For nearly two decades, the National Association of Sports Commissions operated under a “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” philosophy. After all, the organization was growing, along with the sports events industry.
When Al Kidd took the reins of the 25-year old association, one of his first areas of attention was inclusiveness in its educational offerings. “When I came in, the centerpiece of the organization was our annual symposium. I felt one of the things we had to get away from is that NASC is not defined by our annual symposium and the symposium does not define NASC. In order to build a sustainable business, we need to have multiple products and services that our members can support,” Kidd said.
That strategy includes looking out into the marketplace to see where there’s a gap. Kidd found one in the association’s market segment meetings. Previously defined by size of market served, NASC sought a forum for all members. The result was the inaugural 4S Summit, focusing on four pillars of sports success – service, sales, strategy and sponsorship.
The first event was held in Detroit in the fall of 2017 and with the new format, attendance rose 50 percent from the previous year. Twenty different educational courses were offered over a day and half including keynotes and specific subject matter around technology, digital engagement, video conferencing and social media.
Based on the success of the inaugural 4S, NASC is expanding the event by one day in Cleveland in October 2018. “We’re 20 percent up over last year and the Cleveland people are really excited,” Kidd commented.
Another new event, the Chief Executive (CE) Summit, draws sports tourism leaders from across the country for a day of high-level learning. The first two years, the event was hosted by Janis Burke, CEO and her team from the Houston Sports Authority. Featured sessions at this year’s summit included seminars on the impact of Title IX on women’s sports, a presentation by the new XFL Football commissioner Oliver Luck, FBI Special Event Operations personnel discussing event security protocol, stadium redevelopment ideas and enhancing corporate culture.
“The CE Summit has become one of the best annual events the NASC offers. The session, led by Jason Williford of Culture Index, was the best single session that I have ever attended in 21 years of membership with the NASC. It was mind-blowing stuff,” said Jon Schmieder from the Huddle Up Group.
“I have enjoyed attending the first two CEO Summits in Houston,” said John Gibbons, executive director from the Rhode Island
Sports Commission. “Janis Burke and her team put together a great group of speakers and it is nice to get together with industry colleagues to network and hear from leading experts. I am grateful to Al Kidd and NASC for adding this to their list of meetings.”
The centerpiece of the new educational objective is a shift in strategy away from strictly sports commissions programming to more well-rounded education for the sports events and tourism industry. As Kidd points out, it’s a much wider swath with an opportunity to provide more comprehensive products and service.
“My mantra is equal and inclusive,” Kidd said. “We should provide services and value across all levels of membership. Four hundred and seventy DMOs are predominate members. There are 21 state organizations and about 200 rights holders. We have to ask what are we going to do to provide a more inclusive array of services to all members.”
Part of that inclusiveness is a focus on women in sports. Collaborating with the NCAA, the association hosted a women’s forum in
conjunction with the NCAA Women’s Final Four basketball tournament in Columbus, Ohio this spring. Fifty professional women attended the event which featured leaders from ESPN, the Columbus Blue Jackets and major industry associations talking about empowerment for women in sports management. The NCAA was so pleased with the program that it’s going to be incorporated into Final Fours in both Tampa and New Orleans. NASC has found there is a pent-up demand for knowledge. The focused educational content, upgraded learning experience for members and enhancements to the educational tract at the annual symposium will help its members better prepare for the future.