Archive for the ‘Park & Recreation Departments’ Category

NASC Playbook – December 2013 Edition Available Now

December 30, 2013
The latest edition of the NASC Playbook is available now.Image
Inside this issue:
  • 2013 Year in Review
  • CSEE/Market Segment Meeting Recap
  • 2014 Board Nominations
  • 2014 Member Awards
  • 22nd annual NASC Sports Event Symposium Preview
The NASC Playbook was created to feature members’ success stories and share industry best practices among the membership.  If your organization has a story to share and would like to be interviewed for a future article, contact Elizabeth Young, Director of Membership and Marketing.
Read the Playbook now.

Learning to do my homework for NASC

February 6, 2013

I’ve been at my “new” job here as Sport Sales Manager for the Plano, Texas Convention and Visitors Bureau right at three years now.  So, my learning curve has been fast and steep.

I fess up to not having a clue the first year I attended the NASC Sports Event Symposium.  Fortunately, I had the priceless benefit of falling into a great support group with the Dallas Ft. Worth Area Sport Alliance, where anywhere from eight to ten experienced peers told me what to do and did it with me until I was ready to do it on my own.   Newcomers now rely on me from time to time and I am as open and generous with them as my forerunners were with me.

The first year, I was just trying to meet with as many different groups as I could and build a network.  By the beginning of my second year, I had learned my inventory and assets and started matching inventory of fields and facilities with events and rights’ holders.  I tried to meet with the long list of every group that matched up; all the soccer groups that needed soccer fields; all the baseball groups that needed baseball fields and so on.  So, during that second year, I was still spinning my wheels to some extent, but I wanted to build a network and just learn.

I didn’t worry about dates and affiliations too much; I was building a broad network of rights’ holders that may or may not become prospects, clients or event alliances.  Conveniently, many people knew more about my inventory than I did.  Even if they were not affiliated with the appropriate sanctioning associations, I was learning a lot from them.  Often someone from the east coast would tell me more about a soccer club here in North Texas than anyone here at home because they weren’t afraid of stepping on anyone’s toes.  Every conference, I still learn a lot about my local groups from competing associations across the country.

Now, I am much more specific in my preparation and meeting requests.  I rate my targeted rights’ holders by room nights, ease of association with local clubs and wear and tear on field inventory.  Then I make a list of open dates and facilities that I want to fill.  This process gives me an annual schedule of sport-specific inventory.

Like most CVB sales people, I have to work around our local leagues since they have first dibs on our fields.  I can “pre-empt” one weekend each park and each sport season, but I’m careful about pre-empting because I don’t want to displace my local leagues unless the tournament brings good room night numbers.  Additionally, I attend the seasonal league scheduling meetings and ask the league administrators if they have any tournament groups they’d like to host.  They don’t often speak up, but it’s just a common courtesy I offer to constantly try to improve my relationships with them.  I will eventually need their help in locating umpires and volunteers and it’s good to already know them before I have to make that call.

So, at sport conferences such as NASC, my priority meeting requests go to the open inventory I have to sell.  I research the sport tournament groups and find out what tournaments are at least regional or national in name and in deed.  By that, I mean, that some tournaments have “southern regional” or “national” in the title of the event, but until I can get team lists that show me the teams do indeed travel to the tournaments and stay overnight, it’s not necessarily a good room-night- tournament to me.  Texas is such an active sporting state that a team could play every weekend during their season and not have to travel overnight to find a tournament.  I need to find out if there are enough travelling teams to make a solicitation worthwhile and so I start calling and emailing CVBs, housing services and specific hotels to confirm room nights.

This process gives me “target” prospects and I contact with them by email or phone before I ever request a meeting with them to improve my chances of being “accepted” by them.  Also, preliminary conversations can often save time by weeding out groups that are not interested or by drawing out information about competing schedules or sanctioning that rules them out.  Even if it just rules them out in the short term, they seem to appreciate that I’m trying to save their time and effort as well as mine.

I have at least two major indoor sport facilities for basketball/volleyball and ice sports that I meet with regularly to find out what their preferences might be.  What is their “dream” event?  What event have they been to recently that caught their attention?  Do they want something high-profile or do they just want big numbers of teams?  The answers are usually driven by their business model and possibly a board of directors with specific interests.  I will add two or three of these “in your dreams” events to my meeting list.

Often these higher-profile events want local clubs to serve as host organizations so they can get a clear picture of the local facilities available to avoid unexpected surprises in that area.  Local support assures them of a participatory host committee and access to the local volunteer base.

