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Leading With Vision and Values: An Interview With Richard Peddie, Former President & CEO of Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment

By Frederik Ehlen, Dr. Jess Dixon, and Dr. Todd Loughead (University of Windsor)

Richard Peddie is the former president and CEO of Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment (MLSE), the parent company of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Toronto Raptors, and Toronto Football Club. We had the privilege of chatting with Peddie, where he shared some valuable leadership and career lessons that he learned along his journey.

“I managed to get my ticket punched in every area of professional sports, except for running a team itself.”

Peddie’s journey started with an honors bachelor of commerce degree at the University of Windsor and a dream of leading a professional basketball team. In our interview, he listed branding, market research, sales, general management, and financial management as attributes that he had developed during his time as a student and throughout the early part of his career in the consumer packaged goods industry. Joining SkyDome (now Rogers Centre) in 1989 was his first step into the sport and entertainment realm. Peddie credits his experience in selling hospitality suites and sponsorships, as well as running food and beverage operations to his time with SkyDome. Next, Peddie joined Labatt Communications, which later became NetStar Communications, as President and COO. While there, he oversaw the operations of TSN, among other specialty Canadian cable television channels, and the launch of TSN.ca—one of the first online sports media websites in Canada. Adding television and digital media expertise helped make his case to be hired as President of the NBA’s Toronto Raptors in 1996.

Throughout the interview, Peddie drew clear examples of how his experience in these various roles helped him as president and CEO of MLSE – his learnings from SkyDome when overseeing the construction of Air Canada Centre (now Scotiabank Arena) and Maple Leaf Square, as well as his digital media knowledge from NetStar Communications when launching Leafs TV and NBA Raptors TV and acquiring GolTV. Although his pathway cannot be seen as a blueprint to success, indeed there are many different avenues to achieving a senior leadership position within professional sports, it reinforces the importance of developing a broad set of skills and experience.

 “So, do I believe vision and values work? Absolutely, but only if you are committed to them, only if you make your decisions based on them, only if you constantly reinforce them.”

Peddie, who retired from MLSE in 2012, has always been invested in leadership and leadership education. When we met with Peddie, he shared insights and personal experiences with his approach of choice – leading by vision and values. Having spent the early part of his career in the consumer packaged goods industry, he offered a prime example of his company’s commitment to vision and values. Specifically, he followed the advice of a young brand manager, who was living the company’s values, to discard a low-grade batch of creamed corn rather than distribute it to the retailers – leaving shelf space unused for nine months. This commitment to the company’s value that ‘quality is essential’ paid off for the company in the long term. Peddie also told us how he defined and implemented his vision and values approach to leadership with MLSE, and how he ensured staff buy-in.

Asked about his leadership style and approach to running an organization, Peddie acknowledged meritocracy as a principle that he practiced throughout his career. He explained how Jack and Suzy Welch’s (2005) Winning inspired him to focus on the growth of the top-performing 20% of employees, while parting with the bottom 10%. He drew the natural comparison to sports where players get cut and unsuccessful coaches are fired.

Closing the interview, Peddie emphasized that leadership is a lifelong journey that never ends. He believes that “the moment you stay still as a leader, you are going to fall by the wayside.” For him, the only way to become a great leader is to keep learning and developing.

To read the entire interview, check out to the April 2018 edition of Sport Management Education Journal

Explaining Sponsorships Using Analogy

By Jesse King, Ph.D. (Weber State University) and Robert Madrigal, Ph.D. (California State University, Chico)

Most sponsorship alignments do not make sense. For example, what does FedEx have to do with the NFL? This sponsorship is incongruent because the brand and property (e.g., events, teams, leagues, etc.) have little in common. In such cases, the brand must explain to consumers how it is related to the property. In a recent article in Journal of Sport Management, we find that using analogies is one tactic for explaining an incongruent sponsorship to consumers.

