Organizing a sporting event requires a lot of preparation, logistical planning, and a key understanding of the sport itself. From sourcing a venue and enlisting a suitable number of volunteers to arrange all-weather preparations and day-of logistics, a lot goes into putting together a successful event.
Luckily, InitLive has helped dozens of organizations plan and execute successful sporting events and tournaments through its event staff and volunteer management solution. This article will outline everything you need to plan and ensure your own sporting event is a success. Specifically, we’ll cover:
Ready to learn more about the event-planning process for sporting events and tournaments? Let’s get started.
Planning a Sporting Event in 5 Easy Steps
When you begin the planning process, you need to understand your sporting event’s core objective, and then you can break down the planning process into easy-to-manage steps. As you dive in, it is essential to answer the following questions:
- What will your event be? Whether it is a spectator sporting event, a marathon, or a sports tournament, the format of the event will help you define the logistical requirements involved to make it successful.
- Who will attend the event? Who is your target audience for your event? Is it spectators, participants, or both?
- When and where will the event take place? What type of venue are you looking at? Are there any weather conditions you’ll need to consider during your event planning process?
The more detailed you answer these questions, the better you will plan your event. Then, you can get started with the following key steps:
1. Determine expected attendance and staff
No event can function without the correct amount of staff and volunteers. One of the main issues with larger sporting events is that they take place over multiple sites or routes—and this can be problematic, as you’ll need to enlist a large number of staff and volunteers to organize and manage each area.
Keep in mind that, as well as the event participants themselves, supporters will turn out in abundance—so even smaller-scale events can quickly become difficult to manage. This is where research will play a vital part. Spend time investigating past events to help gauge the turnout you can expect and ensure you have a large enough team to manage your event effectively.
Once you have a clear understanding of how many staff and volunteers you need, you’ll want to begin a recruitment process. Start by promoting your web-based volunteer registration page and signup form on your website and social channels to help attract volunteers to your event. Your event page not only provides a central space for volunteers to register, but it also allows anyone interested to post in the discussion section or message you directly. People will have questions, and you will be able to easily and publicly answer them.
2. Secure your venue
Until you have a site or venue locked down, you’ll be unable to progress with much of the planning—so make sure this is high on your list when it comes to getting organized. There’ll be a number of practicalities to take into consideration. Depending on the sport you are hosting, the number of venues in your area may be limited. For example, there may only be one or two gymnastics clubs with available space. In contrast, if you are hosting a soccer tournament, there may be a large number of fields to choose from.
Transportation is often one of the most tricky things to organize—so with the main venue secured, you’ll need to think about how people will get to and from your event as well as around the site(s) on the day in question. For example, do you need to contact the local authorities for permissions to close off an area of the city? This is the sort of thing you’ll need to think of with plenty of time to spare if you’re to get the sign-off you need ahead of your event.
3. Streamline ticketing and sign-ups
There is nothing more frustrating to customers than a complicated purchasing process. This is why it is essential to invest in a convenient and simple ticketing tool to streamline the entire step. Customers should be able to purchase tickets directly from your website, and you might consider making your event ticket available from your social media channels as well.
As for your athlete registration, you’ll need to ensure that the sign-up process is simple as well. An online registration form from your website is a great option. Then, make sure to communicate with participants on a routine basis to ensure they are kept in the loop leading up to the big day.
4. Get serious about safety
With medals, finishing times, and awards up for grabs, sporting events often bring out some of the world’s most competitive athletes. Whether they’re seasoned athletes or simply committed to raising funds for a chosen charity, it’s not unlikely that participants will be pushing their bodies to their limits.
Ensure that proper medical staff is on-site and ready to treat minor injuries for players or fans. From first aid volunteers to regular hydration stops, make sure you have everything in place to help participants if and when the need arises.
Where possible, utilize event volunteers and staff to full effect by having them on hand to assist. Investing in volunteer management software that will allow you to effectively manage your team will undoubtedly remove some of the stress and ensure you can all liaise on one platform. Ultimately, this will help to ensure you’re able to effectively facilitate the event at all times, especially in the case of an emergency.
5. Prepare for the weather
Wherever you’re hosting an event, the weather is likely to be a key consideration—especially if your event is held outside. From the rainy streets of Manchester in the UK to unbearable heat in warmer climates, the weather is anything but predictable—and this factor can cause challenges when it comes to planning your event.
Where possible, it pays to have a backup plan. Check the weather forecast as often as you can and prepare for all possible outcomes. While a downpour is unlikely to see a marathon event rained off, it will affect transport and spectators—so even if the run itself goes ahead, you’ll need to consider those attending.
Similarly, a particularly hot day can lead to all sorts of problems for athletes, attendees, and staff alike. You’ll need to make sure there are plenty of places to grab some shade and stock up on water in abundance to keep participants sufficiently hydrated.
Promoting Your Upcoming Sporting Event
In a world where social media is a staple of our everyday lives, it’s fair to say that your event could benefit from drumming up some interest online. From a dedicated Twitter page to pushing out a Facebook event, make sure people know when and where your event will be taking place. Start by sending out teasers and, as the event gets closer, unleash more specific details.
You can also utilize social media to encourage followers to get involved. Launch a targeted hashtag and encourage followers to share their sporting stories and, when the day rolls around, consider Snapchat filters and Facebook live videos to make the most of user-generated content. The more you can spread the word before, during, and after your event, the greater a success it’s likely to be. Here are a few of our other favorite strategies:
1. Create a Facebook Event Page
Create an event page where people will land to learn about your event. High-quality images will immediately greet them, and all of the information they need to know about your event will be accessible. For example, be sure to answer the following questions:
Who are you? Easily link from your event page to your organization's social media profile and website.
