As cities become more strategic in their selection of sports events, International Sports Federations (IFs) need to evolve their approach to how they allocate their competitions.

Today, ambitious cities are both strategic and selective in choosing which events they will host. Each event is studied to see if it fits their strategy and will be able to generate the positive impacts the city is looking to achieve. As a result, it’s a much tougher market for rights holders than it was in the past. In the past few years IFs simply haven’t been able to attract as many interested bidders in their events. And with the current global pandemic, this issue will most certainly intensify.

Host cities have been very vocal in expressing their desires and describing some of the difficulties they have in their relationships with IFs. But, have rights holders been listening? If you want to attract host cities in today’s market keep these three tips in mind:

Move from ‘sales’ to ‘marketing’: Cities today are not willing to ‘buy’ in the same way as they were in the past. They are, however, ready to have an educated dialogue with IFs. So if an IF wants to attract more host cities, it needs to revisit its relationships with these cities and start its exchange with them earlier, often before they have even officially declared a specific interest in an event. More focus should be on marketing the event – before trying to sell it. This requires a different set of skills and strategies from the side of the IFs.

Move from ‘event talk’ to ‘leverage talk’: Ambitious host cities are more interested in hearing what events can do for their communities than hearing about the events themselves. This means that IFs need to strengthen their knowledge and understanding of the true impacts their events can have for a city and not only be an expert on the details of what happens on the field of play. Event owners who are ready to answer  questions about impact in a convincing way will be those who will have the biggest number of interested future hosts.

Move from ‘knowing’ to ‘understanding’ cities: International and national federations are very familiar with each other. Personal connections exist between the two all over the world. However, often, the same familiarity and close connection cannot be found between sports people and city representatives. Simply put, there is a personal disconnect between right holders and potential future hosts. Federations should focus on building personal connections outside of the sports world. Getting closer to the decision makers in cities around the world will ensure that sport people truly understand what cities are looking for and why.

As cities change their approach to hosting events, the narrative and argumentation IFs use to attract them needs to change as well. If IFs keep these three tips in mind, they will be much more successful in attracting more hosts for their future events.