Understanding an analogy is like solving a puzzle. By highlighting shared associations, analogies provide a creative way for sport managers to explain how the brand is similar to the property. For example, FedEx makes use of an analogy by awarding the “Air and Ground Players of the Year” to the NFL’s top quarterback and running back.  The analogy allows fans to connect the actions of running backs and quarterbacks to ground and air delivery of a package, respectively. The package and football each plays the same relational role in this analogy. Just as a football may be passed through the air by a quarterback or carried by a running back on the ground, a FedEx package can be sent by air via a plane or ground delivered using a truck. Good analogies are useful because they promote a deeper understanding of the sponsor-event alignment. In this way, a sponsorship that once did not make sense to a consumer can explained in a way that links core equities of the property with those of the brand.

Creativity is required for fans to understand analogies and for sport managers to build them.  The goal for sport managers in creating analogies is to help the customer understand common functions in the sponsoring brand and sport property. To build analogies, managers should:

1) Identify Brand Action Words: Identify actions performed by the brand. This can be accomplished by identifying actions in terms of verbs used to describe a core function (e.g., Gillette razor blades shave hair off the body). Keep in mind that there are often many ways to describe the same action. For example, a close shave is achieved through close contact between the razor and few missed hairs.

2) Identify Property Action Words: Consider actions performed by the property that might align with those of the brand. Avoid shared surface traits such as common appearance (e.g., both property and brand’s logos are red) or immaterial detail (e.g., both players and employees wear uniforms). Instead, focus on common patterns of relationships that exist for the brand and for the property.

3) Avoid the Abstract: When creating analogical explanations, avoid abstract descriptors such as “excellence” or “integrity.” If no relevant actions within the property can be identified, the sponsor should work with the property to create something (e.g., award, event) that will serve a similar role to the actions that the brand wants to emphasize (e.g., the turnaround play of the game).

Analogies that explain deeper relationships are likely to be more effective than those that only explain surface similarities. For example, Gillette could explain a partnership with competitive swimming, a sport in which competitors “shave” the hair off their entire body prior to a major competition, by emphasizing shallow similarities associated with shaving hair and shaving seconds from a race time. However, a better fit might be achieved by explaining deeper patterns of shared relations. For instance, Gillette recently explained their partnership with Major League Baseball’s Home Run Derby by emphasizing the relational importance of establishing close contact between a razor and skin as a way of making sure to not miss any hair follicles on one’s face with the importance of a baseball batter making contact with the ball in order to miss fewer pitches.

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Key Takeaways:

In this research we found analogy improves sponsorship fit, relative to other types of explanation. They help because analogies are perceived as creative. Also, short explanations of analogies seem to be equally effective as more detailed explanations.

For sport managers this means that short messages such as “The FedEx Air and Ground Players of the Year Awards” may be as effective as full press release in explaining a brand-property alignment.  Analogies are capable of concisely conveying a great deal of information. Because space and time are often severely limited in a sponsorship message, the use of analogy offers an efficient and creative method for concisely explaining how an incongruent brand is similar to a sports property.

Student Corner: An international student experience

From London to London: My experience as an international student in Canada

Written by: Swarali Patil, MA Candidate, Western University

My journey as a graduate student is unlike my peers. I was born in India. I grew up near Mumbai (Bombay) before moving to New York. This was followed by a move to the United Kingdom for my undergraduate degree, and a year each in Malaysia and the Philippines. Presently I’m a second-year master’s student in Canada. Here are some of my tidbits as I navigate my journey in graduate school as an international student.

Choosing a School – Graduate school can be daunting, and with the incredible choices available, how can you choose the school that’s right for you? Research! I spent almost a year researching schools online, spoke to my lecturers at Coventry University, and contacted various schools before making my choice. It is a time consuming task but if you plan to spend two or more years taking on rigorous academic work, you should be well prepared to do it. The NASSM website is a great source of sport management programs available in North America. Identify the schools and programs that appeal to you, make a list of potential supervisors and read some of their work, contact the department for additional information about funding and other pertinent details before making your choice.

Choosing Classes – Your classes are meant to help you gain a deeper understanding of concepts you’ve previously learned, and introduce you to some new ones. Your classes can be a fantastic means to meet your fellow graduates, learn about interesting research happening in your department or faculty, participate in an exchange of ideas with your peers, and work on projects that can help you hone your presentation and writing skills. Classes are also a great medium to explore your interests that may lead to a potential thesis topic. Choose wisely but don’t overburden yourself.

