations, including the integration of best practice materials and frameworks to assist professional and grass roots sport organisations?
Sport organisations, particularly those with a marketing orientation are increasingly adopting a consumer-centric focus and realisation that the building of communities and movements is central to the engagement and identification so vital to successful and sustainable sport brands. As such some of the key impacts and requirements of sport marketing (and the focus of our recent Deakin workshops in India) include:

  • Understanding the emerging need for greater consumer and relationship marketing focuses in sport marketing
  • Understanding the need and opportunities for organisations and consumers to work together to create value
  • Developing strategic approaches to fan development and fan engagement
  • Understanding that sport consumption includes a mix of functional and emotional aspects
  • Accepting the role of data as a core dimension in strategy, with marketing and engagement in sport a balance of  ‘art’ and ‘science’
  • Understanding that a myriad of new media tools and opportunities provide new ways to communicate, share, educate and engage consumers of high involvement products like sport
  • Understanding that one size does not fit all, and that the brand in question, the sport and any geographic context plays an important role in marketing strategy

What are the key challenges that a budding sports manager faces in the industry?
Primarily in India, it is clear the discipline of sport management is still being established, and as such, the option for students to consider sport management as a viable career path is likewise in development. Generally, then, the visibility of Sport Management as a career, educating managers and encouraging and implementing strong governance as well as ushering in professionalization and commercialisation processes present as industry challenges.

The signs are good in India, with passionate sporty public, new successful leagues and teams, and a range of new organisations being established to service the industry. Among the current and emergent generation of managers in India, we can see the first round of specially trained and educated sport managers, many of whom have studied (in part or in full) with programmes overseas. Importantly, the need and demand for qualified and capable sport managers is already apparent, but the industry lacks development and visibility – both key issues.

What are the best practices in Sports Management from Australia and around the globe?
In terms of best practice in sport management, it’s important to realise, functional sport systems take time to build. In Australia, strong systems and an understanding of the role of sport has been apparent for 30 years or more and remains highly reliant on government support through policy, direction and funding. Other systems around the world are likewise successful but may rely more on private or commercial funding models. Generally though, there are a number of building blocks of successful sport systems including funding, strong levels of participation, talent identification and pathways for coaching and development, events, facilities, strong governance and a culture of performance.

Which are the B-schools globally that you would rate amongst the top management institutions offering sports management programme?
Firstly, it is important to realise that not all sport management programmes around the world are delivered from business schools, despite the clear emergence of sport as a viable and sustainable business stream and industry.  Sport Business International (an industry magazine) releases a list each year of the top ranked postgraduate programs. Deakin University (Australia) leads the rankings for Asia Pacific institution, with Ohio University (North America) and the FIFA master (delivered in Europe) the leading programmes in other regions.

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