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December 2016 16 www.sportseventsmagazine.com Winning RFPs The Key To A Successful Start BY MICHELLE RYAN SPECIAL FEATURE: CVBs & Sports Commissions The secret to the success of any sports event comes down to just three letters: RFP. Also known as a request for propos- al, the RFP is a very important tool that helps event rights holders and their host cities take a competition from paper to reality. "A good RFP spells everything out and ensures that people don't have to guess or assume," said Janis Burke, CEO of the Harris County – Houston Sports Author- ity. "Assuming on either side is what gets people in trouble. It is a sales tool, a guidebook for those unfamiliar with the particular nuances of the sport, and a map to ensure a successful journey for both sides." But not all RFPs are created equal. Small and large CVBs and sports com- missions from across the country weighed in on what makes the most successful ones stand out from the rest. While these guidelines might seem simple, sticking to these fundamentals is the best bet for building a better RFP — and ultimately a successful event and long-lasting partnership. BE DETAILED One of the initial goals of the RFP is to match an event's needs to a host city, ac- cording to Lisa Mills, director of market- ing and public relations for the Louisville Sports Commission. "In my opinion, the purpose of an RFP is to narrow down to a select number of finalist cities in order to more fully explore what opportunities each city offers," Mills said. While taking that important first step in the process, event rights holders should be very detailed, various sports marketing and CVB leaders said. "It is always best to spell out every need or wish list item," said Burke. "At the end of the day, a city may not be able to deliver on every need or wish the client has, but then each party knows exactly what they are getting into if they are to work together." Very specific venue and accommoda- tion requirements are must-haves in a well-written RFP, according to Snohom- ish County Sports Commission's Sports Development Director Tammy Dunn. But she had a different take on providing too much detail on an event's marketing or community-support needs. "Marketing and community support does not have to include detailed infor- mation," Dunn said. "This allows the host city to be creative with how they are going to market the event and/or engage the community." BE HONEST When identifying an event's essentials to a potential host city, being honest — or, more specifically, being realistic — goes a long way in establishing trust and credi- bility, according to Burke. "Having goals in sight is great, but destinations are looking for what has realistically happened in the past," Burke said. For example, if a host city finds that the event's past performance checks out differently than what is stated in the RFP, "it will cause an instant credibility issue for the event rights holder," Burke said. "So if there is an anticipated positive change in room-night numbers, spectator statistics or athlete registrations, it would be helpful for the RFP to explain why the event rights holder believes the numbers will trend upward." BE FLEXIBLE Any flexibility on the part of the event rights holder should also be clearly stated in the RFP, whether it ranges from competition dates to concession needs. But some sports marketing leaders are thinking of flexibility in other ways. "A smart city will respond to the RFP and provide options [the event rights holder] hadn't thought of," said Nancy Helman, director of sports marketing for the Virginia Beach Convention & Visitors Bureau. Burke agreed. "Good partnerships are formed by understanding the needs of the other side but having flexibility in how to meet those needs," she said. "There is more than one way to accomplish the same goal sometimes." BE OPEN Beyond hosting a successful event, Hel- man has even higher expectations from an RFP. "A well-written RFP includes all the details for an event that can create a mutually beneficial partnership," Helman said. "We're really looking to create a partnership; we're not looking to create a 'one-and-done.'" But Helman hopes Virginia Beach be- comes even more than the site of athletic competition. "We want them to have so much fun that maybe they'll come back with their families on vacation some other time," Helman said. Many types of relationships can evolve from the partnerships between an event rights holder and a city. Take Gulf Shores, AL, for example. The coastal city had hosted the American Volley- ball Coaches Association (AVCA) Sand Championships for four years prior to beach volleyball gaining NCAA champi- onship status. Then Gulf Shores hosted the NCAA's inaugural Beach Volleyball Championship in May 2016.