5 to Watch – Celebrating The Future of Canada’s Sports Business Professionals

In this guest post, Chris Dunne shares highlights of Canada's Sports Business Awards, the 5 To Watch. With many sponsorship executives winning at the 2016 awards, Chris takes an inside look at what makes this event a must attend if working in the Canadian sponsorship industry. This post originally appeared on Sports Business Canada.


Since 2012, the 5 To Watch Awards have been recognizing young sports business professionals who have achieved remarkable success within their field. Presented by George Brown College, in partnership with the Globe & Mail, any Canadian who works in the business of sport and is under the age of 40 can be nominated. Once nominations close on February 28th, over 100 sports industry veterans will review the pool of nominees and vote for their top candidates. Five winners will be recognized at an awards ceremony at the Waterfront Campus of George Brown College on Thursday, June 22nd, 2017. Nearly 400 sports business professionals will be in attendance to network and celebrate this remarkable achievement.

At last year’s sold out gala, Andrew Greenlaw of CIBC, Sophie Kotsopoulos of the NHL, Matthew Logue of S&E Sponsorship Group, Dan Near of Adidas, and Brent Rossi of Pegula Sports & Entertainment were honoured for their accomplishments. Jacquie Ryan, VP of Sponsorship Marketing with Scotiabank received the Sport & Event Alumni Achievement Award.

While 5 to Watch is an individual honour, the event means much more to the industry as a whole. In the words of Andrew Baker, Director of Games for the Canadian Olympic Committee and 2015 recipient, “The impact of the award extends past just the recipient and recognizes great workplaces and staff that have supported the recipients. It informs people of the variety of work that exists in the field and helps bring visibility to top performers from across the country.”

It also helps to foster a truly collaborative community across the country. Bringing together some of the best and brightest minds in sports presents a networking opportunity unmatched by few others in the industry. When speaking with Matt Afinec, SVP of Operations with the Hamilton Tiger Cats, he said “It [5 to Watch] has enabled me to establish mentor-like relationships with people in the industry I respect greatly that I otherwise would likely not have met, nor had the forum to connect with so authentically.”

With 25 inductees and counting, the advice to future young professionals is simple. Success in the sports industry is about surrounding yourself with the right people, and putting yourself in the right situations. As Matt Shearer, GM/SVP Canada & N.A Operations at Under Armour puts it, “5 to Watch puts you in a room with all the right people. For any up and coming young sports business professionals, it presents an opportunity that helps to propel your career, and build a network of valued connections. The 5 to Watch program continues to grow year over year, shedding light on all the tremendous talent within our industry.”

As 5 to Watch continues to grow, so does the competition. Brendan Fyfe, co-chair of the event, says that it’s about recognizing the best young professionals in the country no matter where they are based or what sector they work in. “We want to ensure that we’re receiving nominations from across Canada. As the number and quality of nominations continues to rise, it increases the awareness and prestige of the awards, something that benefits all parties”.

The nomination window is set to close on February 28th which means you still have time to submit a rising star for consideration. For more information, and to submit a worthy candidate visit http://www.5towatch.ca . Information on awards show tickets will be available in April.



Chris Dunne is Business Development Manager for Elemental, a full-service advertising agency based in Toronto. He’s also an active volunteer with AMA – Toronto, Young Adult Cancer Canada, Toronto Region Board of Trade, Conservation Corps of NL, and Big Brothers Big Sister. Named one of Marketing Magazine’s 2015 Top 30U30 and 2015 St. John’s Rotary Young Professional of the Year.