Our industry has seen unprecedented growth, and with it, a great deal of change. As we look ahead, the organizations and leaders that can anticipate (or create) these market shifts will be set up for long-term success. Each year at this time our team sits down to take stock of the past 12 months and tries to predict what market changes are on the horizon. With the element of change in mind, below are our top 10 sports events industry trends to look for in 2018.

1 Creating Owned Events – From award-winning E-sports in places like Tulsa, to “Boarder War” high school showdowns, to college football games at NASCAR tracks, created events are becoming more common. Creating “owned” properties is something CVBs and sports commissions rarely tried to tackle in years past. The longterm benefit to the host community is a great deal of control over the event’s outcome.

2 Sports Service – The most successful host destinations are experts at servicing sports groups. These CVBs and sports commissions provide support to the event operator in a way that allows them to focus on their championships, and little else. They also provide a superior athlete and fan experience, presenting their community as a desirable place. We often coach our clients to focus on everything “outside the lines” so their event partners can concentrate on the championship at hand (inside the lines).

3 Sports AND Events – The skills it takes to successfully execute a sporting event are quite similar to the skills it would take to produce a music festival, Harley rally or chicken festival (yes, we have two clients that run chicken festivals). Many CVBs are adding special events to their sports staff’s plate. If it uses the same event production skills and drives overnight stays, why not expand?

4 Emerging Sports – Who would have thought that quidditch, ultimate and pickleball would all have national sanctioning bodies running championships across the country? These are some of the fastest growing sports events in America. What might be next?

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5 Non-Traditional Partnerships – The University of South Florida’s marketing rights are held by an NHL team. U.S. Ski and Snowboard’s rights are controlled by the Sacramento Kings. One of the industry’s rising sports commissions is housed within a university, not a CVB, city or chamber. In today’s entrepreneurial marketplace, there are more opportunities to collaborate “outside the box” than in the past.

6 Bricks and Mortar – The use of bed and/or food and beverage taxes to build tourism-driving sports venues is at an all-time high. The facilities arms race seems to have no saturation point as communities continue to build large multi-sport complexes. By using tourism-related taxes to build tourism-related sports venues, CVBs and sports commissions can take control over the venue assets to drive overnight stays first, and offer enhanced places for local teams to play, second.

7 Volunteers – The industry continues to monitor a lawsuit about the use of volunteers. Liebesman v. Competitor Group, Inc. is making its way through the courts and should come to judgment in late 2017 or early 2018. The matter at hand could decide the requirements on how we classify “volunteers” versus who is truly an “employee” of an event. This outcome could drastically change the way events are run…Stay tuned.

8 Stakeholder Engagement – There is more scrutiny in today’s digital media world than ever before. With this added responsibility to be transparent in all areas of operation of your sports organization comes with it a great opportunity to engage your local influencers at every turn. Consistent communication to key stakeholders of your organization will aid you in times of need should an issue surface in the future.

9 Technology – Who is responsible for your organization’s digital footprint? If something goes south at one of your events, who is authorized to respond? If your organization goes through a public scandal, how will you address the media? Develop a multi-platform media and stakeholder communication game plan today.

10 Relationships – Business is all about relationships, always has been, always will be. Business decisions are not made by companies or organizations, they are made by a person, just like you and me. Build personal relationships and your sphere of influence is sure to grow.

There is growing competition for the sports tourism dollar. Successful sports organizations will build solid internal infrastructures that include adequate human and financial capital, and arm their team with event knowledge and a strong “tool kit” of assets to move the company forward.

As the price of poker continues to rise, is your organization ready to play the game?