Darren Rovell has carved out quite a niche for himself within sports journalism. The ‘it’ sports business analyst talks about sports money and sports business with ESPN, on their website and broadcast channels as well as on his @DarrenRovell Twitter feed and in the various books he’s penned. Sports journalists are plentiful – though high quality ones aren’t as readily available – but eloquent, hard-hitting media personalities with a depth of sports and business knowledge are always in demand. Consider sports business journalism for a unique career angle. Become the next Darren Rovell. The next must-read. The next must-follow. The next must-watch.
To become the next Darren Rovell, first understand the man, his career path and what he does. The Northwestern University educated journalist chose to study theater instead of journalism, convincing himself it was better preparation for a future on television. But a successful stint at a prestigious university allowed him the opportunity to intern with the largely popular sports media site, FoxSports.com. Upon graduation, he accepted a full-time position with ESPN as a sports business writer, covering everything from contract signings to endorsement deals. At the time, ESPN, as well as other sports media companies, were exploring the scope of sports coverage and began realizing fans were interested not just in what happens on the court but in everything that surrounds the game. Rovell became more of a household name with his jump to CNBC as he become a lead sports business reporter for the network, anchoring documentaries, breaking stories and writing books. A quiet, man-behind-the-keyboard reporter he is not. He leaned on social media tools like Twitter to grow his following and stirred up controversy along the way. In 2012, with a triumphant return to ESPN, Darren Rovell now sits at the big table with the grownups while continuing to irk many people with his brazen use of Twitter to shill products and oft-smug demeanor. His trajectory to sports media celebrity was quick and he piled up naysars and critics along the way. But Rovell’s ability to break a story and bring the black-and-white of business into Technicolor makes him an interesting read and must watch.
Darren Rovell studied theater in college and still made his way into the world of sports business. Definitely the road less traveled. Sports business journalists more typically study business and learn about how it applies to the uniqueness of the sports industry. Learn about the law – contracts and endorsements are a heavy slice of the reporting pie. Economics, finance, marketing and sales are all applicable too. But the twist – learning from Rovell – is to prepare for the multitude of media channels available to top media members. Public speaking, communications or even theater are great minors or second majors for sports business journalists preparing to eventually hit the big time. Numbers in sports are big whether you’re talking Wins-Above-Replacement (WAR) and Player Efficiency Rating (PER) or P&Ls, attendance trends and marketing data. Embrace what comes with business statistical courses, the ability to make sense of the data that drives major decisions on a daily basis. There is no easy path to become a top sports business journalist. Put in the time to develop the depth of knowledge required to be a credible reporter. Take jobs that put you in a position to gain new experiences and talk about what interests you. And step out of your shell because taking on challenging projects and studying unique subject areas fosters rapid career growth. Sports business journalism mixes reporting on the bloated budgets of sports organizations with the large dollars of big business. Darren Rovell attacks sports business reporting from all angles. He analyzes contracts, reports on new endorsement deals and shares interesting marketing techniques teams use to attract fans. He writes columns, lands on the news wire, does in-depth reporting and fills his Twitter feed with Twitpics, Retweets and pointed commentary. Before you’re considered a mainstream media member like Rovell, you need to pay your dues. Take a job reporting for anything that relates to the sports business industry – minor leagues, college ranks, whatever. Talk to people in the business and develop sources that, like you, will eventually move on to bigger and better positions. The sources you cultivate in your early years will pay dividends down the line. It’s a growing industry. More and more media companies -large and small – see the value in covering sports business. SportsBusiness Daily/Global and Journal is a publication that delves deep into the industry and isn’t distracted by the daily sports beat. Mega media companies like Fox, CNBC and ESPN all devote air-time and website pages to sports business dealings. Fans care about wins and losses. But, more-and-more, they care about free agent deals, big money endorsement contracts and understanding how organizations build a fan base. There is a need for journalists that will report the news and opine on what it means. If you love sports and have a knack for business, you could be one of those journalists.
By Niral Patel