In the year 2020, a question that has lurked in the background among concerns about our personal well-being and the health of our businesses is the idea of what we will do when things are “normal” again. It’s a largely individual question, but it speaks to what we as a society feel we’ve been lacking during the days of social distancing. For many, sports are the “thing” that people want to see again. However, it’s about more than seeing our favorite athletes take the field. Sports is about connection to the community around us. It’s about the camaraderie of rooting for the team we love. And for the thousands of communities across the United States that are home to sports facilities, it’s about commerce.
Sports and recreation venues have been dramatically impacted by the Coronavirus pandemic, with many facilities still waiting to re-open. While the heaviness of this season makes it easy to simply throw your hands up and given in, we know that’s not the answer. Our sports and recreation facilities are a critical component of economic resurgence and now’s the time to start planning for guests again.
In this article, we will discuss the role marketing will play in helping sports facilities lead the charge towards rebound and recovery. We will also provide strategies and tips that facilities can implement whether they are recently re-opened, preparing for a re-opening, or are still in a holding pattern.
Strategies, Messaging, and Tactics
The most important place to start in terms of strategy is to address evolving customer needs and preferences. The COVID-19 pandemic has changed both the way we view the world and our expectations of venues. It’s critical that venues develop and adapt programming to accommodate it. An example can be seen at Cedar Point Sports Center in Sandusky, OH, where they are responding to the desire of working parents to place their children in an eLearning environment by providing a School Day Camp where students can participate in a traditional study hall, which includes physical education classes and art projects.
This is a critical time to lean into partnerships with organizations and businesses within the community or establish new ones. The idea that “we are all in this together” may seem cliché, but it’s crucial during this time period. When your facility wins, you community wins and vice versa. Recently, Rocky Mount Event Center partnered with local company Sanderson Farms Chicken and the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina to host a food distribution drive for families impacted financially by the COVID-19 pandemic.
A primary component of marketing is messaging. And the most important messages you want to convey in your communication with your audience is that safety is the number one priority and that your facility has taken all recommended measures to provide a safe environment for guests and employees. These messages must be conveyed both on social media, onsite, and through traditional media. At SFM Network venues, an FAQ was developed for parents and guests that addresses safety concerns and what each facility is doing to meet them. That document can be found on their respective websites and is referenced on social media platforms.
At the facility, signage and carrying out procedures for cleaning and social distancing is essential. However, it goes beyond that. A sign can say one thing, but a customer-centric approach that involves continual check-ins with guests to see if they are comfortable in your facility will speak volumes to your audience.
Building a connection with consumers and showing empathy is critical during this time. A great example in the sports tourism industry that illustrates this is the ‘#SportsTourismStrong campaign developed by Sports ETA.”
The #SportsTourismStrong campaign highlights efforts made by sports venues and destination marketing organizations throughout the country to show the importance of sports, maintain connections, and give back to those in need in their local communities. Cedar Point Sports Complex in Sandusky, OH, as part of the #SportsTourismStrong campaign, produced a series of skills and tips videos for young athletes.
Additionally, Panama City Beach Sports Complex developed a video in the spring expressing the importance of sport and how they looked forward to coming back to them soon. Shortly after launching their video, Iron Peak (formerly Apex Sports & Events) launched a similar video which prompted the SFM Network to produce a video showing how employees across the Network are excited to bring sports back to our communities.
Re-opening your sports, recreation, or event facility is not only important for operators and event rights holders, it’s critical for the communities everywhere. At the Sports Facilities Companies, we provide resources and services, including those designed for rebound and recovery. Contact us today at 727-474-3845.