In the ever-evolving world of sports management, there's been a shift toward comprehensive technology solutions, especially within the realm of youth sports. The trend toward all-in-one event platforms is a response to the increasing demands for efficiency, communication, and enhanced user experience, explains Mike Mason, general manager of Group Productivity Solution.
Historically, sports planners juggled multiple software platforms or manual methods to coordinate youth events. Registration might be on one platform, scheduling on another, and communication via a different app entirely. This fragmented approach is often cumbersome, leading to inefficiencies, miscommunication, and a less-than-optimal experience for all parties involved.
Youth sports, in particular, have their unique challenges—from ensuring child safety and coordinating with parents to managing budding talents and providing equal opportunities.
Part of the Alliance Reservations Network, GPS launched its solution to antiquated practices on Tuesday at Connect Sports Marketplace in Minneapolis. Playbook365, as the software is dubbed, comes at a time when event planners across all sectors are attempting to streamline operations. Registration, housing, communication, and more are all offered in the new GPS app.
Connect Sports talked to Mason about the benefits of consolidating event technology.
What is holding back event organizers from adopting newer, more comprehensive platforms?
All-in-one solutions compete with what is known as “stickiness” with other stand-alone providers. “Stickiness” refers to an app’s ability to make it difficult to leave for a competitor. This could be due to a lot of factors, including the years of data in the system, muscle memory, and the risk of learning a new system. Or it could be the user’s relationship with the existing company and team.
How do reputable tech companies combat that?
The issue of “stickiness” can be solved by building thoughtful technology–tech that considers what parts of your competitors’ apps are “sticky.”
For example, to solve the data piece, top tech companies create easy ways to upload historical data or make it an account manager’s role in onboarding. This way, it’s easy to move to a new platform and take all your data with you. Learning a new system is always a challenge. It’s important to ensure the integration will provide an easy-to-use interface and dashboard that requires little to no training.
What’s something organizers should watch for when potentially partnering with an all-in-one service?
I call one real risk of integrated tech, a “Jack of all trades, master of none.” This speaks to the marginalization of integrated technology when you have more than one product to focus on. If you don’t do the integration right, speed and quality are affected. For instance, many companies acquire the app but not the team that built it. Then they attempt to take their existing developers and spread them across more products. This is a big mistake.
When GPS acquired Playbook365, we not only brought the Playbook365 team along. We also tripled the GPS tech team to ensure we would continue to develop bold features in a timely manner. A perfect example is the new integration we’re introducing this week.
When you say organizers will save hours planning events with your new service, is there a way to quantify that number?
We have estimates showing organizers save days of work, based on the event size. The biggest challenge in managing stay-to-play events is the manual process of trying to connect teams with their room blocks and tracking hotel performance. It’s common to find team blocks that are misnamed and misspelled. Or they have the wrong email or phone number. The effort required to reach out to the event owner or team coach to try and clear it up is monumental.
How does stay-to-play fit into the broader picture?
There are specific tech needs relating to stay-to-play teams, which must hit housing goals to qualify for a tournament. Typically, organizers must flip back and forth between apps to track room night performance, which makes tracking a difficult, time-intensive task.
Unlike other solutions, GPS and Playbook lets organizers view room night performance for stay-to-play teams on one page. This way, they can see at-a-glance if they're on track to hit their goals. They can also keep everyone in the loop via bulk messaging based on status (goal not met, not started, exempt, and more). And they can do all this in a couple of clicks.
What can tech providers do to assist parents who are handling registration and travel?
Users need to know exactly what’s expected of them at every step. We do this through visual cues and a simplified interface. For example, if the “Next Step” button is grayed out, it’s inactive. That tells you there’s something you need to do first before you can move on. Mouse-over hints are also helpful. They display what a particular feature does.
One trend is hotel availability remains a real challenge for planning ahead. How can the right tech partner help assist with that issue?
Yes, hotel companies are making up for lost time, and we’re all feeling it. Understanding what information hotels need to put in a formal bid ensures they don’t waste time looking for different approvals or going back and forth with the customer. A good tech partner simplifies negotiating and contracting by making it easy to set goals, budgets, and contract terms upfront during the RFP process.
When sourcing hotels, organizers should first and foremost share the event history. Is it the first time, or do you have a record of successful events? If the event is annual, how long have you held it? If it’s a first for this particular event, can you provide examples of other, longer-running events you’ve done to show this isn’t your first-ever for the event type?
With event costs a concern, the right technology partner will also have a large database to help you discover new venues that fit your budget while centralizing data. This way you can be more prepared during negotiations.
Sports are all about stats. How can planners use data to the best of their ability?
One of the biggest benefits of an integrated solution is the data you can collect to paint a more complete picture of your event. GPS + Playbook pushes hard on one particular data point that touches all aspects of an event: economic impact.
When registration and housing are integrated, you can easily show every team’s impact on a destination through hotel spend, concessions, and even local restaurant and shop spending. Usually, the CVB has the number organizers that can plug in.