Sporting events are a huge draw. The Super Bowl attracts more than 111 million viewers. Interest in FIFA World Cup Soccer outstrips this—in 2014, it attracted a global audience of 3.2 billion viewers. Basketball and Stanley Cup play-offs have also drawn huge crowds in the stadiums and on TV this year. Yet, corporate event and conference planners rarely incorporate sports into their events.
There could be a number of reasons for this. The majority of event planners are women. Sporting events may be off the radar for some of them. The important thing to remember is that the appeal of sports is wider than one might think. For example, parents regularly attend the games and practices of their children. Many sports will be familiar to participants of both sexes.
With increasing diversity in the workforce, there may also be a perception that sporting events are not inclusive. Sporting events can be accessible for all participants with careful attention to group demographics including age, fitness levels and physical challenges.
Quick Tips for Planning Sporting Events
Give Participants a Choices
If the concern is that the sporting event won’t appeal to all participants, offer a smorgasbord of choices for their evening events. For example, organize a sporting event, concert or art gallery tour and reception and let participants sign up for the excursion of their choice. Participants will appreciate the opportunity to mix and mingle with colleagues who share their interests. Trade shows like IMEX and EIBTM already use this model with a number of options available to hosted buyers in the evening.
Select a venue that is accessible with wheelchair ramps, elevators for participants and accessible washrooms. Include information about accessibility in the promotion and confirmation for events.
Cater to Group Demographics and Interests
Adding a question about preferred athletic activities to a conference or meeting registration form is easy. Armed with information, select a spectator or active sport that takes group demographics and the season into consideration.
Sporting Events: 5 Ways to Play
Sports Themed Décor and Entertainment
The easiest way to incorporate sports into an event is to select a theme and reinforce it through visuals, props and entertainment.
Baseball, basketball and football are popular choices. With increasing diversity in conference attendance, more and more participants are coming from countries where soccer and hockey are popular. Other possibilities for themes include tennis, polo, show jumping, horse racing, MotoGP, Nascar and Formula 1 (F1) events.
When a sports and technology intersect, magic can happen.
Sporting events don’t have to be live. With the increased interest in gaming, event planners can use technology to give participants an opportunity to select and play their favorite sports-related games. It’s possible to break the group up into teams, track scores and award prizes.
Another way to provide access to spectator sports is to put up giant screens at your event venue and simulcast the event. During the recent Eastern Conference Basketball semi-finals, giant screens that were set up outside Air Canada Center attracted enthusiastic crowds. Throw in a surprise celebrity appearance at halftime and the event is a hit.
Spectator sporting can generate excitement at corporate events and conferences. For example, planning the conference for the time when a coveted sporting event is taking place at a destination can increase its appeal. Sporting events can be scheduled during the evening or as pre- or post-conference events. Many participants will take advantage of the opportunity to arrive a day early or schedule a late-night departure to catch a game that is appealing.
At many stadiums, groups can take in the action from box seats, corporate suites and even gondolas that are prefect for receptions and informal dining.
With respect to dining, event planners can cater the event or provide each attendee with “stadium dollars” or pre-paid Visa cards to purchase what they prefer. Tennis, F1, MotoGP and polo events usually have general admission as well as a premium seating area with catering.
Imagine your standard conference reception and suddenly the curtains are pulled back to reveal giant or 360-degree screens. You’ll hear oohs and awes by bringing the action to your event.
This year, the Olympics are taking place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and, in 2018, Pyeongchang, South Korea, will host the Winter Olympics. When Olympic fever takes hold of the world, it’s an ideal time to plan Olympic-themed events. If the group is physically fit, team challenges that include relays and short versions of track-and-field events will generate excitement. If fitness levels vary within a group, event organizers can still use an Olympic theme with wacky or fun challenges that don’t require physical fitness.
Other opportunities for active participation include short soccer, broomball or hockey challenges during retreats. Horse riding can appeal to groups even if there are beginners. Gymakna games on horseback are always a lot of fun and they can be offered at all levels from novice to experienced riders. Nervous participants who are afraid of horses can participate in lead line or grooming challenges.
Everyone can get in on the action in team sports. Participants who don’t want to play can referee, keep score, handle flags at the finish line and cheer on their team.
Sporting events will be a departure from standard fare for many conferences and events. Try it. Participants will like it.