5 Highlights From Connect Sports Marketplace

Connect Sports
Connect Sports Marketplace in Grapevine, Texas, demonstrated the power sports have beyond games. Athletics have the power to transform communities in ways many other industries do not. No wonder sports tourism is such a hot commodity. Here’s a look at five of the top takeaways from last week’s show. (Don’t worry; we’ll get to Connect Sports winning the Visit Myrtle Beach Basketball Tournament in another post.) 1. Shaq is a true champion. No doubt Shaquille O’Neal looks bigger in person than on television. But he impressed us with his huge heart and sense of humor. Twice he reminded children that listening to his parents made him $700 million (and counting). Calling attendees onstage demonstrated true charisma and charm—the interaction was priceless. Let’s not forget the most important element of all: Shaq used his experience in sports to present lessons association, corporate and sports planners could all relate to. 2. Sports tourism is not all heads in beds. Isn’t that heresy? Perhaps. Yet one of the industry’s top minds, and one of our Game Changers, Jon Schmieder, helped hammer that point home moderating an education session Saturday. The founder and CEO of Huddle Up Group teamed with USA BMX COO John David, CSEE, and Tulsa (Oklahoma) Sports Commission Executive Director Vince Trinidad, CSEE, to demonstrate how the entire Tulsa community will benefit from USA BMX moving its headquarters there. The effect includes a STEM program benefiting the area’s school children. 3. Stay-to-play remains a hot topic. During a preconference workshop, Team Travel Source co-owners Serena Andrews and April LaFramboise made an effective case for when event owners should consider a stay-to-play stipulation for their events. It may limit the housing options for participants and their families, but stay-to-play makes it far easier to track an event’s economic impact—heads in beds remains important. That data can help you negotiate better hotel and venue rates in future years, making your event more attractive to teams. 4. The games go on. The Olympics are over and now NGBs will try to capitalize on the success of U.S. athletes in Rio de Janeiro. Among the highlights: USA Field Hockey had its best showing; USA Fencing brought home four medals; USA BMX won gold and silver; and USA Water Polo scored an emotional championship. Event organizers should now have a wider pool of talent to draw from, and regional and national tournaments should benefit as a result. 5. When in doubt, hug it out. How do you make yourself a part of the conversation during a conference attended by more than 3,000 people? Have a public relations staff member dress up as a mascot. Hug E. Bear, the newest team member of Huddle Up Group, was a huge success in terms of buzz. The only downside is the person inside the suit—we won’t divulge the secret identity—better get used to being a popular photo op at events across the country.