In the past, if you wanted to get a serious business degree, there was really only one way to go ― an MBA. The appeal of the MBA lay in the fact that it prepared you to work in any number of business sectors due to its generalist nature. However, this was often cited as a weakness and there has recently been an upswing in business schools developing programs that focus students’ efforts on developing the skills and knowledge needed to excel in one specific market. These “specialist master’s” programs are designed to give graduates a head start in an industry that they really want to work in ― but equally, they develop graduates that employers in these sectors really want to hire. Business schools globally now offer specialist master’s programs in such things as the luxury goods industry and even the healthcare sector. At EMLYON business school in France, one of the more unique specialized programs is the MSc in Sports and Outdoor Management.
The outdoor sports market ― specifically focusing on activities such as trail running, mountain biking, skiing, trekking and mountaineering ― is booming globally. Korea is currently the second-largest outdoor sports market in the world. In the current global economic downturn, this is one market that is definitely not suffering and one that is desperate for talented, young individuals who want to work in the industry.
However, there is a notable shortfall in qualified individuals. Sure, there are lots of young people who are passionate about sports, who would love to work in the industry, but there are not enough who have the skills and knowledge required to step into the industry and make an impact.
The outdoor sports industry is a global market ― dominated by international brands such as Salomon, Adidas, The North Face, Patagonia and Quiksilver. As a result, these companies are thirsty for young talent with a global outlook who have management skills as a well as a top-to-bottom knowledge of the industry as a whole.
Many “sports-specific” programs at universities and business schools focus on the industry from a corporate perspective. This is fine if you want to work in sports marketing for a company like Coca-Cola, but if you really want to make a difference, become part of the leadership of this exciting sector and shape the future of the industry as a whole, it isn’t enough.
I have personally worked in the outdoor sports industry for most of my career and one thing that I could see the industry crying out for was a way to develop and nurture leadership talent that really understood the mechanics of the sector. This is why, together with EMLYON business school and The Outdoor Sports Valley, I helped to set up the master’s in Sports and Outdoor Industry. This is a specialized program that gives students the in-depth knowledge of the outdoor sports industry and gives them the opportunity to work with some of the biggest brands in the market as part of the course.
And to add to this, students will be given a truly international perspective as the program takes them from the business school in Lyon, where they learn the fundamentals of business and management, to the home of outdoor sports in the Alps to work with those within the industry itself, and onto Shanghai in China to experience the industry from one of the world’s fastest growing international markets. Students spend three months benefitting from the experience of experts in each location and will have excellent access, throughout the program, to individual and sector specific careers services.
For example, at the first “retailing” module in Annecy recently, students met with Franz Julen, CEO IIC-INTERSPORT, a successful entrepreneur and a sportsman himself. He presented to the class the strategy of his company and shared his overall experience as an entrepreneur. Students were enthusiastic to learn how the company was set up and how it operates today. Other guest lecturers for this particular module included the owner and marketing manager of Snowleader.com, the head of digital marketing and e-commerce at Salomon and the EMEA retail director of Oakley.
Students also have the opportunity to attend the ISPO tradeshow in Munich, the biggest sports show in the world, and to visit Chamonix or several sports companies like Salomon.
At the moment this is a fairly unique proposition, but this is exactly the kind of program that can develop the knowledgeable international leaders needed to take this growing market into the future with confidence.
By Pascal Aymar
The writer is the director of Sport Business Unit at EMLYON Business School in France. ― Ed.