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Professional Development – Take advantage of every opportunity presented to you, whether it is volunteering, attending conferences, presenting at symposiums, or being a teaching or research assistant. I have volunteered at conferences on campus, presented at symposiums run by different faculties, participated in 2-minute and 5-minute presentation contests, and more. I have also been a teaching and research assistant, which has helped me add to my repertoire of skills and experiences for my CV.

Teaching and Learning – If your school has a Teaching and Learning Resource Centre, utilize their workshops to add to your knowledge base. Most programs will also provide a certificate of completion. Grab every opportunity you can to augment your CV. I’ve found several workshops to be incredibly helpful, particularly when I was a first-time TA. Several workshops provide video recordings of your presentations, which can be a great tool to showcase yourself to a potential employer.

Swarali at SCRINetwork – If you attend conferences or volunteer at social events on campus, take the time to meet faculty and students from different universities. This can lead to interesting contacts, friends in new cities, collaborations and other opportunities. Conferences are also a great way to discuss your research interests with experts in the field. Register early, utilize the student rate, and plan your schedule with ample time to socialize.

Appreciate and Have Fun – Take the time to appreciate where you are. Appreciate different perspectives, new experiences, new friends, new food, and new places. Graduate school provides unique opportunities, which can not only help you identify your future avenues but also provide a sense of accomplishment. Yes, time management is key, and work-life balance needs to be achieved but there is a feel-good factor in accomplishing what you have set out to do.

Graduate school is incredibly daunting and time consuming but it can also be very satisfying. As an international student, whether you plan to stay in your new city for a long while or move back home, you can enjoy the journey and the discovery. I have found my first year to be quite different from my expectations but I’m happier for it. I’m moving full steam ahead in year 2 but deciding if I want to sign up for 4 more!

Industry: Forging New Partnerships

NASSM and the Aspen Institute Announce Partnership

by Dr. Brianna Newland, Chair, NASSM Marketing & Communications Committee

The new NASSM strategic plan calls for NASSM to build alliances and partnerships with Aspen1jpegother organizations that share similar foci and goals. One of the first to have been completed is a partnership with the Aspen Institute’s Sports and Society Program. You may recall, that Tom Farrey, who heads that program, was the keynote speaker at our recent conference in Denver. As a journalist, Mr. Farrey’s contributions as an ESPN reporter have been thought-provoking and innovative. His book, Game On, numerous articles, and work at the Aspen Institute have explored sport and societal issues and have been used by universities and organizations alike to shape strategy around issues facing sport, especially youth sport. As such, Mr. Farrey founded the Aspen Institute’s Sport and Society program to assemble the industry’s top thought leaders to shape future policy around sport.

The mission of the Aspen Institute’s Sports and Society Program is to “convene leaders, foster dialogue, and inspire solutions that help sport serve the public interest, with a focus on the development of healthy children and communities.” An aim of the program is to provide a venue for thought leaders to explore strategies on a range of issues. One such issue is the state of youth sport. In 2013, the program launched Project Play, a multi-year and stage initiative to develop sport for all and inspire lifetime play for our community’s children. Several key leaders have participated in events and a series of roundtables led to the January 2015 publication entitled, Sport for All, Play for Life: A Playbook to Get Every Kid in the Game 

On January 25, the Aspen Institute will kick off a new quarterly “Future of Sports Conversation Series.” The first in the series is the “Future of Football: Reimagining the Game’s Pipeline.” Speakers in this discussion include Chris Borland, former San Francisco 49er linebacker, and Dr. Robert Cantu, co-founder of the CTE Center at Boston University, among others. For more details and to RSVP, click here.

NASSM and the Aspen Institute have agreed to find ways to work together and to promote each other’s work.  Both parties expect this relationship to be of substantial benefit not merely to NASSM, but also to the development of the sport industry. As Dr. Laurence Chalip, NASSM President recently noted, “Project Play has become the most significant policy initiative for sport development that the United States has seen in many years. It demonstrates the leadership that the Aspen Institute and its Sports & Society Program have taken in our field. The partnership we have formed will be good for NASSM, good for our members, and very good for sport.”

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