“Communication is the problem to the answer...” Ever have a song stuck in your head? I keep hearing lyrics from a hit song in the ’70’s and as I contemplate the question “How do you Optimize your CVB/Sports Commission Relationship,” I realize poor communication is the problem and clear communication is the answer.
“Houston, we have a problem...” You, as the event planner, receive a call. The person on the other end tells you there are some “venue issues” with your event. With only weeks to go before a large event you have been informed the venue, booked years in advance, is no longer available. Now that’s an issue! This conversation would strike fear into the hearts of all event planners. The reasons why are of no concern to you; at this point all you can think is your months of pre-event planning were just erased and you need another venue fast.
At times like this you need an easy button; you’re just one person and your workload just tripled. You have a friend and you may not even be aware of it. Your easy button is a quick call to a CVB or sports commission in another city to see if they can accommodate your event. Time is of the essence; make the call!
One May 24, 2010 the Regional Coordinator for USA Track and Field contacted the Abilene, Texas CVB regarding the Regional Junior Olympic Championship for – now get this – July 13, 2010! This event has 2,300-2,700 athletes competing over a five-day period. The event is usually set years in advance and planned over a year’s time. A problem had arisen with their scheduled venue and they needed another location in just six weeks! With this short time frame, an event planner should know one phone call to a CVB can let them know if that city can meet the criteria and is available. You know whether you have found a site consideration or if you should move on, and really isn’t that what you want at this point?
The seasoned USATF Coordinator made contact with the Abilene CVB and we were glad she did. Past work with other USATF and AAU event planners provided us a good reputation. Some quick leg work by the Abilene CVB proved fruitful for all - a venue was available and we could meet the criteria. Within a few days, a site visit was set. The decision to use the venue was made and final details were worked out by the end of June.
In the meantime, the CVB was hard at work and communicating with the planner on an almost daily basis. Hotel rates were requested, gathered and sent to the planner to post. Golf carts, tents and misting machines needed to be rented. An opening ceremony needed to be planned with a local dignitary providing a welcome for the event, posting of the colors and someone to sing the National Anthem. Meals were planned, a hospitality room set up and supplied for the ENDLESS number of volunteers needed to make this event run smoothly.
I hope you get the picture – a fast and busy six weeks went by and the event went off as smoothly as if it had been planned for a year. I have no doubt that the planner would have worked day and night to pull the event together no matter what, however she says she could not have done it without the help and work from the Abilene CVB. Obviously, we bonded over this track meet and have a mutual respect and fondness that will produce more flawless events.
CVB & Sports Commissions Defined
The CVB is the city's destination marketing organization. Its sole purpose is to create economic development through tourism. In your community, you may find the CVB as part of your local Chamber of Commerce, a department of the city, or as an independent organization. Since most CVBs are funded by a portion of the local hotel occupancy tax, they focus on generating overnight stays, commonly known as “heads in beds.”
Sporting events enjoy a broad-based market due to the expansive age range and sheer number of participants and spectators. Across the country as the sports market continues to gain a significant margin of the total tourism dollar more and more, CVBs have designated a department or individual whose primary focus is the sports market and its unique needs. Because sports is a substantial revenue generator, CVBs are as interested as you that your event be a flawless and trouble free experience.
Sports commissions differ; some are funded by memberships, others by a portion of hotel/motel tax. Some stand alone from other city or chamber services and some are unfunded committees that serve under a CVB. If a sports commission is not funded by hotel occupancy tax, it can also focus on one-day or local events. Those differences aside, the common element uniting sports commissions and CVBs is that both want a successful event for the planner, participants and spectators.
If your host city has a CVB and a sports commission that are totally separate entities, it is a good idea to get a general overview of each organization to find out the mission of each. For example, Abilene has a Sports Alliance under the CVB with a mission consistent with the Abilene CVB goals. The best case scenario is a partnership of the two entities working together, with no duplication of efforts or conflicting objectives. However, on occasion, you may find repetition of services. As the event planner, you will have to decide how to proceed in the best direction for your specific event needs without alienating your community support partners.
