Last week I moderated a panel of some of the sharpest sports marketing minds in the business, what a blast.
The event was held in the beautifully redone Citrus Bowl in Orlando as it was being readied for the Florida State University (FSU) Spring Game. This was the first time FSU had ever held this game off-campus, and was doing so because their own stadium was being renovated. But guess what? FSU only expected the usual 25,000 or so, and by yesterday they had already sold nearly 40,000 tickets. Best of all the City of Orlando was a big winner too.
This was the perfect message to open the panel discussion yesterday, in front of a large crowd of tourism industry leaders and students from the Hospitality program at the University of Central Florida.
Titled: What Is The Value of Destination-Specific Sports Marketing? the panel explored not only the value, but the huge impact this kind of marketing is making in tourism dollars, and it’s growing.
Panelists included: (left to right: Poole, Kelley, Robicheaux, Dowdy and Hogan)
Faron Kelley, ESPN Wide World of Sports at Walt Disney World who gave us great insight into how sports is part of the overall mix to bring groups to Walt Disney World, especially in slow and shoulder periods. Kelley said the Disney focus on customer experience is as relevant in sports as it is in the parks.
Courtney Robicheaux who is with the Orange County Convention Center said groups like the AAU and even Wrestlemania fill the convention center with energy and support the hotels, restaurants and other businesses in Orlando by assuring the Convention Center is fully maximized year around.
John Poole is with the Kissimmee Sports Commission and his area, in Osceola County is expanding the use of current sporting facilities, upgrading others and looking to build more. John says his sports marketing efforts filled more than 40,000 hotel room nights last week – that is more than some small cities!
Megan Dowdy is the founder of The AutoNation Cure Bowl, held in the Citrus Bowl, this event gives Orlando’s Citrus Bowl the title of the only city with 3 annual bowl games. Megan spoke of her journey as a young professional and a woman, maneuvering for this game in the business side of football. The event supports finding a cure for cancer. Megan says there is no better feeling than handing a check to a nonprofit working to find a cure.
Steve Hogan is the CEO of Florida Citrus Sports, the management company that produces the bowl games in Orlando, and other events including our annual parade. John talked passionately about how his organization, and others, are giving back to the established neighborhoods around the Citrus Bowl to improve their levels of education, housing, safety and jobs.
Sports marketing is flying high and making a big difference for our communities and our lives. Next time you travel to see your favorite team, know that a whole team of smart minds made your trip a pleasure and they hope you come back again soon!