James Duggan’s connection to Australia began as a 16 year old growing up in Toronto where he joined the Canadian Australian Football League (AFL) community.
For the next 10 years, he held recruitment, communications and marketing roles for the Toronto Dingos, capping it off by becoming vice-captain of Canada’s national team and playing in several international competitions.
Today, James’ connection with Australia is even more entrenched as he’s living in Melbourne and completing his final year of a Master of Business (Sport Management) with Deakin Business School.
His decision to pursue sport management as a career began when he first landed a role at the International Cricket Council’s Americas’ office.
‘After my contract ended, I continued to fill various sports-related roles (including at the NBA for the 2016 All-Star Game) while looking into sports-related degrees,’ he says.
Discovering Deakin’s sports management program, James knew it matched his wish-list for study location and learning.
‘Melbourne is the sports capital of the world and after researching what Deakin offered, and professional pathways it could lead to, I decided to enrol.’
He says it’s been a ‘no regrets’ decision that recently also gave him the opportunity to be part of the first-ever international university team to participate in the USA’s National Sports Forum’s (NSF) Case Cup Competition.
This invitation-only event sees world-recognised university sport programs compete against each other in a case study that’s designed to replicate the real-world, fast-paced, sport-industry environment.
Because the Deakin team (of four) were studying in different modes and locations around the world, they had to rely on online preparation in the weeks leading up to the NSF Case Cup competition.
‘We only met in person the day before the contest in Texas. We were given our case at 10:30am on Saturday and assigned to present it exactly 24 hours later,’ explains James.
The case scenario revolved around what the PGA TOUR can do to better engage millennials, grow event attendances and increase the amounts of time and money that this target group spends on site.
‘We worked for 24 hours straight, not even stopping to sleep, to prepare a well-thought-out response,’ he says.
After a 20-minute presentation to a panel of three judges, followed by a further 10 minutes of questioning, the Deakin team was selected as finalists before having another hour to review what they needed to improve on for the final presentation.
That afternoon, in front of eleven judges and a much larger audience, they managed to take out an outstanding second place.
‘We finished ahead of nine of the top American sport management programs and behind only Oregon’s Warsaw Sport Management program.’
James believes the team’s success was largely the result of their collective global experience and knowledge.
‘The four of us had international experience across India, Europe, Canada and Australia and were also well-rounded in various marketing tools and tactics used worldwide in the sporting industry. We were really proud of the ideas that we came up with, which included developing a more relatable brand by improving PGA TOUR’s marketing initiatives, creating exciting and affordable events to improve millennial attendance, and engaging with a broader audience through targeted marketing and events,’ he recalls.
Following the competition, the Deakin students attended NSF sessions where they spent two days learning from global industry leaders.
‘This experience was incredibly educational and interesting and it allowed me to learn from, and network with, some of the best people in the sports industry,’ says James
‘Hearing from top sports marketers, managers, sponsors and event planners has allowed me to build on the knowledge I’ve gained throughout the course and provided me with a platform from which to launch my career.’