A change in the game

QSIC takes a step forward by focusing on connections made

120 delegates took part in the Queen’s Sports Industry Conference (QSIC) last weekend.
120 delegates took part in the Queen’s Sports Industry Conference (QSIC) last weekend.
Credit: 
Supplied by QSIC
QSIC’s free agency simulation was sponsored by Sportsnet and took place in Goodes Hall last Saturday. Sportsnet also did a livestream broadcast of the event, with updates coming from the desk above.
QSIC’s free agency simulation was sponsored by Sportsnet and took place in Goodes Hall last Saturday. Sportsnet also did a livestream broadcast of the event, with updates coming from the desk above.
Credit: 
Supplied by QSIC

A keynote speech from Toronto Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos was merely the tip of the iceberg at this year’s Queen’s Sports Industry Conference (QSIC).

Last weekend marked the 10th annual QSIC, and what entailed was a major evolution from past iterations of the event.

Speakers like Anthopoulos have long been the conference’s bread and butter, but according to current co-chair Christian Alaimo, more emphasis was put on interactive elements.

Alaimo, Comm ’15, said a major part of this year’s plan was to provide opportunities for the conference’s 120 delegates to see how they can find success in the business side of sports.

“We’ve built a reputation of being a really entertaining and fun conference,” he said. “But [we] haven’t really been able to provide a lot of value to people who were looking to break into the industry until this year.”

Alaimo spearheaded the first QSIC free agency simulation — in which delegates assume the role of either a professional athlete, a pro sports franchise or an agent — at last year’s conference, and made a point to beef up the project further as co-chair.

This year’s simulation was sponsored by Sportsnet and featured the addition of various performance incentives and endorsements.

Alaimo said those tweaks were part of a bigger change going on at the conference, with an increased focus on what delegates can learn about the sports industry.

One of the benefits of this year’s conference, he added, was the chance to meet industry professionals, including sports agent Pat Morris and Michael Rossi, the president of Adidas Group Canada.

Before QSIC existed, there wasn’t a way for Queen’s students to learn in-depth about the way the sports business operated.

Part of the executive’s goal is to make sure the conference becomes more about the business side of sports, Alaimo said, as opposed to just appealing to the fan side.

When Alaimo attended the conference as a first-year student, several speakers spoke back-to-back. After considering what delegates wanted to see from the conference, he said QSIC events have diversified to better meet the feedback.

“This year, we have a case, a workshop, a simulation, two panels and three keynote speakers, so over the past four years, it’s really evolved by taking into consideration the feedback we’ve got and what truly indicates value to our delegates,” he said.

“It actually gets people up and engages them and is an interactive form for them to learn,” he added. “That’s a new approach we’ve taken, so instead of it being a one-way communication, it becomes by far more of a conversation.”

The way this year’s executive pursued speakers and sponsors showed another way in which the conference has evolved. While QSIC’s early sponsorship model relied on connections executive members had with companies, the current team looked at the large base of Queen’s and conference alumni.

Alaimo referred to finding speakers as a “Hail Mary”, since the pitch made to the potential speaker can determine whether or not they’ll agree to speak at QSIC.

On the other hand, finding sponsors often means the executive will start at the bottom of a company and persist until they secure a deal.

“We get on the phone and find a phone number and end up with an administration person and we work our way through a three-hour phone call,” said co-chair Jacob MacDonald, Comm ’15. “But we get to the right person. For us, it’s really we have to do our due diligence on our end beforehand.”

One of the companies the executive brought in this year was Sportsnet, who provided a livestream of the Saturday afternoon free agency simulation and served as the event’s presenting sponsor.

MacDonald said he sees QSIC as a way to bring the sports industry into the way business schools can operate.

The executive, he added, wants QSIC to be a way for Queen’s students to make connections in the industry year-round, instead of just over the three days of the conference.

“Our end goal is to get the sports industry as a subset industry in your top four recruiting,” he said. “You have your marketing, your finance, accounting and consulting — why can’t there be sports?”

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