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Volume 23 No. 18
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Forum: New Voices Under 30 to honor young influencers

In frequent conversations with executives in sports business, the focus always seems to touch on young talent. How to spot and recruit it? How to engage with the young generation and develop it? How to learn from each other, work together and embark on a healthy mentor/mentee relationship?

Executives have a range of views on this generation — many are excited and enthused about their potential, many are frustrated and skeptical on their ability to adapt and learn. Everyone agrees they are the future. One of our goals at Sports Business Journal/Daily is to harness the energy of these young professionals, evolve with how they’re consuming content and understand their points of view on the sports business landscape. Many start reading SBJ/SBD in college through our College & University Program that puts our publications in more than 300 sports management and marketing programs around the country. We want to remain in their news and networking feed as they embark on their careers and develop their own professional identities.

We have always wanted to spot the “new influencers,” those fresh voices representing generation next. That’s why we’re introducing a new platform that will recognize potentially the next generation of leaders in sports business — New Voices Under 30. This multifaceted, multiplatform program, developed in conjunction with founding partners Anheuser-Busch and Turnkey Search, will identify young, diverse and impactful leaders, entrepreneurs, risk-takers and disrupters who are reimagining the sports experience and the way business is done. We will aim to recognize the influencers and dreamers who are socially conscious and masters of social messaging. They have varied backgrounds, beliefs and points of view, and are the change agents who use content, images and experiences to redefine norms and who are eager to shift the traditional sports business.

This program will fully embody the mantra that “more voices count.” We believe New Voices will become an exciting, dynamic and compelling new franchise that will be both inspirational and aspirational. We want to know these young influencers and believe you do as well. We also feel New Voices will be a nice addition to our other award programs: Forty Under 40, Game Changers, Champions of Sports Business, Lifetime Achievement Award and Sports Business Awards. 

We will be asked how it will be distinct from our popular Forty Under 40 effort, and there will be clear differences. It won’t be as formal or comprehensive, it won’t have as much of a person’s body of work and professional history to recognize; these young people will not be as accomplished or fully formed as executives. In New Voices, we are placing bets on people — we like the trend lines and see great potential. But unlike with Forty Under 40 where we know the bet we’re placing, this new program is more predictive. The bets may not hit, some may leave sports, some may fail. But we’re recognizing current and potential impact and influence.

Later this month, we will actively seek submissions in a simple process. The submissions will include a résumé — career path, achievement and influence — as well as a few prompted questions gauging size and scale of their role, decision-making and impact on their organization or the sports industry, and of course, their blueprint for the future. SBJ, along with A-B and Turnkey Search, will convene a select group of industry executives who will review the submissions in person, as well as rely on our network of professional relationships for references, to determine the final group, a number that will likely be under 50 in total. Submissions will be accepted through mid-September and the inaugural class will be announced in the fall followed by a fun, celebratory social event in December in New York City.

We will formally recognize our New Voices Under 30 in a dedicated section of Sports Business Journal in early January — with the theme of “New Decade: New Voices.” As you can tell, we’re fired up about this program — it’s going to be one of the most buzzed-about lists in sports business. We want to thank our founding partners, Anheuser-Busch and Turnkey Search, for sharing in the vision and being with us every step of the way. Let me know if you have questions, thoughts or comments, and be thinking about the New Voices Under 30 in your organization.

First Look podcast, with issues Abe is watching this week, at the 18:00 mark:

Abraham Madkour can be reached at