Dear Event Doctor:

Our city will be hosting a national championship in a sport that has previously not had much exposure in our city. We are expecting lots of people to visit for this event, but we also want to engage our local community in supporting and attending. What are some of the best ways to engage locals, particularly when the championship is not in one of the Big Four sports?

—Getting Engaged

Dear Getting:

Assume you are launching a new product and are taking new audiences on a voyage of discovery. If it’s a national championship, your most avid fans in the local market are already aware of it. Your mission is to expand your fan base among other members of the community. Use your existing fans to help you do it. They can provide arms and legs when it comes time to run clinics for local youth and “Sport 101” information sessions. If you stage clinics and other activities for youngsters or beginners, try to do it in a publicly visible place to attract curiosity-seekers and passersby. Your sponsors will appreciate that as well.

Use local media to promote the sport and event. If it has an interesting history or rules that are unfamiliar to the average sports enthusiast, use these publicity opportunities to showcase the growth of the sport and demonstrate how it is played. Devote some of your budget to staging activities for locals to enjoy and discover, whether it is a fan festival or a sponsor activation opportunity. Make it free to attend and geographically accessible. To drive awareness and generate excitement, use street teams wearing sport-specific uniforms and put them to work in high-density areas (such as mass-transit stations and shopping malls) at high-traffic times of the day. Devote some money or promotional assets to additional awareness-building tools like street-pole banners near the host facilities and in business districts and newspaper and radio promotions giving away a small number of tickets.

If you want the community to show you some love, be prepared to return the favor. Use your athletes and staff to undertake a cause-related effort that is relevant to both the region and your organization, whether it’s hurricane relief, feeding the hungry, fighting poverty, encouraging environmental sustainability or promoting youth fitness. And make sure to do it at a time and place where the media can cover your good work.

This first appeared in Sports Travel Magazine and appears here courtesy of SCHNEIDER PUBLISHING COMPANY, INC.