5 Take-Aways from the 2019 National Sports Forum

I’m writing this week from the 3rd and final leg of my recent travels, at the home of the new Bob Stoops coached XFL team, Big D. This time I’m traveling for pleasure, to celebrate my sweet blue-eyed, red-haired niece’s first birthday. Happy birthday Avery Claire!
But it was my second stop – Las Vegas for the 2019 National Sports Forum – I want to discuss today. While the conference caters to those more likely to work in the pro sports franchise/venue segment of our industry, I gleaned some wonderful insight with my sports events and tourism hat on. 
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Here are my Top 5 Take-Aways from NSF:

5. Our struggles are shared.

You know what I found out being at a conference with people from the pro sports world? They share many of the same struggles as us over on the sport tourism side of the street. They are searching for innovation, new revenue streams, best practices and relationships. It was refreshing to see and hear.

4. The death of sponsorship as we know it.

Out with traditional menu-offering style sponsorships and in with highly-focused, mutually beneficial “partnerships”. I attended two separate sessions discussing this exciting shift in traditional thinking. Creativity is King. Learning about creative ideas and activation strategies from groups like 4Front, and new sponsorship effectiveness measurement methods from organizations like Hookit proved especially enlightening…and relevant to many in our lane. Times are changing folks, we must adapt.

3. Alternate forms of revenue bring opportunity for sport tourism.

Just hanging out on the track at Las Vegas Motor Speedway
The president of Las Vegas Motor Speedway was on a panel and commented that his venue operates more than 1400 event days a year – only a handful of which are NASCAR/NHRA/other sanctioned events. The rest are special events in a variety of their complex’s spaces. Clearly, LVMS is just as much a special event venue, turning multiple events a day from weddings and meetings, to the NSF closing party.
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Lincoln Financial Field. Photo: NBC Sports
This approach was not unique. The special events director for the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field shared the same sentiment commenting that she sells more than 400 events a year at her complex. These event drive alternate revenue streams for teams and venues, but they also create an accessibility, a connection point, and likely goodwill for teams and venues. 
How does this take-away relate to sport tourism? Be creative! Talk to you non-traditional venue folks. They are looking for interesting and revenue-producing collaborations. Think about how you can partner to provide a unique setting for your next board retreat or an element of your next sports event.

2. Don’t go to Vegas in February hoping for a warm-up from the blustery KC and CO cold.

Seriously. KC was 4 degrees. Vegas was a slight warm-up at around 40 degrees. And it flurried while I was there. Locals were saying it “snowed”. I didn’t burst their bubble. Funny thing was, there were still people laying out poolside at MGM Grand. They must’ve been from Kansas City!
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I swear, it was barely a flurry, but it was the talk of the town – that and the Golden Knights. Photo: Pace.Vegas

1. If we look hard enough, we can learn a tremendous amount from those who might not be in our specific field of practice.

The moral of this story is clear. There is no doubt it is important for us to continually learn from one-another in the sport events and tourism industry. But, if we make a conscious effort to take our blinders off, open our mind, and pull from a broader source of information – whether it’s a conference like NSF or otherwise – we might just find some nuggets of solid gold to apply in our respective worlds. 
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Sometimes you can feel like a fish out of water pushing yourself to a new environment. But there is no growth without change.
At a critical and ever-changing time in our own industry, I encourage us to cast a wide net. As Brian Herbert said, “The capacity to learn is a gift; the ability to learn is a skill; the willingness to learn is a choice.” 
Thank you to Ron Seaver and the National Sports Forum team for hosting an excellent event, filled with quality learning and a hospitable, family-like atmosphere. I would recommend this conference to anyone looking to expand their knowledge of the industry and meet some all-around great people. This is Stoll on Sports.
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