The Background…

Sporting events, like concerts, comedy shows and speaking engagements, can be major spectacles. A Sunday afternoon NFL game is a highly coordinated event while a Friday evening junior varsity football game is a smaller scale show. But both require planning and execution to make the experience worthwhile to fans and the environment presentable for athletes and coaches. Beyond the games themselves, sports are associated with many off-field events, anything from high school pep rallies to Super Bowl parades. Event planners and managers are needed across the sports landscape, ensuring team-sponsored charity events, fan gatherings and game days themselves go off without a hitch.

Event managers are hired to take a concept and turn it into a fully realized reality. They do something that seems daunting to the rest of us. The best ones are excellent consultants, strong negotiators and have the ability to make events better than expected while remaining within a given budget. Wedding planners work with a bride and groom to understand their dream and make it come true while managing the minutia. Sports event planners are hired for the same purpose, utilizing strong interpersonal skills and management ability from start-to-finish. Work with a professional basketball team to plan a charity dinner where athletes and coaches intermingle with school children while raising money for a good cause. Or create an experience during a team’s football training camp which allows athletes and coaches to get their work done while allowing fans a peek behind the pro football curtain. Event planners are project managers leveraging concepts like planning, controlling and execution to create events instead of products or services. Meet with event stakeholders to understand the vision and gather the details – the requirements. Determine the desired location, guest list, attendance requirements – do people need tickets? – and decor. The best event managers create and maintain a planning document and schedule based on the information collected throughout the project. These meticulous notes help create a budget to present to your client, whether it be a school’s athletic director, a team’s business leader or a corporate partner. Just like preparing and presenting a pristine three-course meal, timing is everything with event planning. Leverage a detailed schedule leading up to an event to ensure each part is ready and has been double checked as ready-to-go. On the big day, it’s the event planner’s job to remain composed during periods of high stress. Instruct vendors on what to do and where to go. Guide the group through the day’s itinerary or leverage an M.C. to do so. And swiftly deal with the unexpected when it undoubtedly arises. Never forget about the people that hired you to plan their event. While preparing for the event, stay in touch with stakeholders and don’t let your vision override the one they desire. And, during the event, check in with key attendees to verify their needs are being met. Good event planners won’t duck out early. Make sure everything ends well and the client is happy to be known as a go-to event planner in the business.

The Path…

Though a growing number of event planners have formal education, it’s a career that can be grown from experience alone. The higher education path has event planners studying business, communications, marketing, hospitality management or public relations. The core areas of focus within these college degrees – project management, marketing, business administration, negotiation, public speaking and formal writing – are well-suited for an event manager or planner. If continuing education more fits your situation, there are many schools offering courses specifically about the event and meeting planning business. While in school, secure internships and part-time jobs that enhance your resume and grow your level of experience. Get involved with university organizations or clubs and offer to plan parties, speaking engagements or other events they host. Intern with the athletic department, involving yourself in pre-game rallies or team-sponsored fundraisers. The education you receive gives you the foundation while the work you do proves to prospective employers that you can harness and apply that knowledge in the real world.

College is not for everyone, either by choice or by the situation. The path to becoming a top sports event planner may be slightly tougher but, for those with the smarts and work ethic, it’s far from impossible. Whether you’re in high school or already out in the workforce, make your way into the event planning industry. Work with an accomplished event planner as an irregular part-time employee or apprentice. Volunteer with nonprofit organizations, offering to run fundraising charities and thank you parties for other volunteers. Hire on with a sports organization’s public relations department which allows you the opportunity to aid in sports event planning. This type of work will create a resume filled with experiences that will help make you a premier event planner in sports.

The Money…

Several years ago, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated a median annual income slightly above $45,000 for event planners. The industry has grown since then, so has the compensation associated with the career. While the pay isn’t lavish for those starting out in the industry, the growth potential is tremendous. And those reaching the top levels of sports event management will easily earn into the six figures.

Passion drives income potential in some careers and event management is certainly one of those fields. If you love the job, you’re willing to work the long, somewhat irregular hours it takes to make your way in the business. The travel seems less strenuous and the stress of the big day seems less so. You’ll enjoy the growing paycheck as you progress in your career but, more so, you’ll strive to do your best work so the events you manage are presented well, pleasing to clients and engaging to attendees.



  1. Gregory Bacon

    I am very interested in this career opportunity!

  2. This was a great article! I recently graduated with a degree in Hospitality and Food Service Management. I am trying my hand in doing something with Hospitality and Sports. I have worked different concerts and the NBA Draft and really enjoyed. Trying to figure out the options for a career.

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