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Best Practices for Recurring Events

17 Nov, 2016

By: Tammy Dunn

RECURRING SPORTING EVENTS ARE BECOMING more and more common. Host cities are becoming interested in hosting a sporting event for more than one year, if possible. Sports rights holders are seeking host cities to host their sporting events year after year.

Over the last 10 years, the Snohomish County Sports Commission has been assisting sports organizations and sports rights holders with keeping the sporting event in our community. These annually recurring sporting events can help make a community become a premier sports destination. In addition, it’s beneficial to sports rights holders from both a financial and a logistical standpoint to have their sporting event return to the community for a second or third year, or even more.

One of our goals is to continually bring a sporting event back to our community year after year. Whether you’re an event owner or a destination, it’s likely your goals are similar to ours: have a positive experience that is good for all partners and build on that success the following year.

So, knowing that your goals are aligned is half the battle, but you still want to work toward having your event return year after year – and be a success when it does. What are important key elements that sports rights holders should know about recurring sporting events? Same with the host city: what important key elements should sports commissions or CVBs know? Are they the same key elements as we think of when we consider the needs of the sports rights holders?

Here are the first three key elements both the sports rights holder and the host city should think about in order to have a successful recurring sporting event.

  1. Partnerships

Partnerships are one of the key elements in the success of a sporting event. In fact, this might be the single most important element on both sides of the equation. Why? Because it allows you to create and maintain the network that will keep your event flourishing.

From our side, partnerships within the sports commission’s community are vital to working toward hosting a sporting event from year to year. Sports commissions need to have a working relationship with sports venues, hotels, and community businesses; in fact, rights holders count on that. The ability to establish and maintain partnerships within a community will demonstrate to the sports rights holder that a community is involved with sporting events being successful.

In return, sports commissions are looking for event owners to work on creating partnerships with entities ranging from national governing bodies to local law enforcement (if necessary) to local or state associations and officials in the sports they’ll be working with. If a rights holder can demonstrate to a sports commission that they too are willing to reach out to the appropriate contacts in the area, the sports commission understands that they have plans to create an event that becomes ever more dependable and ever more systematic, year after year.

A good relationship will provide momentum for both parties, the sports commission and the rights holder, to book the same sporting event the next year at the same time of the year. After all, people like knowing they’ve found a partner they can depend on. (And let’s face it, people do love dependability; it’s the reason we return to our favorite restaurants, stores and more.)

Here is an example from our experience of a recurring event that continues to go from strength to strength. For the last six years, the USA Triathlon Youth & Junior Elite Race Series has been held in the city of Monroe, Washington. The success of this event is the result of a great partnership with the City of Monroe, local businesses, Monroe Chamber of Commerce and hotels.

With these partnerships that we have, USA Triathlon and Total Health Events have been able to benefit, as have the athletes participating in the event series. Keep in mind that this is a youth-oriented sports event; not only is it essential to make sure all the athletes are happy, it is essential to keep their parents and other family members happy. After all, it’s all those people who have the potential to create the financial impact, and having them go home satisfied enough to spread the word to others is something that can help you build on the success of your event year to year.

  1. Communication

Communication (and more communication) is another key element for successful recurring sporting events. In fact, communication really is the currency of event planning and without it, the event will flatline.

Once a sporting event has been awarded to a host city, the sports commission and the event rights holder should be involved with regular meetings. These can be conference calls, Skype or another medium, but they should be held on a regular basis. The space between meetings will necessarily become shorter as the event moves closer, and both sides should keep good notes of the recommendations, concerns and questions brought up in each meeting.

One excellent practice is to follow up each meeting with a list of tasks that need to be done by the next meeting, and by whom. This list should be circulated after every meeting to ascertain that nothing slips through the cracks.

Currently, we are working with the Granite Curling Club to ensure proper planning for the 2017 USA Curling Men & Women National Championship. For the last four months, we have been working with a member of the Local Organizing Committee (LOC) who is assisting the Granite Curling Club with the preparation of the event.

In our regular monthly meetings, we are ensuring that the LOC is accomplishing the tasks that need to be completed. Examples of tasks are marketing the event so people may purchase tickets, soliciting sponsorships so the budget is sustainable, and planning the event logistics with the arena.