The other thing I’ve learned about some of the high-profile “in your dreams” events that local clubs and facilities want to host is that these events are not always accompanied by the economic impact that the Plano CVB might require to sponsor such an event.  If we decide this is an event that would really be good for the community and an event that offers opportunities for good publicity about the City of Plano, we might be willing to take it on without big room-night numbers.

For example, Plano recently hosted the National College Table Tennis Championships.  For the several hundred room nights, we could tell it was going to be a lot of work, but, not a lot of money because they would qualify for Texas Special Event Trust Fund.  Plano has a huge Asian population and the largest table tennis club in Texas which gave us a lot of help and we were able to certify thirty new table tennis umpires through our volunteer recruitment and training.  It was the first time the tournament had ever had a certified umpire at every table, every match; a big accomplishment by our local table tennis club and the volunteer umpire trainer.  Additionally, we got exposure on every major network and newspaper because it was such an odd-ball event.  The Asian community was totally turned-on by the attention and being that they drive the excellent reputation of Plano schools and are the lead-draw to bring big corporations to our city, it turned out to be a great event for us even though the economic impact was so-so.

So, that’s my story and here is a list of my preparation activities that I do for NASC:

Ongoing activities to prepare for NASC:

  1. Keep a constantly changing list of rights’ holders and events I’m interested in and for which we have the facilities. This comes from publications, internet, news outlets and my network of contacts.
  2. Keep a permanent and constantly changing list of facility inventory and the dates they are available.  My best friends in business are the parks and recreation guys that control the inventory I have to sell and local facility owners and their sales people.
  3. Meet with local sport clubs and facilities to learn the events and groups they want to work with and which dates they have available.  I want to bring them what they want to host, given that it has hotel room nights attached.

Preparation that starts a few weeks before NASC:

  1. Call and/or email the rights’ holders I’m interested in to get an update on their needs and to let them know I would like to meet with them.  If I have organization contacts on several levels, I will try to talk to more than one person.  Everybody has different information and ideas.
  2. Call and/or email local contacts at sport clubs and facilities to let them know who I may be able to see at NASC and to confirm they want the business.

Preparation once I get the list of rights’ holders that will attend NASC:

  1. I will do more research on the top 5 to 10 rights holders on my list.  Most of this is checking on room nights and event venues.
  2. I try to have one last conversation with the would-be hosts (local clubs and facilities) for the events in #1 above, relaying some the details I’ve uncovered most recently and confirming their level of commitment.  I also ask them for promotional materials to take with me.
  3. Request my meetings and order their priority.  Often I will request meetings with rights’ holders that might be the primary competitors of the groups I am going after.  These are good places to get information.

Last things I do:

  1. Once I get my list of meetings, I’ll reach out to the rights’ holders I didn’t get a meeting with and ask them for some time outside the parameters of the NASC meeting slots.  I’ve never gotten a “no” on these requests.
  2. I prepare the materials I want to take that are particular to the meetings I have scheduled and the events I am going after:  park maps and a list of the assets and amenities associated with them; facility diagrams and photos; contacts at the facilities to make it easy for rights’ holders to reach and initiate contact.
  3. I’d like to get all the stuff in #2 above on my iPad so I can show rights’ holders and immediately email them the documents they might ask for, but I haven’t done that…yet.  The fun starts now!

Looking up smileCissy Aberg

Cissy Aberg is Sport Sales Manager for the Plano, Texas Convention and Visitors Bureau.  She is a former scholarship athlete with broad experience in sports including sport journalism, youth recreational sport administration and community outreach branding and operation for public sport figures.


Fostering a Sports-Friendly Community

January 25, 2013

As a sports event insider, we know the intrinsic value of sports events: revenue-generating, community bonding, healthy benefits for the participants, wholesome entertainment for the fans…but assuming a host neighborhood shares our perception is a dead-end approach. To dissipate a NIMB (Not in My Backyard) reaction, a pro-active and collaborative approach with the community is essential.

Education and outreach starts with you. If you don’t spread the word about what you’re doing, most people will assume you’re doing nothing. Or worse, trying to slip something over on them. And when the time comes for critical funding, infrastructure development, event volunteers, etc., you will not have built a local support base.

Start talking. Offer to speak at a Chamber of Commerce, Rotary or other professional meeting – they’re always looking for speakers. Seek out local sports organizations and attend their meetings. Make presentations at local high school and college classes. Write editorials and op-eds for the local paper. Develop an informative website and maintain your social media. The goal is to be accessible and transparent.

