Trends for Sports Business in 2021 and Beyond

Hey everybody, I’m Brian Clapp, VP of Content and Engaged Learning at and this is the Work in Sports podcast…

A couple of quick housekeeping notes before we get into it today - sorry I missed last week’s episode, it was President’s day, which is technically a day off, but I would still usually create a podcast episode. 

Truth is, I didn’t have any fan questions that were really jiving with me, and it was I had an epic snowball fight with my kids instead. Call me selfish -- I call it having balance. 

With that said our Monday episodes thrive off of your questions - I’m here to answer what you need and want to know about working in the sports industry so please send me your questions -- bclapp at -- that’s my direct email, don’t abuse it. Or you can message me on Linkedin, DM @workinsports on Twitter -- I will get your questions! 



BTW - a side note if anyone out there is connected to Twitter support, our account was hacked in November, and our 25k followers stolen. Seriously, it still makes me want to cry - 10 years of work down the drain. We’ve filled out countless forms, I’ve reached out to multiple people in the industry, a couple of contacts at Twitter...nothing. No one is helping us. If you know anyone at Twitter who can help or have gone through this before -- this is my beg for help. I want our followers back. 

And last note before we get into the stat line -- the awesome guests keep coming. Coming up in the next few weeks ---

Mark Gress Jr. Partner at Prodigy Search --- an incredible recruiting agency for the sports industry

Dr. Bill Sutton -- Doc Sutton is one of the elite thought leaders in our industry and so many of my previous guests count him as a mentor. 

Alison Bickford - Director of Corporate Partnership Activation for the Seattle Kraken! 

Eric Stark - Co-founder of Slate, a content creation platform for real-time social media used by the Golden State Warriors, Premier Lacrosse League, Baltimore Ravens, Denver Broncos, NYCFC. The SEC -- amazing company, excited to talk to Eric

And Fawn Germer - author of the book Coming Back! How to win the job you want when you’ve lost the job you need. INcredibly interesting lady…

So we’ve got a pretty sweet line-up as we transition to Spring -- I say this with 2 ft of snow on the ground right now...Wishful thinking.


Prefer to Watch the Work in Sports podcast? Here's this Week's Episode:




Ok, let’s jump to the Stat Line!

Three statistics that’ll help you understand the current state of sports employment -- data provided by -- the leading job board for the sports industry…

#1: 20680 -- up 3.6%

#2: 2388

#3: 341 --  

Let’s talk about three cool jobs that are fresh on our job board at - since we started doing this segment I’ve had a lot of people email me and say “wow, you talked about a job on the show and I applied for it right afterward, so cool!” 

To which I tell them, and you, we have 20,000 active sports jobs on -- if you think me picking out three a week is informative, think what you could accomplish with a premium membership!

Ok - three jobs I like for this week:

Event Manager - Pro Golf Hospitality - Octagon

We're looking for an engaging and energetic Event Manager to join our Events & Experiences team to support a brand new professional golf event in Las Vegas, NV.

Now, I bring this job up for a few reasons -- sports isn’t a job it’s an industry -- there are jobs in sports that are common in all other industries, accounting, hr, operations, etc. But one of the things that make our industry unique is the events. And so many of you love this part of the sports industry, the energy, and passion that comes through at events. 

A job like this, with a huge and powerful organization like Octagon, puts you on the exciting front lines of event management.

Job #2: 

Coordinator, League Operations and Development -- MLB Advanced Media

As the Coordinator, Minor League Operations & Development, you will assist with day-to-day baseball operations administration for MLB's affiliated minor league system, while also focusing on generating ideas to enhance and improve the player development system. 

On Friday I spoke at East Stroudsburg University -- great class, great group of students. And one student said, “Hey my dream is to work in a baseball front office, how do I get there?”

This is the type of gig you should be looking for -- look for terms like Coordinator, which tells you it’s an entry-level ish role -- then look for high ceiling opportunity-  the role itself will reach far and wide. Generating ideas to enhance and improve player development. Day-to-day baseball operations administration. This sounds like a winner.

Job #3:

Coordinator Retail Marketing - Adidas

Two reasons I bring this up -- you’ve heard me talk before that retail/lifestyle brands are growing during the pandemic. This is a cool entry-level job in the lifestyle brand category - and who better than Adidas? 

Imagine starting your professional career with a brand like Adidas, you’ll have that on your resume forever, at it’ll build instant credibility. 

One other reason -- I always tell you listened to look for skills that can help separate you from the pack. If you look at this job description, it says in there, for a retail marketing role -- knowledge in PhotoShop, Illustrator, and/or InDesign are desired but not mandatory.

If I were you, I’d make it mandatory to learn those skills. Let this be an alert to you, your business degree, your sports management degree, your marketing degree -- can be enhanced by learning skills like photoshop. 

Just trying to really hammer that point home whenever I can.

And that was the stat line!

