Marketing & Sponsorships

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Ho Ho Ho: The Numbers Show Holiday Events are Bringing in the Dough

16 Nov, 2016

By: Mary Helen Sprecher

The Thanksgiving turkey isn't even on the table but that hasn’t stopped the radio stations from playing Christmas carols and every mall from working to entice shoppers to come in and spend their money.

The question becomes this: What are you as a sports event planner going to do about it?

If you’re savvy, you’re going to harness the power of that holiday energy to promote your event. After all, wait any longer, and you’re likely to be competing against every other seasonal event. Jingle bell this, Santa Claus that – and it’s all hitting at the exact same time.

All in all, there are plenty of opportunities for sports. With schools closing for approximately two weeks bracketing the holiday season, youth tournaments have proliferated in basketball and football. But by far, the most well-attended events held across the U.S. are 5Ks, fun runs and walks.

Because Christmas Eve and Christmas Day fall over a Saturday and Sunday this year, there are a quite few dates to work with – if you play your cards right. The weekend before Christmas, traditionally a gold mine for retailers and it can be a good one for this side of the industry too.

According to Aaron DelMar, executive race director of the Santa Hustle (a Christmas-themed 5K presented in various markets across the U.S.), the secret many times is knowing when to host an event.

“We coordinate our event to take place on Sundays for the most part,” he notes, “and we schedule them for early morning, so that there is minimal impact to businesses in an area.”

Because the Santa Hustle, like several other holiday-themed 5K running events, draws families and groups of friends, however, the residual traffic in urban areas drives business into stores and malls, since people often aren’t ready to go home after the event and are in a festive mood (translation: ready to spend on food, beverages – and gifts.) And it’s obviously working; these statistics bear it out:

Following REI’s Lead: These stores have noted they closed Black Friday

Who Knew: This many stores would decide to close on Thanksgiving Day as well.

Of course, events planned for early December do better financially. Savvy event directors know people are tapped out, financially as the month stretches on, and are unlikely to be enthusiastic about the prospect of committing money to something personal. And many people are just plain uninspired to exercise. They’ll start up the first of the year; hence the popularity of New Year’s Resolution runs, walks, tennis blitzes and more.

So what actually works to bring in people? Here are a few hints:

  • Form partnerships with local sporting goods stores (independent running shoe stores or tennis pro shops, for example) and hold pre-event activities in order to satisfy the ‘shop local’ crowd

  • Stay away from dates late in the month since more people are overcommitted and undermotivated

  • Have promotions started early – maybe in the fall – in order to get registrations and keep people engaged.

For those who are planning to host an event (particularly for adults) either right before or right after Christmas, and whose event does not depend upon children’s vacation times, the following suggestions are useful, as provided by Active Endurance Blog:

  • Ease of access: The event should be during a specific time, so that it does not take up all day (for example, a morning 5K, etc.)

  • The fun factor: Are you using seasonal tie-ins like holiday costumes or other gimmicks? It just might nudge some people off the couch

  • Constant communication: How are registrations selling? Are there any special deals? Is there a deadline for early registration rates? Keep in touch with all participants.

  • Don’t just use one platform: Too many event directors want to use only social media, or only e- mail. Recruit on all fronts. Develop hashtags for the event and increase visibility.

  • Envision what you want your event to look like: Work backwards from there.

Properly presented, an event can be the most wonderful time of the year. Just like Santa, make a list and check it twice to make sure you’re doing all you can to promote it.

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