The Chicago Southland CVB likes the odds. Even when it means sports market manager Joel Koester chooses to learn log rolling, grow a beard, and lose 30 pounds in 300 days.
With a unique territory to promote, Koester has turned what he doesn’t have into a welcome mat for non-traditional sporting events. The latest get is a contest, though not a sport—the 2019 National Beard and Moustache Championships in November.
Koester, who had grown a beard to help Southland win the 2016 Stihl TimberSports Professional and Collegiate Championships, grew another to promote the beard and moustache event, then trimmed it to a moustache. It was just Koester’s most recent deep dive into attracting and promoting rights holders.
“Everyone’s always worried about heads in beds and room nights and economic impact,” Koester says. ” That stuff doesn’t matter to me and through that process we have seen a significant uptick on room nights and economic impact. When you don’t care about that, you really care about the groups, you care about the people involved in the sporting events. The results will be there if you’re in it for the right reasons.”
“My philosophy is simple: if you invest in us we’re going to invest in you.”
He learned to log roll to help trumpet the 2016 United States Log Rolling Open, and as part of his bid to draw a Spartan Race Stadium Series event to his region, Koester trained for 300 days to not only finish the race but to be competitive in it. That effort, which he turned into a social media campaign tracking his workouts, has led to him to exercise five days a week.
“[Spartan Race officials] were blown away that I would put in that much time into the process to fit into their lifestyle and compete,” says Koester, who was a Connect Sports 2017 Game Changer for just such tactics.
Koester and his team have also won paintball and drone racing events, among many others, and one of the American Cornhole Organization’s biggest annual events, the 2018 Midwest Major. Southland covers 63 communities and 400 square miles, with no signature venue aside from SeatGeek Stadium, the home of Major League Soccer’s Chicago Fire.