(L-R) Dwight Hutchinson (co-chair, class of 2013); Ken Kovash ('06), Director of Football Research & Player Personnel Assistant, Cleveland Browns; Vince Gennaro ('77), President, Society for American Baseball Research (SABR); Bob Meyerhoff, President, Information Logistics
On Feb. 15, the Chicago Booth Media, Entertainment, and Sports Group (MESG) held its third annual Sports Symposium at the Gleacher Center, welcoming a group of students and alumni to hear guests from all over the country speak on a variety of topics ranging from sports marketing to sports analytics.
After opening remarks from Associate Dean of Career Services and Corporate Relations Julie Morton, the event kicked off with "Sports Marketing at Scale: Making the Most of your Sponsorship Dollars," a panel moderated by Clinical Professor of Entrepreneurship Scott Meadow. During the discussion, executives from the United States Olympic Committee, Gatorade and Discover Financial Services elaborated on the granularity of sports marketing as well the need to create brands and campaigns that truly resonate with fans.
"It's not about the dollars and cents. It's about how we connect with the athletes and how we connect with the brand," noted Michael O'Conor, the Senior Director of Business Development at the USOC.
After a Fireside Chat with Mr. O'Conor, moderated by MESG co-chair Dana Meadow '13, the focus turned to collective bargaining agreements and labor negotiations during "Whose Lockout is it Anyway? The Evolving Role of Collective Bargaining Agreements and Labor Negotiations in Professional Sports," moderated by Timothy Epstein, a partner at law firm SmithAmundsen. With representatives from the University of Chicago Law School, Octagon, and Priority Sports and Entertainment, the panelists approached this complex subject from a variety of angles, noting the often-conflicting interests of players, leagues and fans. The existence of the panel in part reflected MESG's partnership with Law, Inc., the first time that the group has partnered with the law school for this event.
"The courts have created instability for leagues and players," observed Professor Michael LeRoy of the University of Chicago Law School, who nonetheless noted that he did not foresee any work stoppages in the major American sports until at least 2020.
To kick off the afternoon, Erin Harvego, Vice President of Marketing at the Big Ten Network, walked the attendees through a case study based on her experiences, highlighting many of the key issues that are faced every day in the sports marketing industry.
Next, John Huizinga, Walter David "Bud" Fackler Distinguished Service Professor of Economics, oversaw a panel on the state of sports analytics. During the panel, representatives from the Cleveland Browns, Information Logistics and the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) talked extensively about their experiences in the industry, focusing especially on the dual importance of framing questions correctly as well as conveying quantitative analysis in an effective and digestible manner. On the subject of the next wave of baseball analytics, SABR President Vince Gennaro '77 spoke about the difficulty and importance of assessing and valuing player risk, pointing out that the distribution of player outcomes is significantly more important than the average outcome for a player.
The day culminated in a discussion with Fama Family Professor of Finance Tobias Moskowitz, expertly moderated by MESG co-chair Jon Hay. Moskowitz spoke on a range of topics that included the evolving nature of data in team sports such as football and basketball, and fielded questions about the possibility of a sequel to his popular book, "Scorecasting," joking that his publisher and co-author are probably more gung-ho than he is.
With the Sports Symposium now in the rear-view mirror, the Media, Entertainment, and Sports Group will soon bring on new co-chairs from the class of 2014 who will build on this year's success for next year's symposium.