Hosting sports events is a substantial burden, even for the most seasoned volunteer Moms and Dads.
There’s the logistics of registering kids for events. Event times and locations must be communicated to hundreds of people. Hosts might want to advise families coming to an event from afar where to eat and sleep during their visit.
“Knowing that Canada’s sport tourism industry is worth $3.6 billion annually doesn’t really help the hardy volunteers that organize the thousands of tournaments, bonspiels, triathlons, or races that are integral to the lives of millions of Canadians,” says sport management researcher Laura Cousens. “Sport event organizing is hard work.”
To ease the burden on volunteers hosting sports events, Cousens and fellow scholars at Brock University conducted research that led to the creation of the Sport on the Go, a free mobile application for the iPhone. It not only profiles sport events, it provides comprehensive destination information to ease the travel burden for event-goers.
Swipe to the right of the app to find your sport event. Swipe left on the app, and find information about local restaurants, attractions, retailers, medial services, cultural and scenic attractions, and more. “Each event has its own page on the app - everything travelling athletes and families need to know at their fingertips,” she says.
Sports managers can tailor their event page by choosing relevant information on event dates and location, sponsors, contact information, real-time updates, schedules, athlete profiles, media releases and instant messaging.
Sport managers can also send out messages to volunteers and parents about developments, such as updated scores, game delays, schedule changes, weather delays or even traffic congestion en route to the event.
The app is linked to social media, and enables event organizers and spectators to upload team scores, photos and messages to their Facebook or Twitter pages instantly.
For inspiration, Cousens looked to the leagues, eventually approaching the sporting company LeagueToolbox.com. The app was created following intense research that involved focus groups with provincial sport organizations, sport event hosts, tourism businesses, destination marketing agencies, parents and athletes.
“Our goal was for people to find their event within three clicks on the app, regardless of where they lived in Canada,” Cousens says.
But that’s not all.
“Our thought is that if you’re in Welland for a sports event, you might want to visit Niagara Falls if you had an extra night, so swipe left on the app to view information about hotels, attractions, restaurants, retailers, and more,” Cousens explains.
“But you want to go to a Tim Horton’s near the game, you can find locations near to the event using the GPS navigation that is integrated into the app,” she adds, pointing to her phone.
The list even includes a “Be Active” section, complete with GPS, which lists facilities and locations where families can go hiking, biking, swimming and other activities.
Tourism businesses and other local retail or medical services can advertise on the app for free. Cousens says the longer-term plan is to offer businesses additional ways to profile their establishments, such as being listed first, or offering coupons to customers.
In the coming months, Cousens says Sport On The Go will partner with Arizona-based LeagueToolbox.com to provide sport event managers with services, such as a free website, web-based event registration with online payment, ticketing, apparel sales and more.
“This application will allow community members to be able to view more of the events that are going on inside their community,” says Chad Theriaul, LeagueToolbox.com president. “It’s going to give them more visibility into the different types of events that happen. It will allow people to volunteer for events that they might not even know about.”
Funding for Sport on the Go’s development comes from FedDev Ontario, which invested $100,000 into the project.
“The Sport on the Go app is a wonderful example of how applied research reaches out to the wider community,” says John Wilson, Brock’s innovation and commercialization director.
“Sport on the Go gathers large, cumulative amounts of data on sport consumer behaviour and spending during sports events, which could be of value to advertisers, local governments and tourism industry professionals.”
Sport on the Go is currently being piloted in the Niagara Region. Cousens says a database has already been developed for Ontario, with the team expecting to expand to other locations across Canada by next year.