Many layers to sporting events’ promotional value

IT’S not news that Western Australians love sport. It’s not really a shock that the professional sporting industry generates 1 per cent of our national GDP. But what may surprise many is the impact visiting international sporting events have on our tourism and travel industry.

Familiar corporate-crowned events like Telstra Rally Australia and the Hyundai Hopman Cup are the obvious crowd pullers, generating large amounts of publicity, television coverage and money ($20 million and $5.6 million respectively).

But the high-profile hitters aren’t the only ones spinning the economic wheel, with some quiet achievers competing and contributing in WA.

The ILF Lacrosse World Championships, to be held in July 2002, will bring attract 4000 competitors and spectators, with economic impact estimates for the event placed at almost $10 million. That’s half the amount of Telstra Rally Australia and almost double the Hyundai Hopman Cup.

Likewise, the Women’s World Cup of Hockey is expected to generate millions of dollars in revenue for the WA tourism industry when it arrives here in November 2002.

More than 450 elite participants from 16 nations will compete in the fortnight-long event. The tournament is expected to attract more than 2,500 people from interstate and overseas, not to mention locals keen to see Australia’s Hockeyroos defend their World Cup title.

It’s undeniable that the impact of events like Telstra Rally Australia are significant, but when compared in economic terms with an event like the ILF Lacrosse World Championships, it’s a wonder more recognition isn’t given to smaller, but still significant, operations.

Events Corp general manager Linda Wayman said although one-off events such as the lacrosse tournament could generate more income than the Hyundai Hopman Cup, tennis remained a more popular sports event.

“Lacrosse is fairly big simply because of the number of competitors attending the event, but it won’t get much in the way of TV,” she said.

“The coverage is provided overseas by the specialist pay TV sports channels and obviously the top-tier sports get a lot more air time on the big TV stations.”

The publicity generated by events like Rally Australia has a three-fold significance. Not only does it push awareness of the event itself, upping ticket sales and attendance, but it also is an important tool in promoting WA overseas via international television coverage.

In fact the amount of publicity that an event can generate for itself is one of the criteria that Events Corp (a division of the WATC) looks at when deciding whether or not to assist event organisers.

The link between television coverage and assistance is a vital one, with Events Corp taking very seriously where the show will be viewed and if these countries are in WA’s key tourism marketing areas.

“We hire an international company that researches how much television coverage our events receive. Not only does it give us a number (of people watching), it helps us identify where we can improve,” Ms Wayman said.

A case in point was the 1999 Heineken Classic, where the word ‘Perth’ on the logo was unclear and many viewers weren’t sure where the event was being held. The next year the size of the print was increased and a clearer font was used. The recognition value of the event, and thus Perth’s exposure to the world, was doubled in 2000.

Ms Wayman estimated the economic impact of sports tourism in WA to be around $204 million in the past four years, but was quick to add that the free advertising provided by television coverage also was quite impressive.

“International television delivered $9 million worth of free advertising, and that is only in our target tourism market,” she said.

And just like Rally Australia, sporting events like hockey, water polo, rugby union and lacrosse generate more than medals and trophies.

“Sports tourism sees all tourism operators benefit from it, as well as the actual accommodation and so on,” Ms Wayman said.

Events Corp has a full-time tourism product manager, whose role is to facilitate pre and post touring and travel packages around events, working with the tourism industry to help create appropriate packages.

An interesting economic overflow came from the recent Rugby Union international between Australia and South Africa. Rugby Union, it seems, isn’t the only thing Western Australians and South Africans have in common – both have significant mining industries.

So while thousands of South Africans flocked to WA for pleasure, there also was a fair amount of work going on, with many of the visitors using the opportunity to meet face to face during match week.

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