Juni, 19th 2016

SPOAC visits Harvard

The Internationalization module led SPOAC to the Harvard Business School in Boston this year. The focus was on the billion-dollar US sports business market. The module abroad at the Harvard Business School in Boston was the high point of the first class of SPOAC. Part of the thrill was the look into the future of the sports business offered by the just over one-week trip.

Shaped by the top four professional sports leagues—the NFL, the NBA, the MLB and the NHL—the North American pro sports market is the largest and most developed in the world. The billion-dollar college sports segment and the up-and-coming Major League Soccer shouldn’t be forgotten either. The leagues have a common understanding that their efforts must remain focused on two core issues: entertainment and business. Paradoxically, this seemingly banal finding has led to the unexpected situation in which the nations where capitalism plays the greatest role in the world actually have a sports business which follows socialist rules.

There are plenty of examples. Proceeds from the sale of media rights are distributed equally to all clubs, merchandising is offered centrally by the league and the draft system gives the clubs which were most successful in the previous season a disadvantage in terms of access to talented players. One result of this, for example, is that the last ten NFL seasons have seen eight different teams win the Superbowl. This is a variety which cannot be found in the leading European football leagues, with one exception: the master’s title of Leicester City in the recently ended Premier League season.

Meetings with the MLB, NHL & NBA

Obviously, not every aspect of the US sports business can be transferred whole cloth to the German or European market. However, the way the clubs and associations tackle the issues of the future, such as dynamic pricing in ticketing and virtual reality in marketing, as well as the position of social media, were of great interest to all SPOAC participants. This is another reason the Internationalization module took place at the Harvard Business School. The aim was to expose participants to strategies and best practices for the successful internationalisation of German sports rights.

The sessions, which took place over multiple days in Cumnock Hall, were led by the Head of Academics of SPOAC Prof. Sascha L. Schmid, and SPOAC and Harvard Faculty member Prof. Stephen Greyser.

Greyser, who himself graduated from the Harvard Business School, has more than 50 years of research and teaching experience at what is arguably the most prestigious American business school. The professor, who had played a major role in shaping the sports business as a research discipline at Harvard, is equally loyal to his favourite baseball team, the Boston Red Sox, who SPOAC participants also had the opportunity to watch play.

Before the Major League Baseball game against the Toronto Blue Jays began, the participants enjoyed a personal tour by the Fenway Sports Management Group through America’s oldest ballpark. Other highlights included presentations and stadium visits with the Boston Bruins (NHL) and the Celtics (NBA).

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