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February 2017 14 www.sportseventsmagazine.com GAME Plan t While what works for one national govern- ing body might not work for another, these ideas on making annual events "new" are as varied as the sports their leaders represent. For longtime USA Swimming Executive Director Chuck Wielgus, who will retire in August, the best ideas come from keeping an eye on the competition. "We always watch what other sports do with their championship-level events, and we constantly identify even small ways in which we can make improvements for our members and fans," Wielgus said. The USA Swimming Aqua Zone, first debuted at the 2012 Olympic Trials, was inspired by fan experience programs at the NBA All-Star Game and the NCAA Final Four, according to Wielgus. The 100,000-square-foot area offers a family-friendly fan experience, complete with autograph sessions, Olympic medal displays, interactive games and swimming challenges. The event also features tech- nology that allows fans to share their Aqua Zone experience on social media. Tapping into the power of social media is an effective way to extend an event's reach. In 2014, Wielgus incorporated a social media board in the pool area at the Phillips 66 National Championships to display post information about the event. "It was such a success, we saw a nearly 400 percent jump in Twitter traffic from fans in the venue and following along around the country," Wielgus said. Though modern technology certainly has an impact, Wielgus has found that a back- to-basics approach can work just as well. "Watch an NBA Playoff game and you'll see how the home team outfits all the fans in the same color shirt," Wielgus said. "We did the same at the 2012 Olympic Trials and A FRESH TAKE THE CHALLENGE OF KEEPING EVENTS RELEVANT BY MICHELLE RYAN Events rights holders aren't just counting on the thrill of competition and the chance at glory to develop — and maintain — interest in their championship events. They are up against the challenge of infusing a fresh take on these contests that are held year after year because they know that keeping them relevant keeps athletes and fans engaged, even well after the titles have been awarded. TOP LEFT: The United States Ju-Jitsu Organization's (USJJO) championship events get greater exposure by partnering with the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) popular event held each year in Las Vegas. TOP RIGHT: FC Barcelona's beach soccer team, and other European beach soccer professionals led a sand soccer skills camp before NASSC competition that allowed the kids to get expert instruction from professionals as well as a chance to see them compete.