How to turn a movie phrase into a city mantra? Back it with facts.
If you build it, they — the NFL — will come.
So will the NHL. And the WNBA, USL, NASCAR, NFR, UFC and PBR. Someday — soon, perhaps? — the NBA and MLB. Even professional curling and indoor archery.
Plus waaaay more.
Also, a couple of hundred sports/marketing experts came to hear the oft-repeated “They Will Come” message at the inaugural “Las Vegas Global Sports Business Summit” on Feb. 27 at the Las Vegas Convention Center. Co-sponsored by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) and the Las Vegas Global Economic Alliance, the confab was the run-up event to the second annual sports smorgasbord, aka “Ultimate Vegas Sports Weekend” through March 3, all around the town. (Las Vegas Newswire is produced by the Las Vegas News Bureau, a department of the LVCVA.)
“Five years ago, this conference wouldn’t have even happened,” proclaimed Rob Dondero, executive vice president of Las Vegas marketing agency R&R Partners. Dondero was one of 25 advertising pros — specializing in sports branding, marketing, and company sponsorships and partnerships — as well as sports executives who gathered for the all-day seminar/networking sessions.
Theme: capitalizing on business opportunities arising from the city’s ever-increasing sports profile.
“Now we’re getting ready to host the NFL draft in a little over 13 months, we’ve got the NHL here with a Stanley Cup-addition team (the Vegas Golden Knights), it’s unbelievable what we’ve done in such a short amount of time,” Dondero added.
Among the blizzard of statistics that speakers blasted out to underscore the excitement, one that was merely a projection was a particular attention-getter: With the completion of the $1.8 billion Las Vegas Stadium, home for the incoming Raiders franchise of the NFL — coupled with an expanding sports infrastructure — the city could rake in a $1 billion single-event windfall if awarded a future Super Bowl contest.
That’s with a “B,” folks.
“Super Bowl LII in Minneapolis (Patriots vs. Eagles, in 2018), they brought in 125,000 visitors,” said the man who made the bold prediction, Jonas Peterson, president/CEO of the Las Vegas Global Economic Alliance, who describes sports as “the purest” form of economic development.
“That same weekend in Las Vegas, we had over 300,000 visitors for Super Bowl-related activities (sportsbook betting, parties, etc.) We broke their attendance and we didn’t even have the Super Bowl. When you start doing the math, when we can have the Super Bowl in Southern Nevada, you add on visitor spending, we have the ability to approach our first billion-dollar event in Las Vegas.”
How have we come within striking distance of this Billionaire’s Club? “Because of the Vegas sports advantage,” Peterson said of the multi-tentacled professional sports system that has sprung up in Southern Nevada, including expanding visitor accommodations in such new hotel projects as Resorts World, the Drew and Circa.
“It’s because of the remarkable infrastructure that we have been building up over decades. It allows us to be successful and to leverage sports in ways that other markets simply can’t,” he said, citing the “Ultimate Vegas Sports Weekend” as proof. “Where else can you attend a Golden Knights hockey game, a UFC fight, NASCAR, USA Sevens Rugby and more, all in one weekend? It doesn’t exist — only in Las Vegas.”
Sessions included presentations and panel discussions from, among others: MGM Resorts International, Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, the Golden Knights, the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, SportsBusiness Journal, Howard Hughes Corp., Major League Rugby, Shell-Pennzoil, Penn Mutual Life Insurance, Professional Bull Riders, Allied Esports, Sports Logistics Ltd., Las Vegas Events, Fremont Street Experience and SVP Global Partnerships Legends.
“If there is any organization that manifests what the future of sports will be like in Las Vegas, I think it’s UFC,” said Jeremy Aguero of data services company Applied Analysis, who was bullish on the growth of Ultimate Fighting Championship’s Vegas inroads, which includes drawing 243,000 visitors to town since 2016. Beyond that, though, he touted the creation of the UFC Performance Institute, just off Jones Boulevard and Interstate 215.
“It invites fighters to come to Vegas to learn how to enhance performance, with state-of-the-art technology,” he said. “UFC is leading the way in terms of research and performance development, and that is happening here in our backyard.”
Touting our sports organizations nearly team for team, Aguero cited successes including the newly-renamed minor-league Las Vegas Aviators/ex-51s in their soon-to-be-unveiled, $150 million Las Vegas Ballpark; the collegiate Runnin’ Rebels; the NBA Summer League; National Finals Rodeo; plus amateur and youth sports.
Judged from an employment standpoint, Aguero pointed out that the building of the Raiders’ new Las Vegas Stadium has been a massive job creator. So far, construction on it has surpassed one million work hours.
Major League baseball? “There are two or three sites and multiple teams sniffing around Las Vegas. … We are on everybody’s radar relative to Major League Baseball and every sport out there.” Soccer? “We forget that one out of every three households speak a language other than English at home here,” Aguero said, referencing the Las Vegas Lights FC. “And if you want to know what sport is the biggest around the world it is this one. Their ability to connect with the community, the Hispanic community in particular, has been absolutely phenomenal. Every time we see a car pass by with a Lights sticker on the window we have to be excited about what happens next.”
Perhaps we should also mention that little team that stunned the NHL last season by reaching the Stanley Cup Finals in its wondrous debut season, drawing an average of 18,042 fans to T-Mobile Arena games. Also of note: T-Mobile Arena has a 17,500-seat capacity — everyone else enthusiastically squeezed into standing-room-only spaces in the arena that despite being the 30th largest NHL venue, had the 17th largest attendance last season.
Yes, they played great. Fantastically. Phenomenally. Unbelievably. However, in keeping with today’s theme, it was also a marketing opportunity that was particularly well-exploited. “We invite everyone to be part of the brand,” said Golden Knights President Kerry Bubolz, who proceeded to reel off a lengthy list of promotional initiatives that hooked fans. Just a sampling:
- The sexy “Wall of Distraction” with opposing players racing down the ice to be met the by sight of Vegas showgirls in the stands behind the net
- The kitschy, smoke-spewing, catapult-armed “Castle” prop
- Raucous game warm-ups with a club-party vibe
- In-house drum line, the Drumbots
- Team jersey, license frame and bumper sticker giveaways
- Watch parties
- Even inviting hockey uber-fan, actor Michael J. Fox
“I engage the fans, ask them why they come,” said Bubolz about his theory of team-fan connectivity, which also extends to the numerous charitable efforts undertaken by the Golden Knights. “I often say that community is a contact sport, just like hockey.” Team philanthropy, though, has become a hallmark of nearly every sports organization in town, with Aguero specifically noting our WNBA Las Vegas Aces, calling them “second to none in community involvement.”
And for those who prefer their contact to go easier on the hard knocks, there is the rise of The Gamer Generation, as evidenced by the growth of Esports. “Las Vegas is becoming the epicenter of Esports,” said Jud Hannigan, CEO of Allied Esports, whose spiffy showcase, the HyperX ESports Arena, is anchored at the Luxor. Surrounding it are multiple other Esports venues in Las Vegas where gamers can fan out and battle in pixilated glory.
Whether it’s with a bat, a ball, a puck or a gamer’s console, sports are putting up a lot of points on the Vegas scoreboard. “This is where more champions are crowned than any other destination. This is where winners come,” Dondero said, urging that we revel in our athletic renaissance era.
“Remember you were here, because I think it’s going to be an incredible ride.”
To offer feedback on this story or suggestions for future stories on Las Vegas Newswire, contact Managing Editor Steve Bornfeld at SBornfeld@lvcva.com.