Alright, today’s question comes in from Kyle in Washington state:

“Hey Brian, one of my professors just told me about the Work In Sports podcast, and I’m hooked, it’s amazing, I have learned so so much for you and the team at WorkInSports, so thank you. You have given a ton of advice over the years on every facet of hiring, career planning, networking, and more. You’ve always done it with an eye to the future, which I also appreciate. Not just where we are but where we are going. With that in mind, how do you think sports will change in 2021 and beyond, from a business standpoint”

Kyle this will be a fun discussion -- and there may be things you disagree with, that’s ok for sure! You are asking me my opinion and thoughts, so if you have different ones, please comment on our youtube channel -- join our Facebook community for the work in sports podcast -- hit me up on linked in. Tell me what you think…

1: Content is King -- scratch that, Conversation is king.

The idea in content that if you build it it will come is flawed -- just creating content and pushing it out there isn’t enough. The real power comes from having a strategy that engages the audience, drives interest, and creates conversations. 

Names Images and Likeness conversation will come up in this list -- stay tuned -- but I bring it up here to say, this will be one of the most exciting parts of the conversation because it will start earlier in an athlete’s life than ever before because of this.

Someone mentioned this concept on Twitter this morning...wait for it...brand consultant Jeremy Darlow, said: Why did Luka beat out Dame? Fan vote. Why did Luca get the fan vote? More people around the world (and in the US) talk about him.

The conversation is what we are driving toward -- and that is a larger brand strategy than just “creating content”

2: Names images and Likeness

this is huge and super exciting to a dork like me. Think about the last 5-10 years in sports -- we’ve gotten to know pro athletes through their media style assets -- their social channels, websites, hell some, see Tom Brady, have their own production company. Well, now let’s expand this to college student-athletes.

The opportunities to grow their brand and generate revenue will be huge in 2021. Athletes were building their brand anyways… now imagine they have the incentive of realized revenue. Now imagine you are in marketing or branding or agency -- a whole new market is opening up for you. It’s pretty amazing and I think not talked about enough.

3: Sponsorship deals will take over prime real estate.

 There have always been sponsorship sweet spots, stadium walls, signage, etc. Jersey’s used to be a no-fly zone -- this is changing dramatically and will continue to. Sponsorship money is an area that will get a jolt, and you’ll start to see more. As Sportico points out -- the NHL is putting small logos on helmets, the PLL is adding logos in place of shoulder numbers -- look for more of this.

4: Teams Using their Digital Channels to drive revenue, not just awareness.

So when you talk about marketing objectives, an early product cycle objective is awareness -- we just want people to know what we offer, what we do, and how it benefits them. As the marketing cycle matures, you start to focus on how do we use a channel to generate conversions and revenue. If you are an online product you ask -- does this piece of content drive product conversions. 

Well, sports teams, leagues, and organizations are now saying -- we’ve built these huge distribution platforms our Twitter account has 4 million followers, our youtube channel has 10 million views this month -- let’s monetize that reach. You’ll see more and more digital sponsorship activations, where creativity is the only limit. As Jason Clerkin shared on a recent podcast, the Orlando Magic has a partnership with Chik Fil A and they find a lot of creative ways to activate that partnership and generate revenue for both brands. Expect to see more branded content than ever before.

Corporate partners are realizing the value of digital packages, not just in-stadium activations. Sports will leverage this interest in 2021.

5: Less reliance on ticket sales revenue.

I think there will be a trend toward smaller arenas. Look at baseball -- you watch regular-season games and you see tons and tons of open seats -- I mean pre-pandemic. The Miami Marlins stadium holds ~36k at full capacity. They average 10k per game in attendance. That is a lot of money invested in keeping up a stadium that isn’t being really used. Energy bills, upkeep, staffing -- why not have smaller stadiums, pack the house, build demand, lower costs… it just makes business sense. I still remember going to EPL games in London and thinking these stadiums are tiny!! But the atmosphere was electric. They weren’t surviving off-ticket sales. US-based leagues have figured out how to make more revenue outside of ticket sales, so now they have to find a balance. Smaller stadiums, packed houses, electric content, sponsorship deals everywhere. That’s what I’d be doing. 

6: Less travel. 

I can’t tell you how many meetings I have flown to over my career that could have been handled on zoom. NON-game travel is going to plummet, we will rely on more virtual information sharing than ever before. 

The idea of spending 4 hours getting on an airplane and flying somewhere for a 3-hour meeting and then flying back -- is gone. Cut it all back. Rely on zoom. Save money.

I think teams and leagues will also start to investigate travel and how they can accommodate more responsible schedules -- but that’s a big one to tackle. 

Ok, that’s six things I feel pretty passionate about for sports business in 2021. What are you feeling? 

What stood out to you here? What would you like to see happen differently? 

Comment on our YouTube channel, share in our Work in Sports podcast community on Facebook -- hit me up on Linkedin -- plenty of ways to communicate.


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By Brian Clapp | February 22, 2021
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