Communicate the economic impact of upcoming sports events. Highlight your marketing efforts. Illustrate your “green” considerations. And remember it’s not just about the splashy, high-profile events. Emphasize the value of smaller, youth-oriented tournaments. It’s important your community understands the bread-and-butter, year-round value of youth soccer and volleyball tournaments, Babe Ruth, swim meets, Ultimate Frisbee, etc.

Awareness-raising can reap tremendous results in sponsorship and volunteer recruitment. But don’t stop there. Find out what concerns neighbors have. Congestion and traffic? Noise and bright lights? Litter or crime? Access to local business and loss of revenue? Make sure to involve the community in the solutions. Naysayers may be your most important audience and may become your best volunteers.

Ask elected officials for letters of support on sports bids – these requests enhance the bid and open communication between you and local leadership. Invite key stakeholders – city and county staff, parks department, school athletic directors to opt-in to your eNewsletter. This group is critical support for successful sports events. Our Eugene, Cascades & Coast Sports Commission eNewsletter doesn’t have a huge number of subscribers, but they are power subscribers – key stakeholders who can allocate resources and help us grow.

Eugene has hosted the US Olympic Team Trials – Track & Field five times (most recently in 2008 and 2012). From KidsSports championships to mountain biking tours in Oakridge to sandboarding tournaments on the Oregon Coast, the region’s sports commission is committed to increasing the breadth and depth of sports events and opportunities within their community.

Janis Two

Janis Ross, Executive Director
Eugene, Cascades & Coast Sports

Beyond the “Sale”

January 16, 2013

The National Association of Sports Commission (NASC) is a primary catalyst for growing successful sports commissions and providing them the tools to enhance their impact in the community.

One of the greatest opportunities at the NASC isn’t to sell your destination; it is to become more effective as a sports commission.  Through education, CSEE and market segment meetings, the NASC is critical resource for learning more about best practices in the industry and important trends.  For many, attending the Market Segment meetings have become an essential tool for running a sports commission.

This resource doesn’t come from the NASC home office in Cincinnati; it is from peers in the membership.  This year in Kansas City, 25 large market sports commission and 35 attendees spent two days sharing information, swapping stories of success and failure.  They weren’t there as rivals, they were there to talk about best practices and learn from each other.   On a different day, some might be competitors for an event they’d like to host.  At these meeting, they were attendees committed to the philosophy that a stronger sports commission industry ultimately benefits us all.

The attendees at the meeting tackled topics such as marketing to distracted customers in the new world of social media and numerous media outlets vying for the multi-tasking consumer.  This included everything from our websites and Facebook pages, Twitter, Instagram, Google, traditional media, email, snail mail and grass roots marketing.  Winning the bid is great, hosting a functional and financially successful event is far more important.

The discussion on marketing was followed by one on the 3 M’s of sports commissions:  Money, Money and Money.  From fundraising events to sponsorship to memberships to government support, it is the life blood of a sports commission.   Organizations from around the country shared information on fundraising events that worked, what sponsors are looking for to activate their brands and other sustainable funding ideas that have helped organizations grow.  With the demise of many public funding sources, sports commissions are tasked to be entrepreneurs that look beyond government funding and old sources of revenue to open the door to the new financial future of our industry.

The second day of the meetings began with the strong roots into each commission’s community, looking at an effective board of directors, further engaging them in a sports commission, partnerships with other nonprofits and the relationship with the tourism industry.    Board members can be the key to the door for funders, the source of credibility in the community and ambassadors for the events and projects.

The conversations closed with a targeted look at the events this industry hosts.  Those it bids on, creates, owns and operates.  What the trends are around the country for the next two to five years.  Setting criteria for bidding or creating specific events was discussed, including the reasons for a sports commission to own an event and the secrets to their success.

Before engaging an event owner, a sports commission needs the capacity to successfully host their events.  The venue and arrangements are important, but filling seats, raising funds, selling tickets and marketing it to the community are important to a single event’s success, along with the future reputation of your community. What better place to plan for these event that with your peers who may have already hosted them.

There are also many reasons that were discussed for being involved in specific events, from their economic impact to health and fitness to supporting women’s athletics to access to sports for kids to sportsmanship.  Sports commissions host and create events for specific reasons that motivate their community.  Events like NCAA Final Four, an awards show, Olympic Trials and State Games exist for different purposes, but each have a place in a sports commission.  In Kansas City, the discussions were able to clarify many reasons locals will rally behind events and organizations to make them successful.

