Sporting events are one of the most complex types of events to organize, especially when we’re talking about large competitions and tournaments. And the more complex the type of sport, such as team sports (think soccer or basketball), the more time and resources it takes to plan. If you’re reading this article, you’re most likely involved in planning a sporting event, maybe for the first time, and you want to know the steps to do it right. We’ve got you covered with our complete guide, so read on!
1. Planning a sporting event: it all starts with the team!
The first thing you need to do after defining the objective and type of sporting event is to gather a team for your organizational efforts. In sporting events, there need to be two team leaders in charge of coordinating. One has to have stellar event planning and organizational skills. The other one needs to know exactly how the entire industry related to that sport actually works. Apart from this, you will need team members covering other areas of the planning process:
- marketing and PR
- volunteers at the venue
2. The when and the where: dates and venue(s)
First of all, planning a sporting event should start at least a year in advance, if we’re talking about a tournament or a competition. If what you’re planning is just a demonstrative show (think artistic ice skating shows, for example) 6 months might just be enough. When you set the date for the event, it must make sense with the season for that particular sport, and also not clash with other sporting events of the same type that are usually taking place in the same region.
When it comes to picking a venue for a sporting event, there’s not much flexibility: you need the right type of field or hall for that specific sport. If the event is not large scale, you can search for alternatives to full size stadiums, halls or courts by also considering the offer for sports facilities in colleges, universities or even high-schools. When you select the venue, pay attention not only to the quality of the field/court/hall itself, but also to the availability of locker rooms, auxiliary rooms, position within the city and the availability of parking places and public transport.
In any case, it is extremely important that you start the search at least 1 year in advance because each region, city or sports venue normally has a calendar of regular events that happen pretty much every year. So you need to make sure you find availability for the date(s) you prefer.
3. The administrative side
What makes a sporting event more complex and difficult to plan than other events is that the organizing team has to face lots of administrative aspects before even thinking of sponsors, marketing or logistics. Here are the most important administrative tasks:
- set up the event budget. To make this task easier, you can use our event budget template (download it for free and easily adapt it for your sporting event).
- communicate the event to sports associations, leagues and clubs, so that teams and/or players can sign up for the competition/tournament
- set up the rules for the competition/tournament and schedule the games/matches between the teams/players that signed in
- find and book referees and sports authorities/officials that will validate the competition/tournament
- apply for and get any necessary permits and insurances for the event
- find and book medical staff. Depending on the size of the event, one or more sports doctors will have to be present. And since we’re at it, make sure there will be complete first aid kits at the venue.
- research local hotels and negotiate deals for booking room blocks for teams/players/officials.
4. Set up an event website and start selling tickets
As for any type of event, once you have the time/place coordinates and the schedule, it’s best that you start selling tickets as soon as possible. And since sporting events rely heavily on sponsors, having sold tickets before you submit sponsorship requests is of crucial importance so that you can prove to sponsors that your event has the potential to reach their target audience.
To start selling tickets to your sporting event, you’ll need an event website and a payment processing system in place. The easiest and cheapest way to achieve this is to use an event management platform, instead of just building a whole website from scratch. If you use Metooo as your platform, you can create a beautiful event webpage within minutes, personalize it with all the event details, and sell tickets at the lowest fees on the market. All this will happen through secure transactions and your funds will be available immediately. This way you can start using them in the planning process.
5. Marketing your sporting event
Product, Price, and Placement
In this case, your sporting event is the product that you intend to sell to attendees. Since you already established the dates, times and venue, and you have your competing teams/players in place, your product is good to go.
As for the price, you have several options. You can create a price for attending a single game/match within the tournament/competition, and special prices that give access to an entire phase (initial rounds, semifinals, final). You can even create a ticket that gives access to all the games within the event. If your event webpage is set on Metooo, you can do this very easily by inserting various types of tickets in the event. Through the ticketing system on the platform, you can even sell merchandise related to the event and generate a second stream of income. Another thing you can do is create the various phases of the tournament as separate events and link them within an event group to be able to manage them together.
On the placement side, by setting up your sporting event on the online event management platform, tickets automatically become available for purchase from anywhere in the world. Basically this makes your distribution unlimited.
When promoting a sporting event, odds are on your side because it’s a type of event that bears some kind of public interest to it. What this means is that a sports tournament, competition or even a demonstration or friendly match are news worthy. You need a person with strong PR skills on your team, and a strong press release, to make sure the information about the upcoming event will get on the sports news on TV channels, in daily newspapers, and in sports publications. Good PR will get you press coverage both before the event and during the event. If your competition is broadcast live by a TV station, this will hugely impact the success of your next editions and the potential to get more substantial sponsorship amounts for those next editions.
