Sporting events are held all over the country—and the world. They bring in hundreds of athletes, their families and fans to cities, increasing tourism revenue, boosting destination awareness and generating a positive economic impact.
The North Carolina Sports Association (NCSA), which operates under the marketing brand SportsNC, has been working tirelessly to support sports events in the state and get a piece of the large sports tourism market. For over 10 years, the organization has grown its membership base, as well as the sports industry in North Carolina.
Started in 2005, SportsNC consists of some 37 members, mostly convention and visitors bureaus, sports commissions, parks and recreation departments, venue facilities and convention centers, according to Board Chairman Travis Dancy. The overall mission is to “bring more sports tourism events to the state of North Carolina,” says Dancy.
For sports planners and rights holders, SportsNC acts as a one-stop shop. The organization attends large trade shows and hosts a couple during the year, and is a representative for all its members. This allows for them to set up one meeting with sports planners and promote the destination as a whole. If there’s a planner looking for specific venues or amenities, SportsNC can connect them with the member that fits their needs. “[SportsNC] streamlines the process,” says Dancy. “It’s more efficient and economizes the time for rights holders.”
Members of SportsNC also get some great benefits from the organization. After trade shows, SportsNC shares all the leads, appointment notes and request for proposals (RFPs) with the entire membership, giving them insight into what was discussed at the event and allowing them to bid for potential sports events. In addition, members can receive a discount to the two SportsNC-hosted trade shows, which is helpful for those who may not have been able to afford to attend a trade show otherwise.
At these trade shows, SportsNC has held client events that have been invitation only for existing North Carolina clients as well as potentially new ones.
“It’s a great medium to have one-on-one networking face time with SportsNC members and partners,” Dancy says. “It’s been very successful and well received.”
At their quarterly meetings, the organization invites one rights holder to give a presentation about their event and bid process, and the members have greatly appreciated this, says Dancy.
Through these efforts and a boost in brand marketing, SportsNC has helped attract more sports events to North Carolina.
“Without a doubt the number of events has grown since the association formed,” says Dancy. “It’s safe to say the impact has increased awareness of North Carolina as a major player in the sports tourism market.”
Now SportsNC is ready to take the next step to continue the momentum: hiring its first employee, Chrystal Rowe. For years volunteers have run the organization, but with the continued growth, the natural next step was to hire someone on full time. It’s an investment to help “further the brand and continue to show the sports tourism market that North Carolina is very serious about hosting events,” says Dancy.
Rowe has been in the sports industry for 20 years. She began as an intern with North Carolina Amateur Sports, State Games of North Carolina before working with the Carolina Panthers. She held many different positions with the team, from ticketing operations assistant and sales coordinator to marketing manager and director of ticketing. Her extensive experience with marketing and branding, as well as her development of new programs and revenue streams made her a great fit for the SportsNC’s role.
Rowe has come on as the NCSA program coordinator. Her role will be to lead all SportsNC efforts, including the sponsored trade shows, appointment planning with rights holders, and exhibit booth registration and setup. She will also manage tasks for membership, such as member surveys and helping to coordinate the quarterly meetings. In addition, she will take over management of the quarterly newsletter and oversee all social media, an area the association didn’t previously have the personnel to handle.
“We’re excited about some of the proposed plans from Chrystal,” says Dancy. Not only will she help SportsNC grow, she will also alleviate many responsibilities that were being handled by the board. This will free them up to act like a traditional board and look more at the strategic side of things, according to Dancy. The combination of a dedicated board and a full-time staff member will hopefully lead to even more hires down the road, and a larger increase of sports events in the state.
The ultimate goal of SportsNC is to bolster North Carolina’s reputation as a top-tier destination for sporting events. In recent years the organization has been responsible for incredible growth in the market, and with Rowe coming on, the state’s success in landing tournaments will surely reach new heights. For sports planners and rights holders thinking about their next event, North Carolina will be front in mind.