Last year, we discussed the benefits of recurring events, and some best practices for crafting events that would return to a destination on a regular basis. It was a subject we are comfortable with, since over the last 10 years, the Snohomish County Sports Commission has been assisting sports organizations and sports rights holders with keeping the sporting event in our community.
Obviously, we’re not the only ones with this goal. Annually recurring sporting events can help make a community become a premier sports destination. And of course, everyone understands how beneficial it is to sports rights holders from both a financial and a logistical standpoint to have their sporting event return to the community for a second or third year, or even more.
One of our goals is to continually bring a sporting event back to our community year after year. Whether you’re an event owner or a destination, it’s likely your goals are similar to ours: have a positive experience that is good for all partners and build on that success the following year.
Last year’s article contained a discussion of key elements that both sports rights holders and sports commissions or convention and visitors bureaus should know in order to start making this happen. These key elements are partnerships, communication and coordination among all parties. We also briefly touched on other key tasks that are important to a successful recurring event. These tasks are sponsorships, expos, clinic/demos/meet-and-greets and media coverage.
For this article, we will be expanding on some of last year’s topics – but adding several new ones as well. Every year, there is much to be learned from events that return to us. We are glad to share insights on these experiences.
With the communications between the sports rights holders and the sports commissions or CVBs, there is a great opportunity for communities to leverage and create an identity with recurring events. Sports commissions or CVBs staff are the “feet on the ground” for the sports rights holders. These staff members can help sports events have leverage in the community. The ways to help with leveraging the sports events within the community are:
Engage the Community: With the sports staff assisting the sports rights holder with promoting the event locally, an opportunity to engage the businesses, residents and civic organizations are created. The local community members are given the ability to be a local sponsor, volunteer, to promote the event and welcome the athletes and spectators to the event.
Engaging the community enhances the partnership as this creates a “win-win” situation for the sports rights holders, participants and spectators. The local community benefits as the participants and spectators experience the local hospitality and enjoy their stay. They may even decide to come back to vacation or explore the area further – something all destinations strive for.
The Snohomish County Sports Commission engaged the business community with a variety of opportunities to be involved with the USA Triathlon Youth & Junior Elite National Qualifier. Each year, this event is held in June in the City of Monroe. We attend the Chamber of Commerce luncheons to seek local sponsors and volunteers. We visit the local businesses to request food donations and discount coupons for the attendees. The results of engaging the community ensured post-race food for the athletes, businesses staffing water aid stations and a supply of sack lunches for all the volunteers.
From a sports rights holders’ perspective, engaging the community ensures a successful event which will return year after year. The participants and spectators will have a great experience and feel welcomed by the community. Matt Libber, VP, Business Operations, Elite Tournament states, “As an event organizer, we see a successful event as more than what happens on the field. We want people going home talking about how great the experience was, talking about the great restaurants they ate at, the cool attractions they saw, the team bonding they did, and how they can’t wait to come back next year.”
Social Media: Social media is still a hot marketing tool for the rights holders to engage their participants and spectators. Sports commissions or CVBs can provide additional content for the sports rights holders to tweet or post about the local community. This gives the participants and spectators the ability to experience the community before, during and after they compete.
By working together on social media, both groups can brand the sports events to a broader audience. Sports commissions or CVBs know the local community and are able to provide the brand content. A positive aspect to this is that the sports rights holder can then spend more time working on the logistics of the event rather than researching about the local community and creating content for the social media platforms. All you have to do is encourage your athletes and spectators to take it from there.
Snohomish County Sports Commission and Spartan Race are working together to market the Spartan Super & Sprint Race, April 14-15, 2018, differently from the 2017 Spartan Super & Sprint Race. Developing an understanding of the marketing avenues Spartan Race uses to promote the national event to their target market, is allowing us to market our community assets in new ways that we have not tried before. For the 2018 Spartan Race, we will be creating content for the social media platforms. The ability to partner together will provide us the opportunity to market our brand, which is a great way to get the word out about our destination.
