As a sports event insider, we know the intrinsic value of sports events: revenue-generating, community bonding, healthy benefits for the participants, wholesome entertainment for the fans…but assuming a host neighborhood shares our perception is a dead-end approach. To dissipate a NIMB (Not in My Backyard) reaction, a pro-active and collaborative approach with the community is essential.
Education and outreach starts with you. If you don’t spread the word about what you’re doing, most people will assume you’re doing nothing. Or worse, trying to slip something over on them. And when the time comes for critical funding, infrastructure development, event volunteers, etc., you will not have built a local support base.
Start talking. Offer to speak at a Chamber of Commerce, Rotary or other professional meeting – they’re always looking for speakers. Seek out local sports organizations and attend their meetings. Make presentations at local high school and college classes. Write editorials and op-eds for the local paper. Develop an informative website and maintain your social media. The goal is to be accessible and transparent.
Communicate the economic impact of upcoming sports events. Highlight your marketing efforts. Illustrate your “green” considerations. And remember it’s not just about the splashy, high-profile events. Emphasize the value of smaller, youth-oriented tournaments. It’s important your community understands the bread-and-butter, year-round value of youth soccer and volleyball tournaments, Babe Ruth, swim meets, Ultimate Frisbee, etc.
Awareness-raising can reap tremendous results in sponsorship and volunteer recruitment. But don’t stop there. Find out what concerns neighbors have. Congestion and traffic? Noise and bright lights? Litter or crime? Access to local business and loss of revenue? Make sure to involve the community in the solutions. Naysayers may be your most important audience and may become your best volunteers.
Ask elected officials for letters of support on sports bids – these requests enhance the bid and open communication between you and local leadership. Invite key stakeholders – city and county staff, parks department, school athletic directors to opt-in to your eNewsletter. This group is critical support for successful sports events. Our Eugene, Cascades & Coast Sports Commission eNewsletter doesn’t have a huge number of subscribers, but they are power subscribers – key stakeholders who can allocate resources and help us grow.
Eugene has hosted the US Olympic Team Trials – Track & Field five times (most recently in 2008 and 2012). From KidsSports championships to mountain biking tours in Oakridge to sandboarding tournaments on the Oregon Coast, the region’s sports commission is committed to increasing the breadth and depth of sports events and opportunities within their community.
Janis Ross, Executive Director
Eugene, Cascades & Coast Sports