Build a talent playbook for organizational success

The sports industry is built upon passion, but the challenges facing sports have never been tougher. The only constant is change. To build a best-in-class fan experience across the globe, sports organizations, both amateur and professional, must drive thought leadership from all functional angles, keep up with new advances in technology and data insights, and focus on continuous improvement efforts across all facets of its operations.

Our sports management consulting practice is the largest and broadest search and advisory practice of its kind, working at the highest level of sports operations (GM, HC, Chief Sport Officer) and business (Commissioner, CEO, President, C-Suite Executives). Our global footprint has allowed us to forge elite relationships across the landscape of sports. We work with leagues and organizations, owners, sports commissioners, intercollegiate institutions, professional teams, esports, consumer retail, technology, media and sports venues/facilities on all aspects of the talent journey.

We help sports organizations solve challenges involving executive search, leadership assessment, organizational alignment, succession planning and diversity and inclusion. Our sports consultants help organizations understand how to adapt and evolve to meet the changing sports landscape as well as the shifting demands of its fans, partners and other stakeholders.

Where we can help

Your performance and results are what matters. We partner with you to continually evolve and optimize to reflect the changing needs of your business. We help our clients in the sports industry address challenges like these.

Growing leadership for a changing commercial landscape

In today’s increasingly interconnected world, sports can no longer exist in a vacuum. Those who do not adapt to the transformation of revenue streams will not survive. The industry’s most forward-thinking leaders need agility, curiosity and innovation to meet the evolving demands of consumers, sponsors, partners and athletes. They understand the growing confluence between sports, media, entertainment and technology along with the critical importance of a clear and socially resonant brand message.

We can help your organization articulate its growth strategies and create an actionable plan around closing the talent gap and optimizing change. Over the years, we have placed some of the most progressive and transformative commissioners, CEOs, presidents and athletic directors as well as next-generational C-Suite and EVP executives. Our team has built relationships with the next generation of leaders at the director, VP and SVP levels, using a combination of our talent acquisition, professional development and total rewards practices to attract, develop and retain leaders for the future succession pipeline.

Ensuring alignment for on-the-field success

The pinnacle of any sports career is winning a championship. It rewrites history, defines legacies, energizes generations of fans and drives commercial growth on a global level. It’s also incredibly difficult to achieve.

There is no exact blueprint for winning a championship, but it always starts with the alignment between ownership, the head of the front office, and the head coach/manager around a shared philosophy, culture and commitment to excellence. We have worked intimately with ownerships across the NFL, MLB, NBA, EPL, NHL and MLS along with athletic directors and university heads across collegiate institutions to place some of the best general managers and head coaches working today. We strive to bring a level of process and deep quantitative and qualitative assessment that is unique and necessary in our industry. Our placements have shown immediate impact, which includes the winning of five championships over the past decade.

Driving diversity and inclusion at all levels

Unlike the ecosystem of competitive sports, females and individuals of color are severely underrepresented at the top levels of sports business leadership. Despite the massive market growth and operational sophistication in many of the leagues, associations, teams and other sports organizations over the past two decades, many legacy barriers—of professional and personal relationships—are still in place, persisting the feeling of an old boys club. Added to that are the pervasive backdrops of systemic racism and unconscious bias, making it difficult for diverse individuals to penetrate levels of true organizational leadership.

We take pride in our commitment to diversity and inclusion in all its forms. Our placements have been trailblazers—not just for what they represent, but also in their unmatched expertise and the diverse experiences and point of view they bring with them. We commit the resources needed to broadly source talent, taking the time to understand their unique needs and concerns. We work with your organization to identify and break down unconscious and conscious biases, engage diverse communities and build targeted, sustainable initiatives to recruit and develop diverse leadership.

Building a leadership bench

In an era of increasing complexities, deep specialization has become the norm both in the sports operation and sports business functions. Yet, the demands for commissioners, CEOs, general managers and head coaches require broad leadership with agile command over multiple disparate areas. With little internal pipeline for succession, organizations frequently have to look outside of their organizations or hope that someone will grow into the top position. This creates lengthy and unnecessary disruptions that further limit diversity or organic new thinking.

Our team can work with you to identify emerging leadership candidates, then create opportunities for you to expose them to relevant experiences and responsibilities across the organization. We also assess your talent to identify learning gaps and devise effective development programs to help you fill those spaces— whether it’s preparing for a CEO succession or the retirement of a legendary head coach.

Managing new media, technology and digitalization

It’s no secret that today’s fans consume sports in a broader and more digital way. Streaming, second screens, on-demand content, daily fantasy sports and social media have become the norm globally with a complex labyrinth of financial, investor and corporate support ecosystems organizations must navigate through. Technology is the play and data is its most valuable currency. But not all technology is transformative and not all technologies are sustainable investments. The organizations that will succeed understand the assets they have, leverage the right strategic plays and are forward-thinking around the evolution of sports.

We bring decades of experience charting digital growth and understanding big data, consumer insights and AI for the sports industry. We provide you with strategic organizational guidance in emerging technology, digital media, investment, and gaming / esports as it relates to the evolution of sports and sports viewership.

Let us be part of your success story. Contact us to develop a winning combination of talent-related strategies to help you get ahead of the competition.

Functional spaces in the sports ecosystem

Korn Ferry brings broad relationships and strong industry experience working with some of the best leaders across the sports ecosystem. Whatever your talent or organizational needs, our expert consultants will help you craft a bespoke solution that’s right for you.

  • Professional teams, leagues, and associations
  • Intercollegiate institutions and conferences
  • Sports media and technology
  • Sports betting, fantasy sports gaming and esports
  • Sports hospitality, venue and entertainment
  • Sports consumer goods/retail
  • Sports NGBs and not-for-profits


Functional roles in the sports ecosystem

Whether you are looking to bring on new talent or consultative work around the broad breadth of talent and leadership strategy, our sports team brings considerable experience around the following critical functional areas:

  • Commissioners
  • Organizational CEOs / Presidents
  • Intercollegiate athletics directors
  • Head coaches and general managers
  • Revenue, sales and marketing executives
  • Operations, communications, and legal executives
  • Board of directors and equity investors

Let us be part of your success story

Contact us and see how our industry expertise can help you achieve your business goals.

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