“Youth sports tourism wasn’t even a category four years ago, and now it’s the fastest-growing segment in travel,” said Dave Hollander, professor at New York University’s Tisch Center for Hospitality, Tourism and Sports.
“You’ve got millions of kids involved, parents spending thousands of dollars, and cities building facilities to host events and chase tourism dollars,” he said. “It’s just huge.”
In 2013, the Sports Facilities Advisory (SFA) estimated the youth sports tourism industry to be worth $7 billion. Now, it’s worth $9 billion and counting.
One of the leading national bodies dedicated to youth sports tourism is the National Association of Sports Commissions (NASC). The NASC Sports Event Symposium is the annual meeting of the National Association of Sports Commissions, the only non-profit 501(c)3 association for the sport tourism industry in the United States since 1992.
The NASC Sports Event Symposium is where “hundreds of sport tourism professionals and industry partners gather to exchange time, resources, strategies, solutions, and more. The Symposium features dozens of authentic education sessions, countless networking opportunities, and business development appointments in the NASC Sports Marketplace, all to help members produce measurable ROI for their organization, elevate their sports events, and improve the quality of life in their destinations.”
This year’s symposium was hosted in Sacramento, California from March 27-30. LeagueApps was fortunate enough to be a part of the event. Here are 3 quick tips this year’s symposium can teach you about elevating your youth sports event destination for participants.
Have A Clear Mission
The number one goal of a sports commission is to create positive economic impact in the local community. There are challenges for sports commissions when there is not a clear mission. Director of Enterprise Partnerships, Ali Edell, made the cross-country trek to Sacramento for the symposium. She explained further.
“One of their [sports commissions] biggest hurdles is getting municipalities and stakeholders on board with their plans and budgets,” she said. “That’s why it’s so important for these commissions to have clear missions.”
As an event provider, it’s important to have a like-minded mission. Sports commissions are more likely to align themselves with providers and other organizations that share a common goal. Plus, being transparent about your mission will make the entire negotiation easier and open the doors for you to build longer and more meaningful relationships.
Embrace Your Location’s Uniqueness
“Be who you are. Every destination is unique. The only way to set yourself apart is to embrace that uniqueness and use it to attract specific audiences,” Ali said. “Then, when new trends pop up, such as robotics, eGaming, or drone racing, you can build your model around them.”
One example of a community that is fully embracing their uniqueness is Hoover, Alabama. Home to one of the country’s most prolific football programs, the town council will spend $80 million on a state of the art sports complex fully embracing a “southern hospitality” branded theme.
If you’re not sure where to start, look no further than your own community. Outreach to like-minded and mission-driven others that are already hosting events. Share insights. Learn. Be sure to provide value in any local networking scenario and offer your services to increase their event’s reach.
Two other examples include LeagueApps partners NXT Sports and Sports Force Parks. When setting up tournaments, NXT factors in their unique location of Philadelphia to package tournaments with trips to historic sites such as the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall. The facilities of Sports Force Parks market their prime real estate with Cedar Point Amusement Park.
Focus on retention
Youth sports provide a rare opportunity to truly deliver memorable experiences for families. Your event can really capitalize and maximize retention.
“The entire guest experience allows for family bonding that parents crave,” Ali said. “Whether it is time in the car with their kids, celebrating a win, or lamenting a loss, it’s a special time that they then associate with that destination.”
Be sure to execute on what you promise to deliver an incredible experience that is true to your location’s brand. Stay true to what your branding is, but don’t be afraid to think outside the box. For instance, work with a local hotel to provide each room with a laundry bag so that uniforms can be washed, folded, and ready to go the next morning.