How to Leverage big sporting or other events to lure extra business
Watching the Final Four roll into Atlanta or the Super Bowl into East Rutherford, it’s hard for any small business owner not to salivate. Millions of eyes are on the city, local citizens are energized. There’s just got to be a business opportunity in there.
Fran Tarkenton thinks so. As founder of the consultancy web site SmallBizClub.com, he knows how small firms work. As a Hall of Famer who led his team to the Super Bowl three times, he knows how big events operate. And, he knows where the two can intersect. For small businesses to leverage big local happenings, they must give more than they get, he said.
"The mission of business is to help bring people together, to bring value to people. Making money is a byproduct," he asserts. "So you add that value by having a Final Four party in your home. Invite customers and prospects, have the kids shoot hoops in the driveway for prizes. The big event allows a business owner to stage a smaller, themed event : That’s one way to leverage the hoopla.
Robyn Elliott leveraged the Final Four through local civic ties. As owner of Bicycle Tours of Atlanta, she is a longstanding member of the Atlanta Convention & Visitor’s Bureau (ACVB), and that was enough to get her in the door.
The organization has a long history of helping members to be seen at local events. "They rotate around opportunities, looking at what is an appropriate activity for a given business," Elliott says. "If it’s a dental group that’s in town, my business might not pop up on the list, but if it is something like this, a sports event where people might be thinking of something athletic, that would be something where we are a fit."
With this in mind, ACVB included the bicycle-tour enterprise on the "things to do" list that appeared on the Final Four website. To make the cut, Elliott has worked over the course of several years to make her business known and understood by ACVB decision-makers.
"Part of it is making sure the ACVB is really clear on what our product is," she said. "So we reach out, we invite members and employees of the AVCB to come and take our tours. I would like every employee of the ACVB to come and do our tours. I think that’s the best way to build that buzz."
Here are five more tips for leveraging major sports events, courtesy of Stuart Zakim of Bridge Strategic Communications, a Montclair, New Jersey, strategic marketing firm focused on the entertainment industry.
1. Find the key players.
"Whenever a major event is scheduled, there is always a pretty large volunteer organization in place that is composed largely of local business leaders and politicians. The key person in the mix is the paid professional running the event, usually the general manager or executive director. The communications director is also a good source."
2. Research the local buzz.
"The easiest way is to look at the website. They tend to have lots of information regarding their volunteer operations and also showcase those companies already on board, so you can educate yourself about them before your first interaction. Another is to do an Internet search and see what has been already published about the event, as it usually quotes the key people involved and those are excellent points of entry into an organization."
3. Find a friend.
Approach event planners through a mutual contact, if possible. "Barring that, you should email the paid professionals. The ideal time to approach them would be as soon as it is announced."
4. Give back to the organizers.
"Small businesses bring to the table a passion for the event they are producing," Zakim says. Business owners may be willing to serve on a committee or to coordinate with local political leaders to ensure smooth sailing. In doing all that legwork, "they create an infrastructure that makes it painless for the producers to produce their event."
5. Court the local crowd.
"You're not going to replace Met Life Insurance for their naming rights to the stadium when the Super Bowl is played, nor is your logo going to be rolled out at midfield and your picture taken with the winning quarterback," Zakim says. But a firm can be heard loud and clear at the local level by helping to energize the crowd. As Tarkenton suggests, a Super Bowl Party in your restaurant, a basketball-themed gathering for customers and prospects: These are ways to get seen—without spending a lot of time and money.
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