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Career Options in Sports: Sport Management vs. Sport Marketing

Newsroom | Articles Jan. 21, 2020
Young professional in business attire smiles in confident pose on track field.

Career Options in Sports: Sport Management vs. Sport Marketing

Whether it’s cricket in India, hockey in Canada, or football in the U.S., sports competitions entertain millions of fans worldwide. PwC reports that the North American sports market took in $71.1 billion in 2018—and it expects those annual earnings to reach $83.1 billion in 2023.

The sports industry has a significant impact on the economy. Media companies make millions from broadcasting games. Cities with sports teams get a financial boost from tourists. Even the gambling industry can benefit from legal betting on a sporting event.

This complex and profitable industry relies on business expertise to keep it running smoothly. Individuals who can combine their passion for sports with a thorough knowledge of business principles would do well to consider an exciting career as a sports manager or sports marketer.

The Sports Business Landscape

Before someone can really consider sport management vs. sport marketing, he or she must understand the many subsets within this field, such as major league sports, minor league sports, and college athletics—not to mention the wealth of teams in each of these groups.

With so many smaller markets within the larger sports industry, many revenue streams can generate income for sports companies. These revenue streams include ticket sales (and, in some cases, a percentage of the sales of concessions and merchandise), advertising revenue, and broadcast revenue from television networks. Additionally, many professional athletes can earn extra income through endorsement deals or company sponsorships.

As sports franchises, teams, and athletes navigate these various income streams, they often rely on professionals with significant business knowledge. The sports industry needs lawyers to review contracts, marketers to help promote a team or player, and managers to connect with advertisers, businesses, and fans.

What Is Sport Management?

Many business professionals with an interest in sports choose to pursue careers in sport management. According to the Society of Health and Physical Educators, a job in sport management “involves any combination of skills related to planning, organizing, directing, controlling, budgeting, leading, and evaluating” a sports team or individual athlete. This broad job description suggests that professionals looking for a career in this field must have a thorough understanding of the industry’s business side.

Sports managers work closely with teams, franchises, and players. Their duties include working with marketing to promote their team, managing relations with the media or fans, preparing financial statements for team owners, making travel accommodations for athletes, and sometimes even hiring new players or coaches. Ultimately, a sports manager aims to improve a team and make it more efficient and productive, both on the field and behind the scenes.

What does it take to become a sports manager? Most often, it involves many years of entry-level work and climbing the ladder with a professional team. When individuals become sports managers, they can enjoy an impressive salary. For example, at the high end of the scale, some sports managers become top executives with large sports franchises—a position that the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports earns a median salary of $105,000 annually.

What Is Sport Marketing?

In addition to sport management, sport marketing is another rewarding career path for sports fans with business acumen. This job aims to connect sports teams and players with the people who love them—the fans. Team loyalty (otherwise known as “brand loyalty”) is an important part of the sports industry, and sports marketers help franchises build bonds with fans. Marketers work to promote their teams (or in some cases, individual players) through ad campaigns, press conferences, and other public relations efforts.

Because sports marketers encourage loyalty to the team’s brand through connection with fans and the media, they need a wide range of business-related skills. Sports marketers must be excellent task managers, efficient problem solvers, and creative thinkers (this is particularly true for marketers of smaller franchises, who have to work with limited budgets). Sports marketers must also write well, as they are often preparing press releases or speaking to the fans and the press through email or social media.

To begin a career as a sports marketer, it is essential to have at least a bachelor’s degree. The BLS reports the median pay for advertising, promotions, and marketing managers across all industries was more than $130,000 in 2018.

Get Started in Sports with LSU

Whether you dream of being a National Football League executive or working with your favorite college team, all sports franchises need talented business professionals to keep their teams on the field and in business. One way to combine your interest in sports with your business knowledge is LSU’s online Master of Science in Kinesiology with a specialization in Sport Management. This program teaches students the skills they need to become leaders in the sports industry, from sports administration and policy development to financial issues in sports.

To learn more about this program and start your journey into the exciting world of sport management, visit LSU’s program page and discover what’s possible.

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