Partnerships are Key to Leveraging Economic Impact

22 Apr, 2019

By: Tammy Dunn

NCAA March Madness found many basketball fans traveling to the destinations that hosted the action, as well as basketball teams, both men and women, who arrived as early as possible to practice and strategize. In addition to the basketball teams and their fans attending the games and experiencing the destination, the residents of those cities were flocking to the games in order to experience the NCAA March Madness.

Destinations that hosted the NCAA March Madness games had partnered with the NCAA and business community to create memorable experiences for visitors and residents – and those experiences created even greater economic impact for the hosting cities. Here is a look at some of the strategies used – and the way other organizations and hosting destinations can re-create them to create even more profound economic impact.

Not all destinations may have the ability to host NCAA Championships or All-Star games. However, all destinations can create ancillary events when hosting other events, and as a result, leverage economic impact in their community. Whether your destination is a small, mid-size or large market, there are ways to increase the economic benefits of hosting.
Here are ways to leverage economic impact within your destination.

1. Community Festivals/Special Events
With communication and coordination between the community and the CVBs/Sports Commissions, sports events may be a great chance for a local festival and sports organization to work together to have both events happening on the same weekend. In August 2018, the City of Everett had three special events happening on the same day. The annual Fresh Paint Arts Festival, the first anniversary of FUNKO Store and Headquarters, and the Everett Bubble Run 5K were happening throughout the downtown area of Everett.

The coordination between the City of Everett, Snohomish County Sports Commission and the event organizers of these three events occurring on the same day created a memorable experience for everyone who may have been attending just one of those events.

With the Bubble Run having 5,000 participants running in the event and with Funko hosting their first anniversary celebration within blocks of each event, the downtown businesses benefited with more people shopping and dining on a Saturday morning. That created more economic impact for business owners, as well as shops and restaurants in the area. It also allowed even more people to experience our downtown — someplace they might not otherwise have explored or even known about.

The ability for destinations, sports organizations and local businesses to partner with special events on the same day draws visitors to stay longer and spend more. It may also bring them back for a weekend getaway later on or it may convince them to plan to extend their stay the next time the sports event brings them to town.

2. Fan Fest
Fan Fests, held, in conjunction with the NCAA basketball games, have become a long-standing tradition with destinations hosting these games. Fan Fests are two-day community events which provide an opportunity for members of the local community (who might not necessarily be attending games but who are still excited about them) to be involved with the NCAA weekend.

Fan Fests, however, are not limited to March Madness. Each of the professional sports leagues, MLB, NFL, NBA and NHL, often include a Fan Fest with their actual games, particularly a game on a big scale, such as a championship. The Fan Fest connects the local community with the sport, even if not everyone has the chance to be present for the big game.

When Seattle hosted the 2001 Major League Baseball All-Star Game, for example, local fans (as well as those who had traveled to attend the game) had the chance to experience the MLB All-Star Fan Fest. (By attending the Fan Fest, I along with other baseball fans, learned about the history of baseball, was able to have my picture taken standing next to the World Series Champions Trophy, see how fast I could throw the baseball and meet Baseball Hall of Famers.) The MLB All-Star Fan Fest, therefore, gave many of the baseball enthusiasts, young and old, the MLB All-Star Game experience without attending the actual game.

Destinations and event directors can work together to include a clinic and/or Fan Fest with their sports competitions. An opportunity for the youth and adults to experience the sport grows the grassroot efforts of the sport and makes the community feel more connected to it.

As an example, in 2018, at the USA Fencing National Championships in St. Louis, a Fencing Fan Zone was held in conjunction with the competition. USA Fencing and Explore St. Louis worked with the local fencing clubs to create unique experiences for the local community to attend the National Championships. This Fan Zone included a history of fencing from the early years to modern fencing, demonstrations of fencing and fencing lessons so that anyone interested in trying fencing would have the opportunity to experience it.

Christine Strong-Simmons, USA Fencing Senior Director of Operations, stated, “The Fencing Fan Zone is a new idea for our organization to partner with the CVB and/or sports commission. It was a huge success for us to create a fun atmosphere and to promote the sport of fencing.”

Because of the success of that fan zone, USA Fencing and Greater Columbus Sports Commission are working together to create an equally wonderful experience for the athletes, spectators and the local community.

Fencing National Championships is one example of destinations creating special events for the local community and spectators. These special events are opportunities for cities to bring additional dollars to the restaurants, retail shops and attractions.

In addition, by hosting some demonstrations or skill clinics in association with local clubs for your sport, the event stands to generate even more interest. Watching local children learn from the visiting athletes is also a great opportunity for media coverage, which in turn, feeds into more interest, more spectators and more impact. Inviting media representatives to try the sport themselves is also an excellent way of building awareness — and it’s fun to watch people try their hand at the sport on camera.

3. Competitions held back to back with overlap of the events or two competitions held at the same time
Destinations and sports event organizations are partnering with each other to reach and exceed their goals. Destinations strategize on how to increase room nights, economic impact and the quality of life for their residents. Sports event organizations strategize on how to create awareness of the sports and to keep the grassroots efforts growing. Together, both these entities can achieve more.

The 2016 FIVB World League Men’s matches played in conjunction with the USA Volleyball Boys’ Junior National Championships in Dallas. By combining these two sports events, the destination and the events created a unique opportunity for the local community and youth volleyball teams to cheer on the US National Team. Both USA Volleyball and the Dallas community benefited by having both of these events together. The boys’ volleyball teams experienced increased support and interest and the event gave the city a look at not just the current top players but the players of the future. That brought in even more interest, more spectators and of course, more impact.

Partnerships between Convention & Visitor Bureaus/Sports Commission and sports rights holders create many benefits in leveraging economic impact in a community. The destination has local partnerships which help a community to host two competitions either back to back or at the same time. Partnerships are the cornerstone of successful events, and wise professionals seek them out at every opportunity.

As I interviewed Christine Strong-Simmons about the success of the Fan Zone at the 2018 USA Fencing National Championships, USA Fencing was seeking additional partnerships with other sports organizations. For example, USA Fencing is having discussions with the NCAA to determine if there could be an opportunity to have a youth fencing competition in conjunction with a collegiate fencing competition.

Event owners and destination professionals should look for potential partnerships and opportunities to bring multiple competitions into the community at the same time, thereby increasing their profile and the potential for economic impact.

4. Conferences
The National Association of Sports Commissions partnered with the NCAA and Greater Columbus Sports Commission in hosting a Women’s Summit at the 2018 NCAA Women’s Final Four.

“As the National Association of Sports Commissions was planning ways to create educational benefits to the membership, we looked at events and sports organizations that would provide a national attention for the association,” states Elizabeth Young, National Association of Sports Commissions Vice President. “That national sports organization was the NCAA. Our partnership with the Greater Columbus Sports Commission helped us to bring the 2018 NASC Women’s Summit to Columbus during the NCAA Women’s Final Four.”

The benefits of hosting a conference in conjunction with a competition include:
• Leveraging conference budget as discounted meeting space could be given
• Increasing the brand of your organization
• Creating an opportunity to attract another group of people to the community
• Creating memorable experiences for the conference attendees.

The partnership with the NCAA and Greater Columbus Sports Commission in hosting the inaugural NASC Women’s Summit at the NCAA Women’s Final Four provided an opportunity for a group of people to experience Tourney Town and for Columbus to leverage economic impact within the city.

Destinations can advocate for the sports rights holders as these organizations have partnerships within their community. Partnerships can leverage economic impact. Destinations are strategizing how to be more innovative as the sports and events tourism industry is growing throughout the United States. SDM


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