The 19th annual John Molson Sports Marketing conference was an incredible success
by Elias Laradi
This past weekend marked another great yearly event that was hosted by Concordia’s John Molson Sports Marketing (JMSM) team. The student-organized conference, which is carried out every November, brought well-known personalities and executives from the world of sports together for a three-day conference. Attracting students from across Canada and the United States, this year’s conference was entitled All The Way.
From Nov. 6 to 8, the JMSM team recruited 24 different speakers, which included general managers from the NHL and MLB, renowned sports journalists and professionals on marketing and analytics to come and talk to the delegates.
“It’s great, I feel that we really achieved our goal in giving the delegates an opportunity to hear from some of the best in the business,” said Daniel Kozel, a JMSM team member and executive. “It’s also exciting because these people showed a lot of interest in wanting to speak at our event this year.”
On Thursday, Nov. 6, Newport Sports Marketing founder Don Meehan took to the stage and kicked off the event. Meehan explained how his education from McGill’s law program would later lead to a career as a professional agent. TSN reporter John Lu moderated the evening’s discussions.
The second day of the conference, Friday, Nov. 7, was the JMSM’s team’s most impressive feat. Held at Concordia’s D.B. Clarke Theatre in the Hall building, the first panel of the day was hosted by Darren Dreger, a hockey insider for TSN. Joining him was Marc Bergevin, general manager of the Montreal Canadiens, and Julien Brisebois, the assistant general manager for the Tampa Bay Lightning. The two managers shared what they have learnt and the lessons they’ve taken away from their jobs as professional decision makers.
Travis Yost, from TSN’s analytics department, hosted a panel between Bloomberg sports journalist Alex Burwasser, and Ned Colletti, the former general manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers. The three spent the time talking about analytics, stats and their growing importance in the world of sports. By early afternoon, Rogers-Sportsnet journalist Elliotte Friedman hosted a sit-down with Colletti. Colletti dived into his journey as a manager and his life in the big leagues.
The last group of the day catered to the business side of professional franchises. The list of speakers included Kerry Bubolz, the president of business operations for the Cleveland Cavaliers, and David Snyder, the vice president of Corporate Partnerships for the Milwaukee Bucks. Hosted by Abe Hefter, who works for TSN radio and is a journalism professor at Concordia, they discussed the behind-the-scenes work that goes into running a franchise.
The final day of the conference, Saturday Nov. 8, heavily appealed to the marketing side of students Throughout the day, three separate panels discussed the intricacies of executive and marketing duties. There were 11 speakers during the day, some of whom represented professional franchises like the Columbus Blue Jackets, Boston Celtics, Tampa Bay Rays and the Montreal Canadiens.
On Saturday, Nov. 8, All The Way came to an end with the keynote speaker, Mitch Garber. Garber is a Canadian businessman and CEO of Caesar’s Acquisition Company and Caesar’s Interactive Entertainment (CIE). From Montreal, Garber shared his successes and failures as a businessman. Stressing that being persistent, and remaining focuses on your goals, will pay off in the end.
As the delegates and JMSM organizers celebrated with an open bar at the end of the night, it was clear that their hard work had paid off.
“The conference was a huge success. The entire committee is so proud of how everything went. It took months and months of preparation. Since May, we’ve been working on securing hotels, venues, speakers and inviting schools all across North America,” said Kristyna Spooner, the delegate director for the JMSM team. “It took a lot of dedication from the entire team, especially throughout the weekend. But everything ran smoothly and we are very proud of how the conference turned out.”
The importance of hard work, passion and ambition defined this year’s conference
by Tim Lazier
In the closing ceremonies of this year’s John Molson Sports Marketing (JMSM) conference, president of the JMSM team Steve Lyberopoulos didn’t prepare a speech. He couldn’t fathom an appropriate statement that described how much hard work and commitment his team dedicated to the project. Without even realizing it, this was the perfect way to summarize the extraordinary three-day event.
Like any annual gala or event, the notion of ‘bigger and better’ is always promised, but rarely executed. While some big-name guests helped the cause, the reason that this year’s JMSM conference was special to the delegates in attendance was because of the underlying theme that stayed constant from the opening ceremony to the keynote speaker.
