Bringin’ in the Green with St. Patrick’s Day Tie-Ins | Sports Destination Management

Bringin’ in the Green with St. Patrick’s Day Tie-Ins

Mar 06, 2019 | By: Mary Helen Sprecher
St. Paddy's Day and Selection Sunday Simultaneously Result in a Pot of Gold

St. Patrick’s Day falls on a Sunday this year, meaning event owners who want to do tie-ins will find a ready audience.

And let’s face it, since the traditional activities associated with the holiday (such that it is) include green beer, green beads and drinking enough of the former to freely engage in inadvisable activities in order to obtain the latter – it may be a fair question as to whether there is, in fact an audience that wants to get active.

But rest assured, there is. First of all, it’s Selection Sunday, so there’s already a tie-in with NCAA March Madness. Viewing parties are going to be held nationwide, not only on college campuses with a stake in the outcome but in sports bars and commercial venues in destinations nationwide. Las Vegas, for example, is celebrating in (what else?) a big way, as is, well, every other city.

And for those who like their basketball below the NCAA level, there will be plenty of amateur tournaments come St. Patrick’s Day. In fact, a quick Google search using the keywords, “St. Patrick’s Day 2019 basketball tournament,” comes back with more than 10 million hits.

Side note: Talk about the green for event planners.

But if you want to get the common man involved and generate revenue, there’s really nothing like the bar crawl good old 5K. After all, it’s fun, it’s doable for most people and it can involve a whole community. In fact, it’s more than safe to say St. Patrick’s Day-themed races attract a lot of people who don’t normally step on a racecourse. (Ever. Period.) 

Here again, 2019 has not disappointed. According to Running In The USA, a site that compiles information on running, road and trail racing events nationwide, the weekend of March 16 and 17 sees an enormous uptick of 5Ks, many of which include titles with keywords such as St. Patrick, Shamrock, Leprechaun, Irish, Pot of Gold, and of course, Running of the Green.

A typical Saturday in March has races that number in the high 200s and low 300s. That weekend, there are 437 5Ks on Saturday alone; on Sunday, the number drops to 90 (which while still an enormous gain over other Sundays, certainly reflect race directors’ beliefs that following the typical revelry that is bound to occur on Saturday night, the start line will be a low priority on Sunday morning.

It goes without saying that an enormous component of the St. Patrick’s Day races (outside of their titles) includes getting into the spirit. Wearing green, dressing as a leprechaun, wearing kilts (or anything that might pass for a kilt) and more are all popular, particularly with those who run to be social.

Often, races accompany other events in cities, such as St. Patrick’s Day parades and festivals – and as a result, include a party component at the end. Many race fees cover the cost of a beer tent at the end, and if the event happens to be held in an area where eateries and bars are available, the potential for more widespread economic impact is there. Some races abandon all pretense of a fitness activity and publicize that they have “aid stations.” (The kind that involve a shot glass, not a water bottle.)

For those who want the more authentic experience (i.e., the less alcohol-centric type), there are plenty of opportunities to try historic sports of the British Isles, including hurling, Gaelic football and camogie. The North American Gaelic Athletic Association, the national organization that promotes these activities, includes city and state chapters. The website includes a club locator so that event organizers, sports commissions and others can find a group in their area.

Fun Fact: The NAGAA hosts a competition each year among its state organizations to honor events that clubs put on that get the most attendance and media attention. The only rule: events are ineligible if they’re held in March.

Other sports hosting popular events on and around St. Patrick’s Day are pickleball, golf, tennis, racquetball, dodge ball, flag football and even beach volleyball – as well as plenty of others. (Hey, if you can play it wearing green, expect it to be well-attended and provide good economic impact).

And make no mistake: Americans are primed to spend money. In other words, events have outstanding potential for economic impact – or, if you will, to put green in organizers’ pockets. While St. Patrick’s Day lacks the spending clout of Super Bowl Sunday, it still causes enough income to warrant its own annual report from the National Retail Federation. And whether it’s because St. Patrick’s is the first actual holiday since Christmas and New Year’s or whether it’s because it signals the onslaught of spring (or even whether it just means a chance to down some Guinness), the historical spending for the holiday has been strong.

In 2019, 55 percent of those surveyed said they expected to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in some form, with an average spend of just over $40 per person. (Total U.S. spending is expected to be $5.61 billion.) No surprise here: the younger crowd (18-34 years of age) were expected to spend more than any other. All told, respondents said their plans included (in order of the greatest numbers) wearing green, attending a commercially offered special event, decorating for St. Patrick’s Day, make dinner, attend a parade or host/attend a private party.

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