Kudos to Class of ’97 grad Brendan Fyfe and his volunteer band of Sport & Event Marketing alumni for building the George Brown College 5 to Watch program into a premier Canadian sports marketing property.

Since its inception, the program has awarded 25 5 to Watch winners from 186 nominations and raised over $200k for student bursaries at George Brown. One of those award winners being T1’s very own Norm O’Reilly who was honoured in 2013.

Other notable winners include TSN’s Matt Silver, Under Armour’s Matt Shearer, Scotiabank’s Jacquie Ryan, NHL’s Sophie Kotsopoulos and Canadian Olympic Committee’s Andrew Baker.

There are three things I admire about the program:

1. It’s a “Hall of Fame” for people in their prime. Just look at the past winners. They aren’t retiring. They aren’t selling their agencies. They aren’t getting ready to write their memoirs (not one of these comments apply to me FYI.) They are the hottest and smartest players in our industry today and will be for some time.

2. Talent attracts talent. By honouring and promoting the best, the younger people in our industry are provided with role models and templates to mirror. Hopefully this property helps retain some of our best young minds who may be getting lured to stray.

3. Given it sold out last year this may cause more harm than good, but the 5 to Watch Award Ceremony is one of best networking events of the year (you know I’m going to list my events at the top….ha!).  But seriously, get a half dozen tickets early, early, early for your team and block off your afternoon to make yourself handsome. Okay that’s my strategy. You probably don’t need the extra prep time. In any event, if you haven’t been to the beautiful George Brown Waterfront campus, here is your chance.

Like anything in life there is, however, room for improvement:

1. To date, only 1/4 of the nominees and 1/4 of the winners have been women. While I have no data, I am positive this industry is a lot more gender balanced than that. I am shocked that any sort of bias exists, but there must be a fundamental reason for this inequality. That problem can be solved by YOU!

2. Another issue that the organizers have stressed is ensuring national representation of nominees. While there is an industry concentration in Toronto, there is a massive sports marketing community in the Province of Quebec, as well as provincial sports bodies, university athletic departments, community sports leaders and junior hockey teams from coast to coast.  If ever there was a year to ensure more nominees came from across our great land, 2017 is it!

3. Not enough people outside the industry know about them. We can be the world’s biggest clique in this business and sometimes that’s a great thing, but other times it’s a liability. Awards like the 5 to Watch need to have a larger profile across the Canadian marketplace. Not only will it be great for the winners, it will have tremendous benefit for the professionalism of Sports Marketing.

One quick note: The organizers are looking for new blood to drive it forward. The core group of volunteers have done five years of heavy lifting and it’s time for some fresh input  I don’t know if they are accepting non-GBC alumni, but to me this seems like a prime volunteering role if you’re looking to “network before you need to.” This would certainly be an effective platform!

Nominations are now open. It’s a great opportunity to honour the next generation in your organization, even though you will probably have a challenge narrowing it down to five from your own talent pool. As well, it’s a great opportunity to build profile for your property, organization, company or agency. Place a special emphasis on finding nominees who don’t look like the past winners.

Nominate. Celebrate. Motivate.