MLSE’s Alyson Walker on the collision of sports and digital media

“This is my first time working with professional sports, but the business of generating revenue doesn’t change”

Career Path, a continuing CB series in which top innovators and entrepreneurs explain how they got there
Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment vice-president, content Alyson Walker.

Alyson Walker: “People say, ‘You’re so lucky to have those opportunities.’ It’s true—but you’ve got to go get them.”

The vice-president of content at Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment tells us how ultimate frisbee gave her a crash course in conflict management and why sometimes, to succeed, you have to bug people.

Butterfield & Robinson; trip planner

“Before moving into sales, I guided bike tours through France and, yes, it was amazing. When Sept. 11 hit the travel industry, I remember thinking, I don’t know what I would do if I were running this company at this time. That’s when I got really excited about going to business school.”

Rotman School of Management; MBA candidate

“An MBA’s not the answer for everybody, but for me, with a science degree and some travel experience, it really helped solidify some fundamental business skills. Dean Roger Martin’s work on integrative thinking and building effective organizations comes back more and more in my work, even today.”

RBC Capital Markets; MBA generalist program

“I was in debt capital markets, on the trading floor. RBC wanted non-finance experts to join the organization and try out different roles. I will commend the program—it’s fabulous—but it taught me that finance was not where I belonged.”

CHUM/CTV; manager, digital business development

“I landed at CHUM television at a time when digital content was still in its infancy. We were trying to find ways to generate revenue from things like downloadable ringtones. But we also put the first Canadian show on iTunes—Corner Gas—and did a number of things that kick-started the era of streaming video in Canada.”

Capitals Ultimate; team captain

“Ultimate Frisbee is slowly evolving from a self-refereed game to an officiated game. The notions of conflict resolution and guiding your team toward how to carry themselves on the field are so important. One of the hardest parts is when you know your teammate has made the wrong call. As a team, do you call your teammate out? Do you let her figure it out? It’s no different than anything you face in the business world.”

Canada’s Olympic broadcast media consortium; promoted to senior manager, sponsorship and syndication

“I bugged my bosses for a year about the job. People say, ‘You’re so lucky to have those opportunities.’ And it’s true, but you’ve got to go get them. Vancouver 2010 was the watershed moment for digital content in sports.”

Canadian Olympic Committee; executive director, marketing partnerships

“After the Games, sponsorship usually dries up. We wanted to keep the momentum going. With Chris Overholt, our CEO, we worked to shift the paradigm from a Games focus to an athlete and team focus. It became about telling the athletes’ stories. And it worked.”

Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment; vice-president, content

“This is my first time working with professional sports, but the business of generating revenue doesn’t change. Still, there are new challenges. For the past year I’ve been working with Stacey Allaster, CEO of the Women’s Tennis Association, as a mentor. She makes time for people like me. And I’ve committed to doing the same in return for others.”