For the rest of this article, CVB and sports commission will be interchangeable.
Define your needs
Having your ideas laid out from beginning to end and a list of needs and wants will make it easier for the CVB to assist you. Their goal is to support you as much as possible and they can best do this if they know your specifics. Checking the local community calendar should be first on the agenda. You don’t want to compete with something already booked.
Assistance with bid preparation is another common request. Do you need financial assistance? Selecting the correct venue, hotel rates, registration support and restaurant and attraction information are some of the very basic needs of an event organizer. Do you need a local organizing committee, sports photographer or equipment rentals? Planning opening and closing ceremonies, having an official city welcome, clearing the way with bureaucratic red tape or a specialized group of volunteers are just a few of the needs you might have.
Let me stress again if the CVB knows your needs and wants they can search for creative ways to assist you and help make your event as spectacular as possible. Ask and you will receive!
What services are available
CVBs can provide you with a wealth of information and for many cities such as Abilene and it’s free. Partnering with these entities can increase your manpower and make your available dollars go further. This ultimately gives you what event planners need the most – more boots on the ground, more money and as a result of those two things – more productive time spent!
The local CVB is willing to assist you with all arrangements from finding the right sports venue to the location for the victory celebration and all things in between. Checking for conflicts on the local community calendar should take no longer than a few clicks. If a local organizing committee is needed, a database of volunteers is readily available from an experienced CVB or sports commission. Soliciting hotel rates, room blocks and comp rooms is a no-brainer too. The CVB is aware of sports-friendly accommodations and some CVBs may offer housing services for your event. Discounts for meals, attractions, registration and other services can be provided.
Your local CVB will have a good relationship with venues and this can save you a lot of time. They can put you in contact with the correct person, assist you with the rental agreement and inform you of important local information. The CVB can search for any grants or other funding that may be available. For many events, there can be governmental red tape to deal with; a CVB with a rapport already in place can make it easier and quicker to cut through. A multitude of services are often needed and the CVB can be the liaison. Things run more smoothly with one contact person and the CVB is happy to supply that and help give you the edge.
The bid can be a tenuous thing to put together and luckily, CVBs are used to it. Collecting all of the information needed and putting it together in a professional-looking packet, a PowerPoint presentation or an in-person presentation is easier for these pros. Some bids are very involved and require information about the venue, the city and hotels. You may find that CVBs offer assistance with bid fees. Take the free throw; ask the CVB or sports commission for assistance!
How to get the services
Relationships play an important part in everything we do in life. CVB and event planners are no different. As you become more familiar with the people and services of the CVB, you will be in a better position to utilize their knowledge and access their vast network of partners. Consider this an investment not only in your current event, but also an opportunity to expand your own network. Make it a point to remember when developing new partner relationships, no matter how stressful the situation, always be courteous and polite. That simple practice will get you a long way in life and the event planning business is no different. We all prefer to speak with someone pleasant, don’t we?
The services provided by CVBs and sports commissions may vary some from city to city. There is usually a criterion in place which determines the amount of services available for a particular event. Our CVB services are based on the number of room nights generated during an event; others may base services on attendees or other units of measure. The trick here is to know how the organization you are dealing with determines their service values. Each event is different but I would venture to say that most of the services needed by an event planner can be provided by or recommended through the CVB. Getting the most out of your relationship with the CVB begins with some basic common factors; be professional, courteous and polite and by all means communicate, communicate, communicate.
Do you remember that ‘70s hit I couldn’t get out of my head? The lyrics from “The Things We Do for Love” sum up the way to optimize your relationship with the CVB or sports commission, if only just a bit out of order:
“Communication is the problem to the answer”
communicate your needs and wants.
“You’ve got her number and your hand is on the phone”
call the CVB or sports commission.
“The weathers turned, and all the lines are down”
a problem arises, let the CVB or sports commission assist you.
“The things we do for love, the things we do for love”
the things the CVB and sports commissions do for the love of their city, your event and the tourism industry!
Keep this song in your head as you plan your next event. Remember your easy button is just a phone call away; let the CVB or sports commission sing your back-up vocals and watch your event go platinum!