Sport conference kicks off

Queen’s Sports Industry Conference brings pros to Kingston

Delegates gather at Goodes Hall for the opening ceremonies of the Queen’s Sports Industry Conference on Thursday night.
Delegates gather at Goodes Hall for the opening ceremonies of the Queen’s Sports Industry Conference on Thursday night.

Canadian Football League executives are hoping Queen’s Commerce students can find ways to fill the seats at Toronto Argonauts games next season.

The CFL is sponsoring a competition at this weekend’s Queen’s Sports Industry Conference (QSIC). The case competition — which takes place this afternoon — challenges delegates to devise marketing strategies for Argos home games. Each team will present to a panel of CFL executives.

The Argos averaged attendances of 20,017 per game during the past season. The Toronto club will host the Grey Cup in the fall.

“If they like the ideas the delegates come up with, they will implement them into their business plan,” conference co-chair Mitch Reeves, Comm ’13, said.

According to organizers, last year’s case competition sponsor — Molson-Coors Canada Inc. — made delegates sign a waiver ensuring that any ideas presented during the competition were allowed to be used by the beer company.

Reeves and Ethan Wolfe, Comm ’12, are in charge of this year’s conference, an annual three-day event run under the Commerce Society that involves 120 delegates, seven keynote speakers, the case competition and three evening socials.

This year’s keynote speakers include Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment CFO Ian Clarke, University of Toronto Sports Law Professor Gord Kirke and MFIVE Sports Management Co-Managing Director Anthon Thun — NHL star Vincent Lecavalier’s agent.

Wolfe said the conference is an avenue for delegates to network with business and sports professionals on a personal level.

Reeves and Wolfe were chosen to head the conference last February and they selected an 18-person executive team in March. The executive team covers responsibilities ranging from attracting speakers and securing sponsorship money, to booking venues and planning social events.

The delegates come from all over Canada — 80 are Queen’s Commerce students while 40 are from other universities. Reeves said the executive has been in touch with other business schools and sports programs across the country. Brock University’s Sports Marketing program has eight delegates at this weekend’s conference.

This year’s conference budget is over $50,000, made up entirely of corporate sponsorship and delegate fees. Three sponsorship executives were responsible for attracting over 14 corporate sponsors. Reeves said the most effective method was to sell specific events to potential sponsors.

Pro-Line is sponsoring tonight’s dinner.

Reeves said a large number of returning sponsors allowed the executive to create a provisional budget early last year. The group was able to make basic plans with a smaller budget and then expand plans as the money kept coming in.

QSIC organizers also spoke to Toronto Maple Leafs General Manager Brian Burke and Toronto Raptors General Manager Bryan Colangelo — though neither were able to commit to an appearance at the conference.

“It’s surprising how many high-profile people we can contact,” he said. “There’s generally a lot of interest from them. If they can’t come, they usually suggest somebody else.”

“These guys started out just like us,” logistics executive Sam Petras, Comm ’13, said. “They’re passionate about sharing their experiences with young people.”

Since the executive’s goal is to break even, they aren’t able to pay speakers. But Wolfe said most speakers are happy to do it for free — sometimes they stick around for other parts of the conference.

“Some guys will be able to come in on Thursday and stick around for a night or two,” he said. “Some will even come out to the socials with us.”

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