Traditional advertising methods also still work when promoting sporting events. So, buying advertising space on sports TV channels, radio stations and even OOH billboards, if your budget allows it, is a good idea.
If you’re working for a sports association, club or organization, and you have a database of loyal fans, you can also send email invitations for them to attend the event. With Metooo, along with your event web page comes the possibility to create and send RSVP email invitations to an entire mailing list imported from MailChimp or Gmail. Also, the ticket can be embedded on any website so make sure you insert it on your organization’s website as well.
Last but not least, make sure you have a well thought web marketing strategy in place, including presence and ad campaigns on social media, news websites and sports related websites and blogs.
6. Finding sponsors for a sporting event
As mentioned earlier, finding sponsors for your sporting event will be one of the most important and challenging tasks. The main tools you will use are your budget (to see how much funding you need) and your marketing plan (that you elaborated in the previous step, and that will show potential sponsors the type of reach that they can expect from your event).
The first step in this endeavor will be to identify potential sponsors. Do your research and find out what brands usually act as sponsors for sporting events in your area. Moreover, extend your search to brands that could cater to the same type of audience that you expect to have at your event. Beer brands and soccer are an obvious match, but for other sports you might need to get more creative and analyze your target audience more in-depth.
Next, you need to develop the various types of brand exposure and brand activation ideas that your venue and event schedule are suitable for. Analyze your venue and see where you could place sponsor branding, sponsor booths and sponsor activities that can entertain attendees before, in between, or after the games.
Then, you can assemble sponsor packages, but also keep in mind to be open to offer customized options and combinations of activities because this will increase your chances of getting more sponsorships.
The final step will be to contact the potential sponsors and present the various packages. If your marketing plan is rock-solid and the sponsors’ target audience match your event’s target audience, your chances of finding sponsors are quite high.
7. Organizing logistics
The logistics of a sporting event depend largely of the type of sport that the event is centered around. But generally, here is what you will need to set in place:
- audio/video and lighting equipment. A strong sound and monitor system at any sporting venue is a must, and so are the lights, for the games that are to take place during the evening. So if your venue doesn’t provide options, make sure you book and rent them well in advance.
- wi-fi. If the venue doesn’t provide wi-fi, set up a deal with a telecom company to make sure you provide it for the whole duration of the event.
- set up of vendor booths and brand activations for sponsors. Since often times sponsors are also vendors, make sure you discuss venue floor plans, positioning, and necessary power sources for their installations, as soon as you close the deal.
- security systems. Sporting events usually involve a large public so it’s important to have a strong security system. Scanners at the entrance (for people and for bags) are usual, and a well trained security personnel should be present both at the entrance and across the venue. There are some sports of which supporters’ competition spirit easily borderlines violence so a security plan is fundamental.
- medals, ribbons, podiums, and trophies. They seem like tiny details, but still, what is a sporting event without its awards and ceremonies? Plan them in advance, as, for example, medals do take a while to be engraved.
- venue cleanup: if your event lasts more than a few hours, and several games/matches are included, you will need to make sure that repeated cleaning processes can be performed fast at the venue between and after games. If the venue doesn’t provide in-house cleaning, make sure you hire a cleaning company.
8. At the event
The day has come and your sporting event is finally starting! But your job is of course not done yet. Months of planning went into it and you need to make sure everything works smoothly. Here is what to keep in mind for the duration of the event:
- fast check-in of attendees is crucial, and this is when, again, using an event management platform shows its importance. If you used Metooo as your platform, you can check your attendees in from several entry points at the same time, within seconds for each attendee, to minimize queues. All your staff needs to do is scan the QR codes on tickets through the Event Plan app installed on their mobile devices.
- enough volunteers/staff need to be present throughout the venue to be able to assist and direct attendees to finding their places, restrooms, or other facilities
- the person in charge of marketing must conduct the activities that will then help promote following editions and for reporting purposes to the sponsors. Official photos and videos will be taken in key moments and featuring key participants (officials, sports personalities, influencers). Interviews will be conducted with key participants and any other relevant personalities present at the event. Branding and activations of sponsors will constantly be monitored and assistance will be offered when needed
- safety and the need for medical assistance will constantly be monitored throughout the event
- the perfect functioning of A/V equipment, lighting, communications, and electric power will constantly be monitored by the logistics team
- venue clean-ups will be performed between and after games
This was our guide for planning a sporting event in 8 steps. We know the process might seem daunting, and, although it is complex, if you use our guidelines you can make sure your workflow will be streamlined and you’ll be on your way to a successful event!