Meetings Should Not Only Happen In The Winter

By Adam Grossman

Major League Baseball (MLB) Winter Meetings are currently taking place and will last through December 8th in National Harbor, Maryland. MLB news will be focused on player transactions, including star pitcher Chris Sale being traded from the White Sox to the Red Sox. Numerous big free agent signings and player trades should occur throughout the course of the week.

MLB is not alone in having these types of gatherings; all major professional sports leagues having a similar meeting. However, the focus is on team operations. What is less typical, however, is for leagues to host events for the business operations side of the business. More specifically, teams within a league often do not meet in person to discuss and share best practices.

As my co-authors and I discuss in our book The Sports Strategist: Developing Leaders For a High-Performance Industry, we think this could be a mistake. Sports organizations are in a unique competitive position in two particular ways. First, sports organizations in a professional league have at least one or more teams in direct competition within the same league. Second, teams within a league usually have some form of revenue sharing on items ranging from ticket sales, media rights deals, sponsorships, and merchandise.

Yet, teams within a league still do face stiff competition. This includes competition from other domestic professional and college sports leagues, the rise of new sports such as drone racing and eSports, and the influx of international sports leagues trying to secure a larger American audience such as the English Premiere League.

What this means is that teams within a league should be focusing on sharing best practices as much as possible. This would enable business leaders to explore best practices in an open, collaborative environment that would facilitate the growth of each team and the league as a whole. For example, big data is a challenge faced by many sports teams. Team are receiving so much data from ticket sales, digital media, merchandise, concession, and mobile platforms than ever before. The question exists of how to turn all of this unstructured data into meaningful insights that drive results. Relatively few teams, one notable example being the Cleveland Browns, have created a data warehouse. In addition, many teams do not have time or resources to determine what is the best way to construct a data warehouse. Determining what the best way is to aggregate, analyze, and communicate data, and sharing those successful practices, would make it easier for each team to build a data warehouse.

This not to say that leagues are not taking steps to encourage collaboration. The NBA and NFL each have an annual technology summit for league members to attend. The NBA has created TMBO as a group “responsible for developing, compiling, analyzing, and sharing among teams.” As a way to drive franchise profitability, the MLB created MLB Advanced Media (MLBAM) to centralize development and share insights across the league. In addition, leagues frequently have conference calls to discuss best practices.

While often fierce competitors on the field, teams within the same league function more like partners off the field. Growing these partnerships by placing more emphasis on meetings (whether in-person or virtually), collaboration, and dialogue between teams in the same league should help everyone generate more money.