The Greater Columbus Sports Commission aligns all the players

Wimbish thinks the Sports Commission’s success has come from strong community alignment.

“We don’t have a huge national advertising budget, and we really rely on visits to sell Columbus,” he says. “That’s what people see.

When I come to your city, it’s so easy to have my event here because everything is in alignment, everybody wants the same thing, they say the same messaging, they have the same talking points — and that really resonates with our clients.”

It’s critical to get the sports facilities, hotels, restaurants, airport, public transportation, elected officials and public and private sector leadership aligned, so you can pull together quickly and cohesively, Wimbish says.

Maximize opportunities

Today, there’s something called the Columbus model being discussed in the sports commission and convention and visitors bureau sector, because while cities bid against each other for large events, they also share best practices.

Sports commissions and CVBs have different funding models and types of events they go after, even though they have the same goals of economic development and image building.

“We’re all like snowflakes. There’s no two that seem to be alike,” Logan says.

The Sports Commission in Columbus goes after two types of events: large events like the women’s Final Four, as well as participation sports. New Orleans’ sports commission, for instance, might only go after the Super Bowl and the men’s Final Four, and they’ll leave participation events like USA fencing, table tennis and volleyball to the CVB.

“We’ve found that in a city like ours, our model really suits us well, and some other cities have taken note, like Pittsburgh,” she says.

Louisville follows a similar model, and Logan and her team have even found a way to use that to their advantage. If the two are bidding on similar events, they might tell the governing body: If you pick Louisville for 2020, Columbus can take 2021.

The Sports Commission has a 20-year calendar, Logan says, so it’s always working behind the scenes to maximize opportunities.
Wimbish says the next goal is to become part of the rotation for national events.

“That will be our next big step, as a destination, is to show the rest of the country and all of our peers that not only did we get it for the first time, but we got it the next time it was available, also,” he says.