Where and when will it be taking place? That essential information is visible before users even click on the page; Facebook events pages post the date and time with the event listing.
What is your event all about, and why are you having it? The event page format ensures that folks who are interested in your event will be able to access the details near the top of your page.
Then, beyond the essential information, Facebook provides an area for you to add images related to your event in the gallery to grab and hold users’ attention.
2. Explore other social media platforms and channels
While Facebook offers great event promotion options, it’s important to promote your event through all your social media channels. Here a few to consider:
Regardless of the channel(s) you choose, consider starting a unique hashtag, holding contests and challenges, and encouraging user interaction to spread the word as far as possible. Sporting events can bring in a wide range of audience demographics, so the more channels you promote through, the more likely you are to reach a wider audience.
3.Focus on networking and outreach
A successful event will likely involve others who will help make it happen. All those individuals and organizations likely have social media accounts as well. Cross-promote the pages of vendors and sponsors you work with by linking to their page and encouraging them to interact with and share your posts as well. Use the discussion function to share messages about your excitement for working with them.
Facebook, Instagram, and even YouTube provide easy online tools to help get the word out. Consider offering a live stream at the venue before the event to show off your location and promote your sponsors. This way, you offer them exclusive benefits for supporting your event and can gain traction from their supporters as well!
4.Consider paid advertisements
All major social media platforms now offer pay-per-click advertising as a way to reach your target demographics. These channels, as well as Google’s search advertisement function offer you a way to better reach your target audience through data selection than traditional advertising through media. Although it will require an upfront investment to place your advertisements, the benefits can be great.
8 Sporting Event Volunteer Roles You’ll Need
If you're planning a sports tournament, you know that winging the prep just doesn't work. Rather than waiting to see who shows up before designating duties, it's important to assign and schedule your volunteers beforehand so that nothing is left undone. To help you out, we've made a list of twelve essential volunteer roles for your next sporting-related events:
Designate a crew to show up early with access to an online to-do list. Since they may be the first volunteers on the site, make sure they have a supervisor's number in case they have questions or concerns. These volunteers will set up the entire event for success and ensure everything runs smoothly from the start.
2. Registration and Check-in
Besides providing online registration and check-in, designate a physical place where a team lead meets everybody and takes attendance. This is particularly important for sporting events with a large number of athletes or teams that need to check in when they arrive. This will be the first impression for many people, so make sure your volunteers are set up for success.
3. Information Station
Make sure there are knowledgeable volunteers available to answer questions and ensure attendees have a great experience at your event. If you're using an event management tool like InitLive, keep all the information they may need to provide to the public in one place for quick access.
No event is complete without food and drinks available to both attendees and athletes. Choose a team of volunteers to man the stands and ensure everyone is served in a timely manner. To effectively prep this team, make a to-do list available on their volunteer app to include duties such as cleaning, restocking, and waste disposal procedures.
5. Scorekeepers and Referees
Sporting event tournaments often require volunteer scorekeepers and referees. Have a list of referees posted online well in advance of your tournaments. Provide an online checklist of pre-game duties such as inspecting the field, meeting the coaches, completing reports, and checking in the players. Lastly, keep an online list of the specific league or club rules and requirements available to your referees.
As for scorekeepers, make sure to have player rosters and suspension lists stored online and regularly updated to access, review, and verify player eligibility. You might also consider providing templates for keeping track of player statistics and standings and writing reports.
There are always things that come up in a sporting event on the fly, and you need a team of volunteers ready to help out anywhere. Build a team of volunteer floaters who are up for any task that comes their way. It’s a good idea to schedule specific floaters, rather than pulling volunteers off other roles when it gets busy. Luckily, volunteer and staff management software can help maintain real-time communication with floaters so you can contact them wherever they are.
7. Parking Attendants
Parking is often where attendees find the most frustration. Create a team of volunteers who can help ensure that the parking process is as painless and easy as possible for everyone who arrives. Post parking maps online so your parking attendants can familiarize themselves with the parking zones ahead of time, and allow them access to emergency procedures and supervisor contact information.
8. Breakdown and Trash
Designate a fresh breakdown crew on the schedule instead of using the same crew that arrived early for setup. Have a checklist of breakdown duties posted online, and make sure all breakdown volunteers follow appropriate safety procedures.
Finally, designate an official trash crew and assign them sections to monitor and clean during the tournament. Keep in contact with them in real-time if you need to call them for an emergency cleanup.
Ready, set, plan!
Now that you have a clear understanding of all the planning, logistics, and people required to make a successful sporting event, it’s time for you to get started. Consider adding these steps to your event planning checklist to ensure that nothing important gets missed.
Just remember, every great event starts with a committed team of staff and volunteers—and the right tools to set them up for success. Make sure to check out InitLive's volunteer management solution by click the button below.
If you’re looking to learn more about event planning and management, here some additional resources:
Volunteer Management Software: FAQ +18 Top Solutions. Learn what to look for in volunteer management solutions and see some of our favorite suggestions.
Event Branding 101: How to Create a Memorable Brand. Build an outstanding event brand and scale up your sporting event with this guide.
How to Promote Events on Instagram and Boost Attendance. Learn how to leverage Instagram to promote your sporting event and attract new demographics with this resource.