Even after the event is over, there should be a debrief meeting. The debrief meeting should include the local organizing committee, city representative, venue manager, event director, sports commission/CVBs and others who were involved. This meeting should include discussion on the successes of the event including what worked well prior to the event and on event day, challenges that arose throughout the planning process, and recommendations on changes that should be made to improve the success of the event.

Having a consistent level of communication from start to finish is essential as it allows for constant updates among all parties. It also provides you with opportunities to elevate the event to the next level, since there may be chances to improve upon various aspects, to learn about opportunities for sponsorship (more on this in a minute) or to create more media opportunities (ditto.)

  1. Coordination Among All Parties

The third key to successful recurring event is coordination among all parties: host city, event rights holder and everyone else involved. Our staff practices that coordination with a variety of sporting events we host.

While partnerships and communication lead to good coordination, there are always other factors to consider. For example, coordination should include keeping the sports rights holder aware of any other events that may be happening at the same time as theirs. In some cases, this will result in considering whether to move the date of the event for the following year. (Of course, some of the advantages of keeping a sports event on the same date, or at least in the same time frame, are enhanced ability to recruit repeat volunteers, ease in marketing the sporting event to the community, and the ability to provide improved support each year.)

Having discussed the three key points, however, it is imperative to talk about other factors that can help create events that improve and grow each year. The sports commission/CVB and event rights holder can work together on these, but it is the rights holder who must make the decision to pursue them, and be willing to take on some of the key tasks involved with them.

Sponsorships: Having an event that returns each year means the local community has become familiar with it. This includes local businesses. By working to create a sponsorship program for your event, you can help local businesses become stakeholders. The sports commission in the state you are working with may be able to help you identify some companies that could benefit from the exposure.

Don’t be afraid to think outside the box. Sponsorship isn’t just signage and advertising, although these are excellent means to create additional income for the event, and raise the profile of the businesses. Local companies may want to sponsor Wi-Fi if it isn’t provided, or may provide financial support for the design of the event app. These days, having a charging station for phones and other devices will be appreciated by athletes and spectators, and if you can have sponsorship support for it, even better. Remember that anything viewed as an amenity will be received favorably by athletes and spectators, and create a very positive association with the business.

Expos: Does your event have an expo or trade show? If not, start thinking about adding one that would be relevant to the event and the people who are interested in it. If a sports event focuses on weightlifting, for example, an expo or trade show could include vendors with everything from dietary supplements to training equipment to apparel to books and online training tools. Remember that the more you can ‘grow’ your event from year to year, the better off you’ll be, and the happier athletes (and spectators who have an interest in the sport) will be. Remember too that success leads to success. A vendor area can increase in size each year if there’s good buzz about it.

Clinics/Demos/Meet-and-Greets: A sports event can be a tremendous opportunity for athletes to talk about their sport and to provide beginner clinics, or demonstrations of the sport with other athletes. It’s also a good way to introduce newbies to a sport in a fun and informal way. If there are some well-known athletes, it’s likely there will be plenty of people who want to meet with them, so perhaps a Q&A session with that person will be well-attended. Experiment with various options and you may find something that is a winner; if so, you can repeat it the following year.

Media Coverage: Social media is great (and largely free) but if you want to really raise the profile of your event, you’ll need to reach out to the local television, radio and newspapers as well. The sports commission will be familiar with various media outlets in town, and may have contacts there. Use your imagination and see whether a sports anchor, for example, would like to try his or her hand at water polo (if that’s the tournament you’re putting on) or to attempt a gymnastics move, or anything else related to your event. The visual element is always appealing to viewers, or to readers of a newspaper that might send out a photographer along with the reporter. It also results in more eyes on your event, and is free advertising.

Recurring events that grow each year in size, visibility and scope are the events that also grow in terms of economic impact. And that’s what everyone wants, after all! When sports commissions/CVBs and event rights holders work together, success is the result. The tools to create that success – partnerships, communication and coordination – are all available and achievable so that both sides of the table can benefit equally.

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