The social media platforms give us an opportunity to encourage the participants to experience our community. Sports rights holders want their participants to enjoy the destination by enjoying the local attractions, experiencing the local flavors and having FUN. The sports commission or CVB’s goals are to find ways to convince attendees to visit longer in their community. The ability to promote the community’s assets on social media is a great way to accomplish these goals for both groups.
Social media engagement is about the marketing opportunities that a community is given for being a partner with an event, creates new ways to brand the sports events to the specific target market as well as to a broader audience.
An opportunity for the sports rights holders and the sports commissions or CVBs to build a partnership with open communication and collaboration results in successful recurring sports events year after year. The sports rights holders is happy as the number of participants competing continues to increase and the participants and spectators are raving about the event and the welcoming community.
Legacy Impact: Recurring events give a community the ability to make an impact with local non-profit organizations. This partnership gives the sports rights holder the opportunity to give back to a non-profit organization which helps their mission. WTA Basketball Tournaments host eight to 10 AAU basketball tournaments at several high schools throughout south Snohomish County. The tournament director partners with the high school system’s athletic program and booster club in securing the gymnasium and staffing the admission gate. This partnership benefits both entities. The tournament director may focus on coordinating the officials, scheduling the games, and overseeing the game day operations. The high school athletic program and booster club receives the income from admission ticket sales and concession sales so this event becomes a fundraiser for the athletic program and booster club.
Local Marketing Promotion: Local marketing promotion is important to sports rights holders as the sports commissions or CVBs and the local sports clubs can find ways to involve the local community to support the event. Additionally, the sports commissions or CVBs work on behalf of the rights holders to promote the event so that there are more spectators from the community to watch and cheer the teams who are competing. By having a sports commission or CVB active in promoting the event to the local residents to come to the event provides an excellent value to the sports rights holder as it creates a great atmosphere for the teams/athletes that are competing.
Media Relations: The ability to receive exposure for the sports event through the media is a huge advantage. This exposure will bring more people from the local community to watch the sporting event as well as an opportunity for people to learn more about the sport so that they may become interested in playing the sport. This provides a benefit to the destination as well since it now has the potential to host more events in that sport. Media relations can also help expose the grassroots efforts of a sport. Sports rights holders are finding ways for more people to become involved with their sport, whether youth or adult, so that their sport membership grows.
Sports commissions or CVBs can work with the local media to create awareness of upcoming events and invite the media to the event – sometimes just to watch, but perhaps to try it as well, something that creates additional interest and creates additional coverage. Connections within the community from other supports can provide assistance in having the media report on the sporting event.
For example, the Centennial SK8 Festival, a longboard skateboarding event, was given the opportunity to create awareness of the sport, as did the sports event by the connections, within the Arlington community and their sponsors. On the day of the event, KING 5 Evening Magazine was at the event interviewing the skateboarders, event organizers and spectators. KING 5 Evening Magazine aired the segment later the next week. This media opportunity showcased longboard skate boarding to the Puget Sound Region audience. This media exposure will be beneficial to the local event organizers as they start planning for the 2018 Centennial SK8 Festival.
Venues: Another best practice is to create a partnership with the venues in your community. Venues are an important requirement to the sports rights holders. A quality tournament venue allows the athletes to have a safe, fun experience on the field of play. With quality venues, sports rights holders do not have to be concerned about the condition of the fields or other venue amenities prior to the event. A partnership with the venue owners will help bring the sports event back to your community year after year.
“Sizable and involved crowds inspire athletes to give their best performances. DMOs that understand their communities and the events that they bring to them make events even better by engaging their citizenry. When they then witness outstanding performances, they can aspire to learn and play the sport,” said David Raflo, USA Ultimate manager – events.
As your community hosts recurring sporting events, be creative in finding ways to “brand” that event within the community. Then the community will look forward to welcoming the participants and spectators by “throwing them a party” each year. SDM