Accelerating Growth in Canadian Sport

Posted by in Canada, Commercial, HR, Management, Max Dawson

TorontoThere is little doubt that sport in Canada is thriving. Everywhere we’ve been, the talk has been of growth and ambition. Whether it is new media deals, record season ticket sales, a new stadium move or an upcoming event, the mood amongst those working in the industry is positive. There is a huge amount to be proud about – Canadian teams continue to punch above their weight in many sports, there are strong corporate partners, positive stadium experiences and the fan engagement is outstanding.

So the big question that we’ve been hearing a lot so far is this, “How do we take our business to the next level?” Meaning, how do we make our teams better, how do we make our game day experience more compelling, how do we build even stronger loyalty and engagement from our supporters, partners and suppliers, and how do we stay ahead of the curve in such a dynamic and rapidly evolving sector?

Drawing on our international experience and industry experts we have some ideas that may be helpful!

Improved Governance

Historically, sport has been governed by well-intentioned volunteers who have generously given their time for sports that they are passionate about. The current trend in the more progressive organisations has been to supplement the volunteer pool at board level, with high quality independent talent who have often forged successful careers in business. Those who are able to offer cutting edge commercial insight, a vision for the future, creativity and an ability to innovate, will add huge value and enable the organisation to drive progress. Critically, boards containing these individuals will be more minded to empower their senior executive team while holding them accountable for performance. In Canada, we see this transformation beginning and we expect to see the trend accelerate in the coming years for organisations to hire independent non-executive directors and board members who will be instrumental in driving organisational performance.

Driving Commercial Revenue

In Canada, there has been a trend of hiring exciting talent outside of the sports industry, mirroring other sophisticated international sporting nations. As the industry evolves and sponsors, broadcasters and supporters raise their expectations of rights holders, there will be an increasing demand for commercial operators who have the breadth of experience and skills to be able to capitalize on new opportunities. This means looking at talent from blue chip corporate backgrounds from a wide range of industry sectors including FMCG, consulting and telecoms. Sporting organisations have always had the brand power to attract talent but they have not always been able to offer the financial or career progression opportunities that high flyers demand. As the industry grows and commercial revenues increase, this is no longer the case.

Accessing the Global Market

There appears to be a real appetite to consider talent from overseas across a range of functions. The high performance area has always attracted international interest but increased movement of professionals across different functions will continue. The more progressive organisations will be keen to supplement their local talent with those who have forged successful careers overseas. The breadth of experience that they can offer and the surge of new thinking and ideas can provide a genuine boost, particularly when there is a strong local team they can work alongside. Moving to Canada to be part of an industry that is growing, in a culture where sport is important, means that organisations are well placed to attract high quality international talent.

Staying Ahead of the Curve

There is clearly plenty of innovation happening in the Canadian sports industry as things stand. Sport has always been a natural home for creative and innovative individuals both on and off the field of play and it is no surprise that we have already met many talented thinkers in our travels to date. Naturally, individuals with this mind-set are curious as to what others are doing elsewhere in the world and we’ve been asked on numerous occasions to talk about best practice and thought leaders. We believe there are lots of shared learnings within the industry and although there are regional idiosyncrasies and quirks, most organisations are grappling with similar challenges, opportunities and frustrations! We hope that as we get to know you, our international experience will enable us to share some of the best practices from around the world with you.