Redefining sports leadership through
best-in-class individuals
ready to meet the industry's changing needs

Sport is about winning, not just taking part. And we know that one of the biggest factors in fueling sporting wins is the power of tremendous leadership.

The talent at the top can make or break a sports organization. With the changing demands of ownership, leagues, partners, athletes, fans and communities, the public perception of what it takes to win is driven by leaders that bring alignment, strategy, culture and adaptability that produces success.

As the largest sports executive search and advisory practice of its kind, the Korn Ferry Sports practice has a global footprint and elite relationships inside and across sports, media, technology and entertainment. We find the right talent to lead organizations into the future.

Unlock sporting greatness with targeted coaching

Exponential technological and cultural advances are changing the face of sport. Leaders must be not only passionate and skilled but constantly learning and adapting to the new realities they will face.

The Korn Ferry Sports practice calls on our intimate understanding of the shifting landscape of sports and the leadership profile needed to drive performance to ensure the top teams are set up to win, not just to compete.

Recruiting from across the field to score more goals

In the Korn Ferry Sports practice, we believe that widening the talent pool drives greater success not only on the field but across the industry. Our inclusive recruiting approach, based on leading DE&I research, minimizes unconscious bias throughout the process.

That means we reach, engage and recruit from any background and every corner of the market, finding genuine talent for the top spot and bringing diversity of thought to the table.

Elevating the game from all corners

Sports might be about the winning team on the pitch, court or field, but it’s also about leveraging a property’s business potential. Korn Ferry is the only major firm with the experience and expertise to consult and search on both sides.

We can help you build a world-leading team that gels more effectively across the board, and our cross-functional expertise and process-driven methodology will help you focus on the unique operational and cultural components of your organization.

Inspired by champions, tailored for champions

Because our Korn Ferry sports practice is immersed in the sporting world, we are driven by respect for the elite performers—corporate and athletic—who make it what it is.

Our white-glove process is designed to engage stakeholders at every level, protect confidentiality, align on critical needs and collaborate fully to work through political and internal dynamics.

How we help build
winning teams

From search to succession and everything in between, our sports consulting, sports executive search and sports leadership services ensure your team is fit to compete at the highest level.

As the sports business rapidly evolves, the need for strong, diverse and visionary leadership in the boardroom has never been more urgent. Our experience across sports—and beyond—allows us to access the senior talent that will meet your ambitions for transformation.

  • Commissioners, Athletic Directors, CEOs, Executive Directors
  • Board Chairs and Directors
  • C-Suite and Executive Team
  • Commercial Functions – Ticketing and Sponsorship Sales, Marketing, Media, Digital, Hospitality, Philanthropic / Fundraising
  • Operational Transformation – Human Resources, Operations, Finance, Legal, Security

  • Emerging Fandom Functions – Heads of Gaming, Fan Growth and Engagement, New Technology, Sports Betting, ESG  

  • Focused Growth Functions – Heads of Strategy, M&A, Financing, Ancillary Investment

Growth and leadership at AMB Group

Home Depot founder Arthur Blank owns Atlanta Falcons, Atlanta United FC, Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the PGA TOUR Superstore retail chain, and Mountain Sky Guest Ranch. Looking to step back, he needed a CEO who would not only look after his cherished teams and properties, but push them to even greater success.

Korn Ferry worked with Arthur and his CHRO, Lisa Chang, to create a candidate profile using our robust proprietary assessment tools. Through Arthur’s deliberation on our leadership assessment, Steve Cannon emerged as the leading candidate.

And the results have been extraordinary. Mercedes-Benz Stadium is one of the best venues in sports, The Falcons have had one of their best stretches, and Atlanta United launched with great fanfare, winning the 2018 MLS Cup. After seven years, Steve was promoted to Vice Chair, with a strong internal succession in place.

From star coaches to team strategists, scouts to managers, Korn Ferry Sports has the insight and insider knowledge to bring in leadership that will inspire players and fans, ignite performance and unleash the potential of teams.

