Business Development

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Community Enthusiasm: The Roar of the Crowd

31 Oct, 2009

By: Joan LaRosa

The power of the crowd is amazing. Imagine you are an athlete on the field ready to go up to bat, dribble a basketball to the net or run for a touchdown with hundreds or thousands of people counting on your every move. You are preparing mentally to bring your team closer to a win when you start to hear the crowd. A thunderous noise comes from the stands: clapping, cheering and stomping of feet tolead you to your goal, to virtually carry you to your destination. It makes your hair stand up and the more the crowd cheers the more they become involved in your win, your drive, and your goal.

Crowd enthusiasm, and as an extension, community enthusiasm, is the largest morale booster a team can experience. Traditional southern communities are entrenched in their local high school football and basketball teams. Stadiums in these areas rival the finest college stadiums in the country in size and amenities. As seen in the television show "Friday Night Lights," the whole town shuts down to watch the local team become victorious, if they're lucky. The coach is a celebrity if they win, and not so popular if they lose.

Engaging the Community
Engaging a town in youth, high school and college sporting events brings everyone closer, promotes a tighter community and a great sense of pride in their city. Bringing a regional or national event to a community extendsthat sense of pride beyond their borders. Volunteerism soars, media coverage brings out-of-town visitors well beyond the event, and folks that live in these communities become ambassadors of their area.

Generating a bond between a sporting organization and the city in which it resides gives support to an outside tournament that visits its city. In 2009, Hofstra University on Long Island (New York) hosted the NCAA Division I Mens Championship Lacrosse Northern Quarterfinals. To get their community involved and passionate about the event they started promoting the event one year outto various local lacrosse organizations on the Island by visiting them throughout the year. Lacrosse is a very popular sport in that area, which is essential when bidding on such a large event.

"As we put the bid in to host the event we were confident we could generate a large attendance because this was a sport that the Long Island community had a passion for and interest in," said Jack Hayes, athletic director of Hofstra University.

In addition to promoting the event locally, Hofstra promoted the event to the communities of the colleges playing in the tournament, encouraging them to visit the area and cheer their teams to victory. This led to increased room nights for the destination.

On the day of quarterfinals, Hofstra hosted a Pre-tournament Youth Tournament where 16 youth teams from the area competed on the very field the colleges played that afternoon. Afterwards, there was a Fan Festival complete with face painting, inflatable bounces and foodtasting to expand and celebrate the accomplishment of hosting this prestigious tournament. The efforts of all these events resulted in a near sold-out game with over 11,000 attendees. This was certainly an economic boon to the area.

Engaging Charitable Events
Participating in charitable events gives an organization the opportunity to truly give back to their community and gain the respect of the public. Blood drives, food drives and toy drives are popular ways to get the community involved in a great cause while promoting community spirit.

One professional baseball team recently had a contest whereby the elementary school that produced the most successful blood drive received 100 tickets to that season's game. It got the students involved in giving to others, opened a dialog about charity and selflessness and offered a reward for a job well done.

Engaging CVBs
Sports event rights holders need to work closely with their local sports commissions and CVBs to garner their support of the event. Most offer their services for free or at a nominal charge. In addition to posting the event on their website in their calendar of events,a CVB can send e-postcards to local residents, local clubs and enthusiasts of the sport in the regional area. They can also provide a list of local media so your organization can send out press releases or, if they have a marketing department, the CVB can send several press releases out for you. Many local tourism agencies will promote the tournament via interviews with local sports radio stations and local papers to gain momentum for the event and increased overnight visitation. After all, the goal of most convention and visitors bureaus is overnight stays.

Various convention andvisitors bureaus have one or more visitor centers or venues where they promote local tourism. Many of these centers are along major interstate highways. Providing a brochure-size flyer or rack card can spread the word quickly and inexpensively to potentially thousands of visitors and locals.

Local towns supporting your tournament can help by posting large banners in town announcing thedate of the event in their center square, main street or town hall, welcoming the participating teams. They can also post smaller signs on the roads and highways entering town leading up to the game.

 

Annual Port Jefferson Music Festival. Photo courtesy of Stony Brook University Dept. of Athletics
Annual Port Jefferson Music Festival. Photo courtesy of Stony Brook University Dept. of Athletics

Sometimes, the destination itself becomes a deciding factor in attendance. A desired destination can increase player family attendance, sports enthusiast attendance and tourism destinationattendance. But don't think you have to be a large city like Orlando or Las Vegas to get great attendance.