As would be expected, Kansas City did an amazing job of hosting peers from the sports industry augmented by plenty of great BBQ.  The large market meetings has always been a great resource, but truly the highlight of the trip was a visit to the Kansas City Sports Commission’s offices to honor a former colleague who recently lost his fight with cancer.  Kevin Gray wasn’t only the head of the Kansas City Sports Commission; he was a leader and innovator in the industry.  He took risks, created new opportunities and many were the beneficiary of his knowledge and friendship.  Kevin is the perfect example of the true spirit of membership in the NASC.  He learned from and gave back far more to the association that he was passionate for and led to the expansion of sports commission across the country.

Make the most of the NASC membership.  It isn’t always what a member gets, but what they give that ends up being rewarding.  From small markets to large, from sports commission to CVBs, make the most of the NASC by getting involved and investing your time in the future of the industry.  It will pay dividends for your sports commission.

Ralph Morton

Ralph Morton, NASC board member, has been in the sports industry since 1988.  He is the Executive Director of the Seattle Sports Commission, whose mission is to make Seattle a world-class sports community.  As Vice President of Events for the Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation, he held a leadership role on events such as Super Bowls and NCAA Final Fours.  He served as Vice President of Operations for the Acxiom Grand Prix Du Mardi Gras and Entertainment Coordinator for Aggreko Entertainment Services.  He is a University of Florida graduate, and lives with his wife and four children on Mercer Island.

Working with your Parks and Recreation Departments Effectively

October 17, 2012

We all know how important our Parks and Recreation Departments are for our events.  In many cases they have some of the best facilities in our communities.  However, sometimes it is difficult to get to those facilities.  While many Parks and Recreation Departments are faced with the fiduciary responsibility of making those facilities be revenue generators in the way of tournaments and events, some are solely concerned about the local leagues and constituents, or so it seems.  In the paragraphs that follow, I will give you an insight in to what worked for Bryan-College Station and leave you with some ideas for working with your Parks and Recreation Departments as well.

First, allow me to give you the set-up.  In Bryan-College Station we are blessed to have two cities, so two Parks and Recreation Departments and City Councils.  One of the first things I noticed when I began working for the Convention and Visitors Bureau 8 years ago was that there was not a strong relationship between the CVB and the Parks and Recreation Departments from either city.  So, the first thing that took place was a meeting with the Directors of both cities.  This was key.  I simply explained to them what exactly my goal was in bringing events to the community.  I asked about the leagues and the usage of the facilities.  Since they were first and foremost concerned about the local groups and users, it was a learning experience trying to be creative in explaining how tournaments, while they are wear and tear on fields, could really benefit the local leagues and park users.

The Directors are also an important part of our Advisory Board.  As we are not a stand-alone sports commission, we have an advisory board made up of key facility managers in our community.  Through the interaction with them on this board, the Directors grew to understand the purpose of the CVB and the reasons the events were so important to our community.  They quickly learned that bringing these events in could be great revenue generators for them and community.  These events create more sales tax expenditures in our communities which in turn affect the general funds of the city.  The events would help create more funding for the Parks and Recreation Departments.  In our situation, our Parks and Recreation staffs both had some great experiences in the Amateur Softball Association.  That really helped our cause as they see the impact that large tournaments can make on the community.

Our issue was soccer.  As I stated earlier, our Parks and Recreation Directors’ main concern is the local leagues and local users.  Knowing this, I contacted them to get to the soccer clubs and leagues in our community.  We scheduled a meeting with them and talked about our purpose of bringing these tournaments in to our community.  Our soccer leagues thought we were bringing competitors in that would take field time away from them.  However, during the meeting we explained that we would like these tournaments to be fundraisers for them and we would like to give back to the community by doing so.  The key to getting that going was having the backing of the Parks and Recreation Directors and staffs.

Our business is built on relationships.  It is not just the relationships that we build with event rights holders or suppliers.  It is also about the relationships we build with our own partners in our communities.  We try to meet regularly with our Parks and Recreation Directors for them to share their calendar with us and for us to talk about the possibilities of tournaments and events that we can bring to their facilities.  Once we are all on the same plan and after the same goal, we can accomplish great things.  It all boils down to the key to working with your Parks and Recreation Departments is all about the relationships you establish and maintain.  Once those relationships are in place, you and your community can successfully work together to host and create memorable events for your local groups and the visitors to your community.

Submitted by Kindra Fry, CSEE, SMP
Bryan-College Station CVB |Vice President of Sales & Marketing