State of Affairs

We are often asked about state tourism alliances.  Which ones work well, which ones don’t, and why.  During my tenure with the Phoenix Regional Sports Commission we had a very successful statewide group.  The Arizona Sports Alliance included the sports commission, and five CVBs from across Arizona.  We worked quite well together and accomplished a lot, due largely to the players that were involved.
As we look around the country today, it seems that for every successful state or regional sports tourism effort, there is one that isn’t working.  So we asked some of the top professionals in the industry to offer up their thoughts on the best and worst practices for sports tourism alliances.  Here is what they said…..

Best Practices:

1.      Funding – Two themes came up repeatedly on the topic of funding.  The first was the ability of state alliance members to pool their budgets and extend the reach of the limited dollars available to most DMOs.  Second, having the financial support of the state tourism office is critical.  Some state tourism offices offer matching funds for marketing, sales trips, convention booths and other sports marketing programs.  The common theme here is that the state alliances that don’t have backing from the governmental level most often struggle to sustain themselves.

2.      Information Sharing – The ability of alliance members to pass leads to one another is a critical function of successful sports tourism groups.  Should one member of the group get a lead that doesn’t fit their destination, they can pass that lead to an alliance member whose venues or organization fit the event better.  An alliance offers the opportunity to keep all leads in the state, even if it doesn’t land in the original community that came across the opportunity. 

3.      Spreading Duties – An alliance allows for different members to take on specific duties that benefit the entire group.  Instead of one person having to wear many hats, various sports marketing tasks can be shared.  One member may take on social media, one can plan the next sales trip, another can handle trade show planning, and one could lead the creation of the next collateral piece.  We all have enough on our plate, sharing the work load can help us be more effective over time.

Worst Practices: 

1.      Disconnect – Successful alliances need to be on the same page with their state tourism offices.  In cases where the state tourism office isn’t in harmony with the members of the alliance, successful sports marketing is nearly impossible.  This would include cases where the state tourism office’s funding programs don’t support the sales and marketing efforts of the alliance.  For instance, in the early days of the Arizona Sports Alliance, the state tourism office didn’t pay for outbound sales trips, but would fund inbound FAMs.  It took a few years, but we eventually convinced them to modify their policies to allow for us to sell the state in a way that better fit the sports market (through outbound sales missions to Colorado Springs and Indianapolis).

2.      Repetition – Don’t get stuck doing the same thing year after year.  The best state alliances change their marketing tactics, alternate the people in leadership roles, and continue to evolve over time.  To be successful, refine the game plan, double down on what works, and eliminate what doesn’t.

3.      Trade Shows – Shared trade show booths are common for state alliances, however, they often create significant challenges.  If there are too many destinations trying to bide for attention of the event rights holders, the booth experience for the event decision makers can be overwhelming.  Also, if one alliance member wants to sell their destination beyond everyone else and compete with other members within the booth, rights holders can become confused and frustrated.  As one of our experts offered, “No one destination is bigger than the collective TEAM.”

We hope these examples help with your statewide partnerships in the future.  Our thanks to Ben Wilder, William Knox, Terry Hasseltine, and others who shared their thoughts on this critical topic.  Look for the Huddle Up Group at DMAI and Connect Sports.  We look forward to crossing paths with all of our friends and partners soon.