Destination Marketing for sports events: a complex affair

MSc in Sports Industry Management students at emlyon business school are soon to begin a new module on Destination Marketing. The course is taught by Spring Han, a professor specialising in marketing, operations management and event management.

Dr Han makes it clear to the students : “While Destination Marketing is a type of marketing, it requires a unique methodology: it’s the process of making a destination known to a target audience, whether that be tourists, sport organisers, event organisers or others.”

 

What is Destination Marketing?

Destination Marketing involves promoting a destination – whether that’s a town, region or a whole country. MSc in Sports Industry Management students will most likely be aware of Destination Marketing in relation to large sports events, where sports event marketers work alongside other bodies to promote an event held in a particular destination.

Usually involved in these types of campaigns are DMCs (Destination Marketing or Destination Management Companies) who handle ticketing, accommodation, and additional organised activities. Also involved are local or city government authorities, who take care of infrastructure and logistics. At a smaller scale, hotels, transport companies, restaurants, tourism companies and leisure facilities also participate in promoting the destination and coordinating aspects of the event.

As you can see by the myriad parties involved, Destination Marketing is a complex and intricate operation, with both the public sector and the private sector working together to increase tourist flow and to host a variety of events.

 

How do you market a destination?

Marketing a destination is, of course, different to marketing a physical product. Effective Destination Marketing has the capacity to increase revenue for the event, but also to encourage the development of the destination in the long term. This is also part of  Destination Marketing’s job; making people want to visit even if they’re not going to attend the live sport events.

Destination Marketing methods are similar to the rest of the marketing industry; video clips about the destination are a great promotional tool, and virtual reality is an emerging trend. Marketers should use different channels and platforms to deliver their content, with a focus on mobile – 2.5 billion smartphones are currently in use globally, and 50% of all video views are on mobile, making optimisation vital.

 

The students’ project: learning by doing

Dr Han, who teaches Destination Marketing at emlyon business school, has a wide range of industry experience and expertise in research methodology, for which she has received multiple academic prizes (including the “Educational Innovation Award” from the NRU HSE, the “Best Paper Award” at the International Tourism Conference in 2014 and the “Best paper for the year 2012” from the Cornell Hospitality Quarterly). Her classes will discuss international sports events such as the Olympic Games, World Cup, F1 and golf competitions, and the successful (or unsuccessful) Destination Marketing around them.

This semester, Dr Han will lead the students in a Destination Marketing project. The project will be to manage the Destination Marketing of a sports event in Shanghai, which the students will plan in small groups over three weeks. They will promote Shanghai as the destination of a specific sports event; studying the specific sport, the city and all the minor details.

The students will discuss big questions, such as: how can we promote China to the Western world as the destination of a sports event? Which marketing techniques would be best for this project?

Spring Han received an Educational Innovation Award in 2014. Her teaching style is to challenge the students to learn by themselves, so that they can understand the topic more deeply.

Through discussion and ‘learning by doing’ the students will uncover all the implications of a large international sports event, including political and economic issues for the destination in the long run, and how to make a positive impact after the event.

Construction projects and regeneration inevitably disrupt the local population, and all impact must be anticipated and managed. With so much investment in the project, ROI is often hard to calculate, and there are as many failures as successes. As public money is used, there can be serious political repercussions, and the investments should be worthwhile in the long-term as well as for the event.

 

Successful Destination Marketing campaigns

There are additional hurdles for some destinations, such as not being an obvious choice for a particular sport. Dr Han was present in Russia during the 2014 Winter Olympics, which she discusses in class. Initially, Sochi was thought as an unlikely destination to host the Winter Olympics since it has a rather mild climate, but public perception was altered through destination branding.

Like Sochi, another destination which has had to heavily “market the destination” is Qatar, which is hosting the FIFA World Cup in 2022. After initial criticism, recent reports are more favourable. With enough careful consideration, expertise, and teamwork, the Qatari team can make sure that hosting the World Cup is not only profitable, but beneficial to their citizens in the future.

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