by Amita Patel
Planning a sporting event is a daunting undertaking. However, when executed successfully it provides great joy and sense of accomplishment. Most importantly, it boosts community spirit while generating tourism dollars for the city coffers.
In 2011, I was involved in planning the Western States Police and Fires Games (2011 WSPFG) in Ontario, Southern California. The economic impact to the city was roughly $10 million with 2,500 RNS and more than 4,000 athletes, utilizing 55 different venues.
While the planning at times posed challenges, its overall success can be attributed to the following key factors:
Gain the support of local officials. Onboarding them will expedite issuance of permits and possibly lead to reduced venue cost(s). It is important to have an outline of the event and how it will influence the community. This partnership will ensure officials that the event will be established in accordance to the guidelines set by the city.
For example, during the planning process for the 2011 WSPFG, close collaboration with the committee resulted in an outline of objectives and community activities associated with the event. In turn, this collaboration developed a greater sense of community.
The WSPFG in Ontario was held in 2011, commemorating the 10-year Anniversary of 9/11. We strategically collaborated with The Freedom's Flame Memorial Foundation, to display a fire truck from Queens, New York that was used for rescue efforts on Sept 11th. We also displayed the original steel beams from the World Trade Center, a piece of the Pentagon and a section of Flight 93. The objective was to create an emotional and patriotic experience for the attendees and the local community.
Have a Budget
One cannot plan an event without a budget. First, determine the expenses, which should include but are not be limited to: marketing/advertising, administrative fees, merchandise, dining/entertainment, professional fee, VIP expenses, lodging, venue fees, and sports officials. The next step is to determine the potential income and how can you offset expenses and garner a profit. What are the revenue sources?
Give Back to the Community
Designate a local organization which provides services to your targeted audience. The 2011 WSPFG selected two organizations: Casa Colinas - known for providing care to wounded military, police, and fire personnel and American Red Cross – IE Chapter – for their ongoing commitment to the local community in times of need.
Collaborating with community-based organizations provides a sense of philanthropy and humanity to the participants of the event. Associating your efforts with compassionate and charitable foundations will also provide your team a sense of fulfillment during the execution of the event.
Create Community Activities that Tie Into the Event
Plan activities which create excitement and family fun. The opening day of the 2011 WSPFG, the world renowned Scott’s Firefighter’s Combat Challenge held a Firefighter Challenge. Firefighters from around the region came to participate. These community activities not only created anticipation for the event but also generated an abundance of excitement within the community.
Brand the Event
Branding is such an important aspect of any event. A logo that ties all aspects of the event together, is a great way to brand and develop consistency. It is important to keep in mind that a logo should be eye catching, reflect what the event represents, and capture the full spirit of the occasion.
Creating custom branded visual displays such as tents, outdoor flags, and banners are great branding tactics. A forward-thinking strategy to garner additional revenue is to have tee shirts and other apparel/souvenirs available to sell to the local community and those supporters.
Develop a Sponsorship Program
A well-developed sponsorship program is a not only a great way to generate much needed funding, it also helps to brand the event. Securing key sponsors lends creditability, while creating a mutually beneficial relationship in the process. These relationships can often be beneficial, providing volunteers or low-cost event staff. Sponsors and/or barter services can also result in the exchange of ad space, giveaways, and branded prizes.
Have a Strong Marketing Plan
There are two target audiences: those participating in the event and the local community. Different strategies will be needed to target marketing efforts towards each group. It is essential to use every avenue of media to target diverse generations: Print and radio for baby boomers, social media for generation X and millennials.
Marketing is also about creating compelling activities to draw as many attendees as possible. The more people in attendence, the higher the revenue potential.
The 2011 WSPFG developed and implemented the following activities to complement the sporting event: Firefighter Combat Challenge, Street Fair with 80’s Tribute Band, Family Expo, Rocking Climbing, The Freedom's Flame Memorial Foundation 9/11 display, Golf Tournament, MMA – Pro Amateur Night, Chili Cook Off – Police vs. Fire.
Have a Dedicated and Knowledgeable Team
One person alone cannot be responsible for planning and executing a large event. It requires an army to render a highly successful event.
2011 WSPFG had a core team comprised of members from the CVB, police and fire departments, corresponding unions, and city administrative staff. Collaborating with these entities also provided volunteers to staff the venues.
The need to assign responsibilities so tasks are manageable by each individual is critical. The 2011 WSPFG had two executive directors: one who oversaw sporting venues and the volunteer pool, the other who oversaw the all marketing and sponsorship efforts. Dividing and outlining roles assists with communication challenges and implements a level of expectation.
Although planning a sporting event can be overwhelming at times, simply remember team collaboration, effective marketing, and organized implementation can bring a level of success to any event!