The 27th NASC Symposium in Knoxville, Tennessee, had big news: The National Association of Sports Commissions is rebranding. What that means remains to be seen (and discussed below) but many of the annual convention’s standbys remained. About 1,000 conference attendees gathered to get the latest on the sports tourism industry and do some networking. Here’s what we got out of the NASC Symposium.
Kathy Nelson, president and CEO of the Kansas City Sports Commission and Foundation, did the honors announcing NASC’s new name: Sports ETA. The ETA stands for events and tourism association. The rebrand was widely considered overdue—in fact, this was the second attempt in two years to change the name. Sports commissions only make up 5 percent of the association’s memberships. The vast majority are CVBs and other destination organizations. In that regard, Sports ETA is a move in the right, and more inclusive, direction. It may also open the door to further growth, although, the reality is, a new name won’t change much business as usual.
NASC members, and the sports tourism industry, in general, remain fixated on new facilities. Not only was the event’s first day dedicated to competition venues, but a full room sat in on a panel discussion led by Sports Facility Management CEO and President Jason Clement. J.D. Wood, general manager at the new Panama City Sports Tourism Complex, Lori Moore from Rocky Top Sports World and John Sparks from Hoover Met Complex, provided insightful knowledge. But our big takeaway was the huge crowd in the room. It’s indicative that the arm’s race for destinations to build more facilities is far from over. But how is each destination going to pay for the venues is another, and more political, matter.
More sports commissions are breaking off from CVBs to ensure better servicing and events. But DMOs need to stick together to prove their worth. Politics, as noted above, was highlighted several times in educations sessions. Regardless of party affiliation, local legislators need to be convinced of the ROI on any tax money spent. This month, Visit Florida escaped some volatile discussions. Panama City Beach’s Wood and Rocky Top’s Moore noted that that they sit in on several CVB meetings to make sure facilities and DMOs are on the same page. Plus, a show of force goes a long way to building confidence from local leaders.
Sports events dominate TV ratings and drive tourism to cities and hotels across the country. But the days off are just as important. Consider the case of the Flying Pig Marathon (one of the best event names in the business) in Cincinnati. Game Day Communications, a local PR firm, handles the Pig’s lead-up and non-race events, relying on a team of 12. Through targeted marketing, Game Day was able to ensure participants from all 50 states (Hawaii returned this year) and help raise funds for charitable causes. There are dollars to be had with good marketing and content—a fact event organizers and destinations must not forget.