Cities, large and small, battle each other for the opportunity to showcase their destination through sports. A successful destination will implement coordinated and intentional marketing and sales efforts to land regional and national sports events.
As the Springfield region develops as a host for sporting events, here are nine key areas of focus.
- Sports facilities. Host cities are selected for a number of reasons, but most importantly are the facilities. Properties designed for sports tourism are the norm, rather than the exception. It is important to collaborate with private investors and local city, county and regional stakeholders for these opportunities. Facilities are key to a destination’s success.
- Location, location, location. Ease of access is crucial for sports tourists. A trend toward regional events emerged post-pandemic, and destinations that are within driving distances for competitors have thrived. Well-connected highways and entrances to a city cannot be understated. A welcoming gateway also lends itself to a positive first impression. Accessible air service and connections are also important for larger national events. Once at a destination, reliable shuttle, taxi or ride-share is an expectation.
- Collaborate with local and regional sports organizations. Best-in-class destinations work hand in hand with clubs, leagues and associations to help spur growth in competitions and events. This helps foster the growth of the sport, creates a sense of ownership in the local market and showcases the city’s commitment to supporting sports event growth. It also allows competitors to participate close to home, which is appreciated in the travel heavy world of sports events.
- Intentional event hosting. A successful destination will draw upon its natural strengths. Those can include facilities, hotels, attractions, location, the reputation of the host city, strong local participation and connections to a particular sport. It is most important to develop strong relationships with sports governing bodies and event organizers in order to be on the right side of the bid decision. As a result, hosting sports events can significantly enhance a city or region’s reputation.
- Marketing the community as uniquely yours. Each destination has its own story to tell. Successful sports events craft a destination’s culture and storyline into an event. This can include things such as naming of events, imagery and logo creation. Using social media, print, online and digital marketing to engage the event and event participants is important, and a great way to weave your destination into the event. Testimonials from past participants, recognizable athletes and sports personalities also help to establish a unique and personal touch. Sports-friendly hotels and attractions for families are also important when visiting.
- Fan experience. Interactive activities and personalized opportunities uniquely co-branded to the event are appreciated. The local hosting entity should encourage businesses to participate in welcoming the guests to their area with special promotions or on signage. This helps create a level of excitement and appreciation for the event.
- Community support. Strong community backing enhances the overall appeal of the city as a sports destination. Involvement can include event volunteers and city ambassadors and sponsorships. These individuals can play a key role in the visitor experience and help craft that local flavor and twist to the event. Also, when your city has a reputation for strong community support, that appeal and reputation permeate throughout the sales process for future events.
- Experience the destination virtually. Folks can now experience your destination well before visiting or selecting your community for its event. It is most important to be relevant in the digital landscape and to show your destination’s authenticity through websites, social media and other virtual tour opportunities. An online visit is often the first experience that a person will have with your destination. Robust information about your city and other events outside of sports can showcase the city in a positive manner.
- Make your city the city of choice. Promoting a city or region as a destination for sports requires commitment, consistency and intentional marketing. By investing in these areas and building upon relationships in the sports industry, Springfield can be most successful in being a top destination for sports.
Lance Kettering is executive director of the Springfield Sports Commission. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.