Marketing & Sponsorships

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Sports Franchises, Destinations Seek to Attract LGBT Fans and Athletes

19 Apr, 2017

By: Michael Popke

Washington, D.C., is the only United States city to be named a finalist for hosting the 2022 Gay Games, which could attract as many 15,000 athletes and 10,000 spectators. The National Soccer Coaches Association of America recently launched a free online course to help educate coaches about the inclusion and support of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) athletes. And professional U.S. sports leagues are sponsoring pride nights, flying rainbow flags and donating a portion of ticket sales to LGBT causes.

The times, they are a-changin’.

“LGBT fans have almost $1 trillion in purchasing power, according to an annual survey by Witeck Communications, a consulting firm that focuses on the gay-and-lesbian market,” Bloomberg Businessweek reported last fall, citing an expert who says a growing segment of LGBT fans are buying tickets and merchandise — to the point that sports marketers can no longer overlook them.

Similarly, some cities and states are doing what they can to attract LGBT visitors, too. The Louisville Convention & Visitors Bureau held a workshop last November to cover “the latest LGBT travel research, best practices and case studies,” according to The Courier-Journal. “Saying we’re LGBT friendly and actually being LGBT safe and knowledgeable are two different things,” the bureau said when promoting the event. Invitees included representatives of CVB member hotels, restaurants, retailers and attractions.

Meanwhile, the Hawaii Tourism Authority recently commissioned four studies designed to attract more LGBT travelers from the mainland United States, Canada, China and Australia. “We wanted to know if this niche segment needs specific marketing and promotion efforts, because there is a lot of potential with this market to increase total expenditures and visitation to the Islands,” Daniel Nahoopii, the HTA’s director of tourism research, told Pacific Business News, which reported that the studies revealed LGBT Generation X and Millennial travelers offer the greatest potential for growth in this area.

“LGBT travelers want to be spoken to, even if it’s included in the broader advertising,” explained John Tanzella, president and CEO of the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association, to TravelWeekly.com. “San Francisco does a good job of including the LGBT market in overall advertising. I don’t know if Hawaii is far enough along yet to do that, but specific messaging, such as highlighting the LGBT events there, could be a real opportunity.” 

It’s obvious some destinations are more desirable to LGBT travelers than others, though. Organizers of the 2017 World Outgames in Miami, scheduled for May 26-June 4, recently told Outsports.com that the 2,000 registered participants is well below initial expectations of 10,000 athletes. The games will go on, though, with swimming and soccer events likely to attract the largest number of participants and fans.

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