Appropriately entitled All The Way, the conference was about pursuing your passion to the best of your abilities, to go all the way. With a little bit of luck, a lot of hard work and unbeatable ambition, no dream is too far out of reach. And for the hundreds of wide-eyed students that attended the discussions, the message was exactly what they wanted to hear.
Don Meehan, a professional agent and the man behind Newport Sports Management (NSM), preached the importance of education in his discussion with TSN reporter John Lu during Thursday’s opening event. Meehan understands how many students can’t wait to get past school and be onto the next step, but the time spent in a classroom is invaluable. Even after formal education, the learning doesn’t stop. With an intimidating presence yet soft-spoken manner, Meehan told delegates to embrace the learning curve.
Beginning the season, NSM represented 129 NHL players. Although it has been 34 years since Meehan began NSM, he can remember when he was just starting out. Meehan explained how he just had to keep his head down and keep working, something many students can attest to.
Lu first spoke at JMSM four years ago as the keynote speaker and has returned every year since. Like Meehan, he hopes his experience can help students in any way possible.
“I know what challenges there are in trying to launch a career, and when working towards a purpose,” said Lu. “There are all sorts of challenges attached to it, so I always appreciate the opportunity to impart my experience and lessons I’ve learned.”
On Friday, the conference was moved to Concordia’s 387-seat D.B. Clarke Theatre, and with good reason. Delegates filed into their seats by 11 a.m. to see the main attraction. Habs general manager Marc Bergevin sat down with TSN’s Darren Dreger and Tampa Bay Lightning’s assistant general manager Julien Brisebois to discuss the responsibilities of being in charge.
While talking about their daily duties, Bergevin and Brisebois brought up the importance of ambition and passion. The idea of never having to work a day in your life can become a reality if you follow your passion. Brisebois admitted that he can’t wait to get to the office every morning.
Even in the midst of defeat, Bergevin told the crowd that there are opportunities to learn and to improve. With every Canadiens loss, Bergevin takes a moment to find out how his team can improve, rather than looking for people to blame.
“Winners find solutions, losers look for excuses,” said Bergevin.
While the Canadiens’ main-man may have been the big-ticket item on the bill, former Los Angeles Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti was one of the more inspirational speakers at this year’s conference. As a part of two panels on Friday, his second appearance was a one-on-one with Rogers-Sportsnet reporter Elliotte Friedman.
Comfortably sunk back in his chair with a voice that could have reached the back row even without a microphone, Colletti answered questions about his past and the values that he was brought up with.
“A blue-collar kid in a white-collar job,” explained Colletti.
Colletti, who was the Dodgers’ general manager from 2006 to 2014, grew up with very little in Chicago, but credits his father for teaching him the importance of a strong work ethic. Colletti told a few stories about his father and portrayed him as a simple man. His father had seven other siblings and the only thing he knew for sure was how to work hard. Coletti’s mother and father had known each other since they were 14 years old, and were side-by-side until the day Colletti’s father died of cancer.
By now, the room was hanging onto Colletti’s every word.
Throughout his career, and evident in his genuine manner on stage, it was never in Colletti’s make up to be flashy. He relied on hard work and hoped somebody would eventually notice him.
“I’m not the smartest guy in any room I’ve ever been in,” said Colletti.
As the conference dwindled down to a close on Saturday at the Centre Mont-Royal, the keynote speaker, Mitch Garber, wrapped up the event in fitting fashion. Garber, a Canadian businessman who is currently the CEO of Caesar’s Acquisition Company and Caesar’s Interactive Entertainment, spoke of his path to success and all the speed bumps along the way.
“My road has many more spectacular crashes than successes,” said Garber.
Coming from a man who is valued at $200 million by Celebrity Networth, he spoke of the importance of persistence.
Garber shared a story about one of these crashes and how in 1997, he had an opportunity to get involved with Hotmail. At the time, the idea of electronic mail seemed foreign and Garber needed time to think about it. Little did he know, a week later Microsoft bought Hotmail for 500 million dollars. Garber had missed his chance.
As the room groaned, Garber smiled and reminded delegates to just keep going.
Because if you’re going to go, go all the way.
This article has been edited to add further details by Tim Lazier.