  • President of Sports Operations

  • Head Coaches, General Managers and Technical Directors

  • Heads of Development, Scouting and Academy

  • Heads of R&D, Strategy Insights and Analytics 

  • Heads of Wellness and Physical Development

A stunning comeback for Michigan University

After a decade in the doldrums, the underperforming bluebloods of Michigan football were in crisis, with fans, alumni, donors, partners and the media all pushing for change. With the dismissal of the Coach and Athletic Director, Michigan alum and former Steelcase CEO, Jim Hackett was brought in as interim Athletic Director to conduct the search for the next head football coach.

With the help of Korn Ferry data, insights and insider connections, top target Jim Harbaugh—former Michigan and NFL QB and successful coach leading the San Francisco 49ers—was secured through discussions, confidential contract negotiations and management of the internal politics. Michigan is currently the #1 ranked team across college football.

We will act as your in-house recruiters, taking the weight off finding the right candidates at every level, from volunteers to general staffing. And we’ll do it fast, so you can access a bench of experts for future success.

  • Volunteers
  • Part-Time Employees
  • In-House Talent Recruitment Agency

Rapid recruitment for a brand-new stadium

A technologically advanced NFL stadium, which also hosts concerts, sporting events and more, partnered with Korn Ferry to outsource rapid and significant recruitment for seven companies within the stadium umbrella.

With a go-live deadline of 10 days, the robust Korn Ferry virtual hiring platform was used across all stages, from attraction to pre-offer, with fully branded sites for all seven companies. The Korn Ferry team collaborated with the stadium PR team to create branded content and launch releases to generate interest.

Generating outstanding engagement and collaboration, the RPO project resulted in 2,122 hires in just six weeks, with an additional 1,000 lined up for offer. The stadium was so pleased it purchased the platform technology at the project end to use as its hiring portal going forward.

From team audits and search to ongoing support, Korn Ferry Sport can help you assess and fulfil the competencies needed to build the right team, nurture potential in the talent you have, and unlock the power of leadership to build winning organizations. Our expert leadership coaches help senior executives create sporting greatness through a culture of success.

  • Functional Mapping 
  • Direct Recruitment
  • Succession Planning
  • Performance and Amateur Draft Analysis
  • Placement Onboarding
  • Major Sponsorships
  • 360º Assessment
  • High Potential identification and Development
  • Executive Coaching

Driving performance for a non-profit

A national sports organization that guides investment strategies, and supports teams and athletes to win more medals, sought to launch a world-class coaching framework and processes. It also looked to standardize talent acquisition, retention and review to attract top coaching talent.

Korn Ferry identified a two-pronged approach to defining and operationalizing the organization’s talent competencies: devising research-based scientific descriptions, or Success Profiles, for high-priority roles; and maturing talent processes in the organization to embed and maximize the science-based approach. Processes and tools refining the Coach profiles, as well as the profiles for Directors who manage Coaches, can now be scaled across high-performance sports, bringing rigorous, modern talent management to the national sports environment.

The power of a winning team comes from diversity of thought and experience. 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.

  • Organizational DE&I
  • C-Suite and Senior Staff DE&I
  • DE&I Pipeline Development
  • Community Level DE&I

The footwear brand walking the walk on DE&I 

A global leader in performance apparel and footwear, our client has long had DE&I as part of its DNA. But they realized they were lagging behind on grounding diversity in their purpose and brand. They sought assistance in developing greater inclusivity at the leadership level to drive DE&I accountability across the whole organization and into the market. 

We took them on a bold, courageous Leadership Journey, activating and sustaining inclusivity from the very top of the house. We designed a program of customised workshops to drive self-awareness, trust and momentum, and cascaded it across the organization, through dialogue sessions, coaching, benchmarking, research-based papers and Train-the-Trainer capability to scale across their People Leaders. Our advisory support guided them during one of the biggest transformations in their history.

