NU-Q completes first Executive Education Program

February 24, 2018

Northwestern University in Qatar (NU-Q) has successfully completed its first executive education program. A series of masterclasses on sport communications addressed Qatar’s continued growth in this sector, which will require increased numbers of journalists prepared to cover international sporting events.

Offering its expertise in the area of strategic communication and media, faculty provided area professionals with in-depth sessions that focused on media, marketing, and law. Held over three weekend sessions in February, "The Changing Business of Sport and Sport Communications" included attendees from Portland Communications, Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy, Al Jazeera, and other prominent organizations.

Experts in the field led each of the three programs.

NU-Q Associate Professor Craig LaMay began the program with an introduction to media sport and its evolution in the modern world and the innovations in virtual and augmented reality. “Without media, sport is just play,” LaMay said. He pointed out that, because of that, modern sports journalists no longer just report the score of the game, but also examine how sport is addressing political tensions and international human or civil rights issues.

“The focus of governance on world sport is the big story of this year,” the professor said. He noted that the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games – as well as this summer’s 2018 FIFA World Cup, which will be held in Russia – are already garnering headlines. Coverage of the Winter Olympics includes heavy coverage of the relationship between the host nation South Korea and North Korea, as well as the 168 Russian athletes who will be competing despite recent reports of state-sponsored doping. 

An associate professor at Fordham University’s Gabelli School of Business, Mark Conrad, led the second session and analyzed how sporting organizations are influenced by the rules imposed on them. Attendees learned about international laws and regulations on issues such as transparency, corruption, doping, athlete’s rights, and anticorruption by engaging with interactive case studies which inspired discussion and debate.

“Governance has become so important in the functioning of a sports business that reporters really do have to have an understanding of these central structures because those structures are regularly being re-examined and disputed,” Conrad said. A comparative study of European and U.S. laws was also conducted in the session to determine how the future of the industry might evolve. 

Northwestern University Professor Candy Lee concluded the program by introducing students to sport marketing, event management, and promotion. “Many people see sports marketing as a celebrity- and athlete-oriented industry, when really it is more of a product- and service-oriented one,” Lee said as she compared sport marketing to other areas of marketing. These differences included the inconsistent nature of the sports industry, the conflicting objectives of owners and fans, the intangible value of being a spectator, and the availability of plentiful customer data. Students then engaged in a hypothetical exercise that encouraged them to analyze pricing strategies that leagues, international bodies, and tourism authorities use to market their sport. 

As digital platforms take a prominent part of the promotion aspect of sport marketing, Lee shared seven principles on building a social media strategy: reflecting brand identity, value the power of storytelling, understand the role of impactful visuals, go behind the scenes, show personality, think of sponsorship opportunities, and don’t forget to edit. “Ensure that social media is coherent with your marketing strategy and make sure that every one of your channels is speaking to the same overall organizational goals,” she said.

The classes also featured guest speakers including falconry expert Laura Wrede, general secretary of the Qatar Football Association Mansour Al-Ansari, and from Oola Sports Amina Ahmadi, its design and product development director.