Sports Journalism Institute

Helping women and minorities get into newsrooms since 1993

Music City is backdrop for changing sponsorship model

By Chancellor Johnson
SJI Class of 2018

When APSE members gather at the organization’s annual summer conference, the agenda is always full of workshops, business sessions and opportunities for professional development. But that doesn’t mean it’s all business, especially when the conference is held in a city with as many diversions as Nashville.

Editors will make their first visit to Music City from June 17-20, with conference headquarters at the Nashville Marriott at Vanderbilt University.

“It’s a professionally enriching experience,” APSE conference coordinator Glen Crevier said. “On one hand, it’s a lot of great classroom learning with very provocative sessions where you can learn a lot about the state of the business and how you can apply it to the principles of your career. Secondly you will make a lot of professional contacts that could become friends for the rest of your life.”

It’s no news flash that “the state of the business” isn’t as booming as it was a few years ago. Mindful of that, APSE has worked to diversify its funding sources and this year, MLS—not a newspaper or sports media outlet—is the main sponsor of the conference.

In the past, the issue of sponsorship from leagues has been a source of disagreement about potential conflicts of interest. But now, “without their financial support, it would be difficult to have a conference on the magnitude that we have in the past,” Crevier said.

APSE is by no means alone in this. For example, support from leagues and other such entities has been a funding mainstay for AWSM since 2008, board member Lydia Craver said. And NABJ’s Sports Task Force also partners with leagues for support.

“The NABJ Sports Task Force has had partnerships with sports entities such as MLB, NBA, NFL, NASCAR and USA Swimming to support our programming at the annual NABJ convention,” said Gregory Lee, a former NABJ president who helped the Sports Task Force expand its sponsorship base. “We could no longer depend on support from media companies because those relationships began to diminish in the early 2000s. The task force has been aggressive in forming and maintaining its relationships with its partners.”

Such funding helps make annual conferences of these groups possible, particularly when paid attendance lags. Last year’s APSE conference in New Orleans drew only 81 paid registrants and as of May 29, just 74 were registered for Nashville, though registration remains open throughout the event and Crevier noted that more attendees are expected, with the hope that it will be around 100.

For those who attend the Nashville conference, there is plenty on the agenda beyond just business, including planned trips to the Grand Ole Opry (June 19) and the Jack Daniels Distillery (June 20). “We try to have a conference where people can learn and people can have fun too,” Crevier said.

On the learning front, one such session features three Sports Journalism Institute students from the Class of 2018 (Tashan Reed, Michael Curtis and Souichi Terada) giving their perspective on the state of sports media. The session will be hosted by incoming APSE second VP Lisa Wilson of ESPN’s The Undefeated.