Using your MBA in the business of sports

Nicole Kankam, 2005 MBA from New York University and Consortium fellow.

Nicole Kankam, a Consortium alumna who received her MBA from New York University in 2005, is the managing director for marketing at the USTA. She contributed this guest post for The Consortium.

I’m often asked if an MBA is required for a career in the sports industry and, more importantly, is it valued by the industry at all?

Many have questioned: What does an MBA education offer to an industry that is so different from the typical MBA career progression towards financial services or consulting? However, the business fundamentals acquired through an MBA education are exactly what the sports industry needs—now more than ever.

Technology is having a significant impact on sports, ranging from how fans view games, to how they connect with their favorite sports stars, to what they expect from a stadium experience. As a result, the business of sports is changing on a daily basis. How organizations monetize the core product—as well as new opportunities—requires an innovative approach.

Having leaders with honed strategic thinking skills, strong analytic competencies, and creative problem-solving abilities ensures that these organizations can adapt to the changing consumer landscape. Given the training that MBA students receive in these areas, they are primed to help the sports industry address these challenges.

Personally, I have found my MBA education to be an invaluable asset in my sports career.  I have been fortunate that the USTA saw value in my MBA education from the start, but it has helped that I have been able to prove it out over time.

The rigorous coursework I experienced at NYU Stern helped prepare me for the challenges of a demanding sports career. The marketing classes I completed provided a great foundation for me to bring a more thoughtful, strategic approach to marketing planning at the USTA.

Beyond the marketing classes, the finance training I received at NYU Stern helped strengthen my financial acumen to be a better partner with our finance team in business forecasting. In addition to the professional skills, an MBA program includes a focus on professional networking and leadership development that has served me well in advancing my career in sports.

An encouraging sign that the sports industry is recognizing the MBA’s value is reflected in the recent class of the Sports Business Journal’s 40 under 40, as a number of the honorees hold MBA degrees from leading institutions.

As the sports industry continues to evolve, I believe there will be even more examples and opportunities for MBAs to prove their value.