4 Hot-Button Issues From LGBTQ Sports Task Force in Portland

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At 6:53 a.m., a dozen sports planners and supportive suppliers making up the Connect Sports LGBTQ Sports Task Force enjoy their breakfast in the downtown Portland, Oregon, Nike store. In the otherwise empty space made available by Travel Portland and Nike, Robert Goman and Quinton Hawks share the story behind Nike’s #BeTrue campaign they helped create. The inspirational tale of the hugely successful LGBT microbrand, first made famous when NBA player Jason Collins wore the shirt in a 2013 pride parade, was a perfect start to a day filled with candid discussions about the topics most important to the LGBT sports market. The presentation illustrated exactly what the task force—holding its second meeting—is about: coming together for a common cause to effect change. Here, four topics that dominated the conversation. 1. North Carolina’s HB2 Law Planners in the room at event space Ecotrust were split 50/50 on whether they would hold events in the Tar Heel State or not in the wake of the recently passed HB2 law. The legislation bars transgender people from using bathrooms corresponding to the gender with which they identify. This law affects sports tourism in particular, as locker rooms are an integral part of athletic tournaments. Goman revealed Nike execs and Hornets owner/UNC alum Michael Jordan (who has a daughter identifying as LGBT) used their influence to try to pressure the state to change the law before the 2017 NBA All-Star Game occurs in Charlotte. Click here to read the task force’s take on this topic. 2. Economic Impact Knowing your worth and using it as leverage for better negotiating is key for planners. But how do you go about that? The group expressed interest in sharing resources for tracking event history and attendee spend. The 2015 Gay Softball World Series brought between $5 million and $10 million to Columbus, Ohio, noted board member Catherine Kelly, while Gay Games Site Selection Officer David Killian said his group’s 2014 event generated $50 million in Cleveland. Emma Ocampo, a regional director with HelmsBriscoe, advised the collective group to “start gathering together and strengthening each organization for more concessions, and you’ll increase your purchasing power.” 3. Sponsorship Dollars Securing sponsorships was top of mind for all the organizations represented. Advice around the room ranged from starting with local groups in a host city to putting “‘gay’ back in your title” to taking advantage of corporations looking for LGBTQ events to sponsor. That was the case for North American Gay Amateur Atheltic Alliance, which after emphasizing the “gay” in the Gay Softball World Series, felt like sponsors began to express interest. Nissan eventually signed on. 4. Gay Supply Chain “One thing is, if you’re loyal to us, we’re loyal to you,” said Kelly, referring to the LGBTQ community’s allegiance to gay-friendly brands. The group was eager to find resources among the sports tourism supply chain. “Who are the gay-owned businesses? Gay-owned franchises? Can you affect our community all the way down to vendors you choose for F&B, AV, host city, etc.?” she asked. “There are many cities that are surprisingly LGBT-friendly, not just San Francisco,” chimed in Director of Sales Brandi Hardy from Visit Oakland (California). Planners can work with CVBs to find gay-owned businesses. Attendees noted some cities doing it include Columbus, Ohio, and Richmond, Virginia, which hosted the last task force. Then there’s Austin, Texas, where the group will meet again this fall.