Skip to main content

New Sports Book from Northwestern Professor and Alumni

Authors deliver winning strategies to become leaders in the sports industry

EVANSTON, Ill. --- To a sports fan, there’s no greater thrill than a walk-off homerun, a Hail Mary pass at the end of a game or a fourth-quarter buzzer beater. However, winning isn’t everything. In the multibillion-dollar sports industry, what a team, league and athlete do off the field and in the office can be more important to their success than their win-loss records.  

In their new book, “The Sports Strategist: Developing Leaders for a High-Performance Industry,” authors Irving Rein, professor of communication studies at Northwestern University, Ben Shields (C03, GC04 and GC08) and Adam Grossman (WCAS04) argue that relying too much on winning on the field is a losing, long-term strategy for sports enterprises.

“Sports organizations must focus on identifying and maximizing key factors that, unlike winning, can be controlled,” Rein said. “These factors could be reinvigorating the stadium experience, strategically evaluating new technologies and building public support.”

Most sports managers working in the industry have little control over their team and how their athletes will perform on any given day. As the $750 billion sports business grows increasingly complex, there is a pressing need for people who can exercise leadership in the marketplace and make tough decisions on which challenges to prioritize.

“With so much unpredictably and variability with on-field performance, we argue that successful sports businesses and their leaders must maximize and drive revenue based on the factors they can control,” said Shields, Lecturer in Managerial Communication at the MIT Sloan School of Management. “This approach will stabilize their organizations during times of losing, while also positioning them to reap significant rewards when they do win.”

Blending extensive industry experience and real-world case studies with their academic expertise, “The Sports Strategist” provides readers with the ability to make better strategic decisions, design identities, navigate crises, manage narratives and maximize new technology in today's connected world.

“Having the ability to examine topics ranging from analytics to ethics separates our book from others about the sports industry and provides our readers with a competitive advantage,” said Grossman, founder and president at Block Six Analytics.

Case studies ranging from top professional organizations to high school, collegiate and amateur teams in both the domestic and international markets demonstrate practical applications of the strategies discussed.

For example, the authors examine how creating the “Ballpark Synagogue” for minor league baseball’s South Bend Silverhawks’ merchandise headquarters connected the team to the town's history and culture. It also provided a community-building attraction to draw fans to the stadium regardless of the team's win-loss record.

“Our book is designed to provide anyone, from established and aspiring professionals to fans interested in the business side of sports, with a distinct perspective on their favorite leagues, teams and athletes,” Rein said.

Rein's primary research and teaching interests are popular culture, crisis management, sports management and place marketing. Shields has an undergraduate degree, a master’s degree and a doctorate all from the Northwestern’s School of Communication. Grossman has an undergraduate degree from the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences and played goalkeeper for the men's varsity soccer team. 

“The Sports Strategist: Developing Leaders for a High-Performance Industry” will be published by Oxford University Press in September.

Editor's Picks

Back to top