Getting the best from a team isn’t just about pushing them—it’s acknowledging and appreciating them too. We can help incentivize your workforce, unlocking success not just at the top but all the way through the organization.

  • Internal / External Compensation Analysis
  • Benefit Plan Analysis
  • Cost Reduction
  • Brokerage

Compensation management for an athletic conference

One of the USA’s top collegiate athletic conferences had a highly discretionary, unstructured approach to performance and compensation management for the role of conference commissioner, as well as broader goal setting. It needed support in determining a fair process and establishing an ongoing framework.

Starting with an inclusive information-gathering phase, engaging key stakeholders and undertaking external benchmarking, Korn Ferry brought the Executive Committee a set of recommendations on governance, structure and process, for discussion. The result was a robust framework that covered performance management, compensation philosophy, base salary management, bonus awards, special compensation considerations and deferred compensation.

Make sure your team runs together, with the same goals in mind. We can help your organization articulate its growth strategies and create an actionable plan around closing the talent gap and optimizing change.

  • Organizational Structure
  • Talent Distribution
  • Culture & Workplace Satisfaction

Meeting the pace of change in Major League Baseball

After leading the succession work that saw longtime MLB executive Rob Manfred becoming 10th Commissioner of the league, Korn Ferry Sports was brought in to transform the processes and systems in the organization, ensuring it was ready to keep up with market changes.

Under the banner of “One Baseball”, Korn Ferry proposed a systematic assessment of all verticals and executive leadership teams across MLB, MLB Network and MLBAM, with a focus on collaboration, agility and innovation. Assessing over 80 leaders, 300 individuals and identifying high-potential individuals as well as areas in need of change, recommendations were made designed to reshape the future of sports media, digital, revenue relationships and collaboration.

Today, Rob and MLB are much better prepared to meet the pace of change in today’s sports ecosystem, with reinvigorated fan interest, greater diversity and record revenues.

A great team isn’t just for now: it’s for the future too. Korn Ferry Sports always looks forward, expertly advising on how to create a high-performing, winning senior team while nurturing the next level of talent to ensure future success.

A new board seat to refresh the USOPC

The National Olympic Committee for the United States oversees 47 sport governing bodies, but without federal funding relies on fundraising and commercial leverage. Reeling from scandal, and with four directors moving on, the Board Chair Larry Probst tasked us with bringing diversity of thought, perspective and experience to the board’s composition—while giving special consideration to individuals connected to the Olympic movement.

Korn Ferry tailored a process that enhanced confidentially and mitigated sensitivities around turning down prominent candidates. We built a detailed assessment grid of needs and candidate traits and, despite political issues, were able to bring in Beth Brook-Marciniak, EY executive and former pioneering collegiate basketball player, whose wife, Michelle Marciniak, was a member of the U.S. Women’s Basketball Team. Following the appointment, the board and Michelle were instrumental in renaming the USOC to USOPC, the first organization to prominently recognize the Paralympic movement in this way. 

Brands we work with

We’re proud to work with some of the greatest sports properties in the world, helping them bring powerful, inspiring leadership and transformation for the most important people in sport: their fans.

Activision Blizzard logo Big Ten Conference logo Adidas logo Delhi Capitals logo LPGA logo Concacaf logo Nike logo Legends Hospitality logo Major League Baseball logo NFL logo Green Bay Packers logo FIFA logo Harvard Crest logo Muhammad Ali Center logo Paris 2024 Olympic & Paralympics logo Manchester United logo New York Mets logo PGA Tour logo Riot Games logo Southeastern Conference logo Toronto Raptors logo University of Michigan logo USTA logo Women's Sports Foundation logo

Recent Insights

In one of the world’s most fast-changing industries, Korn Ferry Sports ensures we’re on top of the latest developments. Here you’ll find the latest insights and analysis from our team.


Change starts with a