Years ago while leading the Tulsa Sports Commission, we put together bids for two AAU basketball events. They were for the same age group, one for boys, one for girls. Back then, you put your bids in then made a presentation to the committee for that particular sport. When we made our final pitch for the boys basketball event, there were five cities competing for the bid. Later that same day, when we entered the room for the girls basketball presentation we looked at the list of bid cities. There were over 30 communities bidding for the girls event. Five cities for the boys, 30+ for the girls. Why was that?

It wasn’t until years later that I figured out why more communities wanted the girls event. Girls travel with more family members in tow, often times stay longer, and they spend more money while traveling (they also are less likely to cause issues at the venue, host hotel, etc.). My competition had figured this out way back then. The girls events were a more desirable piece of business.

Our team at the Huddle Up Group uses the word “intentional” a lot with our client base. That is exactly what Tulsa’s competition was doing on those AAU events. They were intentional on the types of events they wanted to bid on and host. This was 20 years ago, without the depth of data we have at our disposal today. Given the level of information we have access to today, there is little reason why we as industry leaders can’t be more intentional on how we conduct our business – what events your community bids on, what sponsors would make the best partners, which media outlets should we align with, what social media deserves more of our attention? The list could go on for a while. We have access to more data today than ever before and we should lean into that information in making our strategic decisions whenever possible.

The great movie character Gordon Gekko once said, “The most valuable commodity I know of is information.” The better the intel, the better decisions we can make. Given this concept, we asked our partners at EventConnect to dig through the data on the more than 4,000 events they have managed through their event management platform ( Specifically, we asked them to benchmark five of the more popular team sports in five areas:

  1. Average number of teams per event/tournament.

  2. Average room nights consumed per team.

  3. How far in advance do teams in that sport book their hotel rooms?

  4. What is the average hotel room rate teams in each sport are used to paying?

  5. How much hotel revenue on average is driven by the teams in each sport?

If we know the answers to these types of questions, we can effectively predict what the economic output will be for a given tournament (just like the AAU example above). If we know that one sport books earlier than the others, that would make our hotel partners happy. If we know that one group stays longer and spends more than the others, the total economic impact for our host community will be greater. So by knowing these things we can be more intentional about how we operate our organizations.

Getting back to our friends at EventConnect. What were the results you ask? Here is a link to a chart showing their findings, take a moment to review it…..

We have used this chart in community presentations nearly a dozen times. Every time we put it up on the screen, stakeholders in the room pull out their phones and take a picture of it. This data definitely draws attention.

Reviewing the different sport averages, if we had the facilities to host tournaments for all of these sports, which one would you want to secure first? Soccer may be the tournament king these days, but the numbers for baseball and hockey are stronger across several of the metrics. Basketball shows pretty poorly in nearly every area.

By using this type of information we can tactically garner a higher return on the limited funds we have to work with each year. The more return we can get on our investments, the more funds that come back to our destinations, the more resources we should have to work with in the future. Good data-driven decisions now, drives better ROI, which feeds the system later.

Information. A valuable commodity indeed Mr. Gekko. Valuable indeed.

(Contest Challenge: While EventConnect’s research covered the more traditional team sports, there are two others that score extremely high in the traveling party and spending metrics. If you email me these top two sports, we will put you in a drawing for a gift card. Good luck!)