Guiding potential attendees to all the wonderful attractions in the tournament area can elevate a region's tourism potential. Nearly every town or city has wonderful sightseeing offerings. With everyone on a tight budget these days, numerous families will make a vacation around their child's tournament by coming in a few days early or staying a few extra days afterward. This is a destination's dream. Residual income from an event increases occupancy for that area.

It has been proven that promotion of a locale can lead to increased attendees for both sports and meetings. The local CVB or Sports Commission can provide promotional materials for event mailings. Maps, guide books and travel guides are among the printed materials available. Many also provide welcome gifts for athletes, officials or attendees to a sporting event.

Ask if your local promotional organization would be willing to go to the tournament prior to their hosted event. Often, a destination will attend that game with their printed promotional materials and give-aways to pique interest in their area. By letting attendees know what there is to offer in their region, the CVB or sports commission can pump up enthusiasm for next year's tournament. Families can plan ahead for their travel needs and the destination gets some free publicity.

Engaging Online Portals
Don't forget the online component. Dedicate a section of your event website to community involvement and activities to help the public learn about your events easily. Promote that section on the home page to encourage fans to browse your website longer. Provide detailed information about yourplayers and coaches so fans can feel connected to them. By making them accessible, this will encourage them to be vested in their progress and create a need to attend regular games and play-off gamesaway from your home field.

If you are a college or university, create a website specifically for your sports teams. This increases your search engine ranking and helps fans find you easily. Post all games and playoff games on the site, as well as TV and radio broadcasts of all games. Create a page where fans can purchase tickets directly from your site not only for regular games but for the post-season as well, if you are able. Get younger fans involved with a page aimed directly at them. Simple video games or printable coloring pages create instant followers of your site and indirectly to your team. An on-line store for team shirts and home goods on the website gives any fan easy access to bring your team into their home. By creating a home- town fan, you will increase the chances they will follow you wherever your post-season tournament takes you.

 

Rocky Point St. Patrick's Day Parade. Photo courtesy of Stony Brook University Dept. of Athletics
Rocky Point St. Patrick's Day Parade. Photo courtesy of Stony Brook University Dept. of Athletics

Social media is the fastest growing communication tool in recent history. Social media websites can spread the word quickly about a win or upcoming event. Facebook, My Space and Twitter help swell fan bases quicker than any other medium.

Creating a Facebook page for your team creates its own enthusiasm for your sport or organization. Post where your events will take place, interviews with team members and the latest scores. Create a portal to purchase team merchandise so the public can show theirsupport of your team. Create discussion groups to encourage the public to dialog about their experiences with your organization or team or thoughts about the upcoming season. These emotional ties bondthem with your organization and inspire them to continue to follow you on the internet.

Twitter, a quick and easy way to convey information about your group in 140 characters or less, is the newest way to follow favorite people and organizations. It's a mobile medium and can be used while a game is in progress, updating fans instantly.

You Tube, a favorite of the teenage set, lets you create your own video channel. People can subscribe to your channel where you can post video. All you need is a digital video camera and you are ready to enter the digital age! With You Tube, anyone around the world can see what your event has to offer. Fans who cannot attend the event can see it online and post comments.

Creating a marketing plan for all your social media is essential to your marketing success. Plan how often you will update your Facebook page or You Tube account and how often you will "tweet" your followers on Twitter. Ramp up interest in attendance for the next regular or post-season game. Writing it down ensures you will follow your plan. Some organizations have the resources to hire a person dedicated to their social media marketing. Others relyon people within their organization to update fan pages and send information out to the world. Without a clear schedule, social media can take a back seat to other responsibilities.

"ThisAugust we launched our company Facebook page. By the end of August we had fewer than 1,000 fans and just one month later that number climbed to over 13,000. It's phenomenal," replied Jennifer Rothman, sports sales manager of the Long Island CVB and Sports Commission when asked how they view social media to promote their area.

Clearly, social media is the new way to communicate with the outside world.

However you involve your chosen event destination, charitable works or social media, getting the community involved and entrenched in your organization is essential to growing fans and friends of your organization.

About the Author

Joan LaRosa

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