Sports Industry Trends to Watch

Sports Industry Trends to Watch in 2017

According to a recent study released by Dr. Lisa Neirotti, a professor at George Washington University, travel sports or “sports tourism” is an $8-billion industry that accounts for 14% of all tourism.  As a parent with two children who competed at the national level in high school, a good share of our time and household income was spent on traveling to tournaments around the country. But sports tourism doesn’t stop with youth sports.  The adult travel sports segment is growing too as seen by record numbers at regional marathons and tennis tournaments around the country with many adults traveling long distances to compete.

Sports Club Advisors believes there are 10 trends that will affect the future of the travel sports industry in 2017 and beyond:

#1 – Facility Development. Designing and building a “premium” facility is becoming increasingly important to make the experience memorable and enjoyable for all participants, from athletes to spectators.  The recent development of premier indoor and outdoor soccer facilities around the country is evidence of this.

#2 – Ownership Structures. In the past local communities, sports commissions, or counties have financed, owned and operated facilities.  However, increasingly, we are seeing that well-run privately operated sports facilities create better overall experiences and are more successful.  We expect more public-private partnerships to develop over time.

#3 – Social Media. Social media is not just for marketing events. It has become a tool to provide real time updates and highlights during events, changes in schedules and VIP sightings. Due to flexibility, convenience and cost, apps have replaced the printed flier or guide.

#4 – Volunteers. Many events are run by a combination of paid employees and volunteers.  A pending lawsuit filed by a volunteer alleges she should have been paid for her work at a sporting event. The outcome of this case could have massive implications on the way events are organized and staffed, not to mention the economics of sporting events.

#5 – Partnerships.  We are increasing seeing groups partner to create a world class sporting venue.  Public private partnerships have been around for a long time, but we are now seeing partnerships between owners and concessionaires, service providers, sponsors, sports equipment manufacturers, etc.  We expect this trend to continue.

#6 – Sponsors. In the long-term, sponsor involvement is more important than a sponsor’s money. It is arguably more valuable to have the Chicago Cub’s name associated with a baseball tournament or camp than to have their financial support.  Through well planned involvement, the sponsor will get more out of the experience and so will you. Get to know your sponsors and let them get to know you before you ask for money.

#7 – Bid Fees.  Host cities are less willing to pay bid fees, and are instead looking for a financial partnership with event organizers. This shared risk-reward model is becoming more common every day. In addition to diversifying risk, many host cities want a share in the financial results (just the upside) of the events they host.

#8 – Housing. Securing adequate hotel space for events and negotiating rebates and commissions with hotel operators is likely to become more of a challenge.  At least one major hotel brand is exploring capping commission and rebate programs. The challenge of protecting rate integrity and of tracking room blocks and rebates (especially in smaller communities) may force the industry to revisit how housing is secured for travel sports events.

#9 – Helping Others. The most successful events have a charitable side to them that make participants feel good about competing.  From charity runs to playground clean-ups these events do well by helping others. The question is, “How can we engage our target market and create a positive impact on our community.”

#10 – Creating Experiences. The NCAA Women’s Final Four slogan, “It’s More Than Three Games” says it all.  Athletes, young or adult, and spectators at events want their trips to be an experience for the entire family.  That means event organizers need to plan supplemental activities for family members to do (apart from the sporting event or competition) that will create memories.  This is equally true for world-class running events to youth travel gymnastics tournaments.  The more you invest in creating a memorable experience for all participants, the more successful your event and facility will be.

Rich JackimAbout the Author: Rich Jackim is a licensed attorney, an experienced investment banker, a sports industry entrepreneur and the managing partner of Sports Club Advisors, Inc.  Sports Club Advisors is a boutique mergers and acquisitions firm that provides financial advisory services to clients in the sports, fitness and leisure industry.  Rich may be reached at

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