Some of the biggest names in professional sports came together Friday as the Atlanta Business Chronicle and the Atlanta Sports Council produced the Second Annual Business of Sports Summit at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Atlanta. Nearly 450 people made their way to the summit to hear from the likes of Greg McGarity, John Schuerholz, Rich McKay and Mark Lazarus.
Atlanta Business Chronicle publisher Ed Baker emceed the festivities and opened up the morning by introducing each panel and keynote speaker. He noted that attendance had increased by 30 percent and by more than 100 guests from last year.
Dan Corso, the executive director of the Atlanta Sports Council, also spoke at the outset of the event. He remarked that the increase in attendance was "a true expression of the development of sports marketing in the Atlanta area."
University of Georgia president Michael Adams introduced a brand new panel to the summit, the Sports 101 panel that touched on the business of college sports. "The financial impact of the business of sports is staggering," said Adams. "This is an incredibly large business, and its significance is substantial."
Athletics directors from the state's four major universities were on hand. Greg McGarity of UGA was joined by Cheryl Levick of Georgia State, Dan Radakovich of Georgia Tech and Kennesaw State's Vaughn Williams. McGarity touched on conference expansion while Levick was more than happy to give some of the details of Georgia State's recent decision to move to the Sun Belt conference.
Radakovich was quick to speak about how Georgia Tech is always looking for ways to utilize new technology. "Technology is driven by the market. Our patrons demand it."
Levick joined in on the technology discussion, saying that Georgia State also takes that seriously. "We have to be interactive with our fans, especially our students."
Abe Madkour, the Executive Editor of the SportsBusiness Journal, spoke next and he broke down what the SportsBusiness Journal is keeping an eye on in the sports business world. Some of the topics that are the most popular these days for the Journal include baseball, UFC, the sale of the Dodgers, the Olympics and potential ESPN challengers.
The University of Georgia's Dr. Jeff Humphreys spoke on the economic growth in the state of Georgia and how the sports industry has impacted the economy. "There has been a two percent growth in Georgia sports jobs from 2005-2010," said Dr. Humphreys. This may not seem like much, but Dr. Humphreys reminded the crowd that the overall state of Georgia had a six percent decline, so the number was actually quite impressive.
Fred Kalil moderated the "Franchise Factor" panel featuring representatives from the Braves, Dream, Hawks and Falcons. McKay and Schuerholz were joined by Dream CEO Pete Canalichio, Dream GM Marynell Meadors, Falcons CMO Jim Smith, Braves Executive VP of Sales and Marketing Derek Schiller, Hawks President Bob Williams and Hawks VP of Corporate Partnership and Business Development David Lee. The topics ranged from social media in the clubhouse to Atlanta as a sports city to who the execs look up to in other sports.
Chick-fil-A, UPS, Coca-Cola and Kia Motors all sent representatives for the Major League Marketing panel, and the summit was wrapped up by Madkour sitting down with Lazarus, the Chairman of NBC Sports. Lazarus touched on whether the NBC Sports channel can be a viable challenger to ESPN and what sports leagues NBC might be eyeing for future television contracts. He also spent a great deal of time discussing the 2012 Olympics in London, which will be the first Games that Lazarus has overseen as chairman. "The Olympics are one of the last communal events that takes place anymore," said Lazarus of the Olympics on NBC.
For those interested in the business side of sports, the summit was an invaluable resource. Those in the sports business were treated to alternate ideas of how to market their products and how some of the biggest names in the Georgia sports games approach their day-to-day business strategies.