What Craig Mackay, sports development manager at Visit Mississippi Gulf Coast, may lack in experience, he makes up for with enthusiasm. Perhaps that’s what makes the 28-year-old a perfect fit for the role, which he assumed in November 2015. As Mackay further grows into the role, the destination will continue to develop its reputation as an ideal host for sports events.
Mackay is “a breath of fresh air, to be honest,” says Jon Schmieder, president and CEO of Huddle Up Group.
Such high praise is made more impressive in context.
After leaving a golf events company to join the CVB, Mackay was forced to learn on the job quickly. One of his first tasks from Visit Mississippi Gulf Coast Executive Director Renee Areng was to tour the destination with Schmieder and Gary Alexander, a principal at Huddle Up Group.
The objective was simple: See Biloxi and its surrounding counties through the eyes of a sports planner. Huddle Up would develop of a strategy based off its findings and Mackay would learn how to market the destination. It was a real eye-opener for the young sports professional.
“I had to wrap my head around what they were seeing,” Mackay recalls. “I learned we have tons to offer any sporting event.”
At Mississippi Gulf Coast, it starts with the beach, which extends 26 miles over three counties. The CVB sponsored a homegrown marathon last December that drew about 3,000 runners. Part of the event’s appeal was highlighting the region’s pleasant temperatures during a time much of the country is cold.
Organizers also tied in the region’s latest sports facility: MGM Park, a minor league stadium in Biloxi, the finishing stage for the race.