Many international rights-holders, including the IOC and several International Federations, are nowadays awarding the hosts of their major events via a more consultative approach compared to the traditional bidding process where two or more places are competing for the same event.
Some major events, however, are still awarded via a competitive bidding process – e.g. international football tournaments. If you face such a competitive bid situation, you have to be sharp and focused right from the beginning. Here are five important tips that might be helpful:
Know the rules and requirements
Most International Federations have strict requirements and rules in place for their bidding phases. Study them. Missing a deadline is missing the election. When writing the bid book, always check that the questions in the bid questionnaire have actually been answered, it’s easy to get excited by the application process and forget to provide the answers asked for. Bidding rules are there to protect the fairness of the competition among the candidate cities, but it is a competitive race and the candidate city that knows how to operate best within that framework has a good chance of winning.
It’s about bidding for the event, not organising it
Although the technical part of the campaign – the production of the bid book – is crucial, it is not sufficient to win. It is safe to assume that serious competitors will be able to meet all the technical requirements, such as hotel capacity, financial guarantees, etc. Therefore, it is important not to lose focus and remember that during the campaign phase, the main activity is communication. All actions during the campaign have to be focused on influencing votes. Everything else can wait until after the event has been awarded.
If you can’t take a hard look at yourself, get someone else to do it
An analysis of strengths and weaknesses is always a good way to start the campaign planning process. However, many candidates never get past the strengths leaving them unprepared for criticism and leads to the wrong strategy. Many bid campaigns hire external consultants to assist in the campaign strategy preparation, and an external view can help not only identifying the main weaknesses, but also pointing out strengths that the candidate is not aware of or takes for granted.
It’s not what is said, it’s what the voter hears
The right words delivered the right way will inspire and engage the audience. Too often, bid campaigns are filled with standard phrases and empty slogans. All things equal, bid campaigns are won by the candidate city with the best messages and the best presenters. But it is not enough to be correct, reasonable or even brilliant. The key to successful communication is to understand what moves the voter. How the voter perceives what the candidate city says is more important than how the candidate city perceives itself. It’s not what is said, it’s what the voter hears.
People vote for people (and less so for places)
While decision makers in International Federations might choose a host city that is not entirely ready to host the event, they will never choose a host that they don’t know or trust. The bid representatives are crucial for the success of the bid. They should be sales and PR people, not administrators or event organisers. People vote for people they like and who are like them. Athletes speak well with other athletes, politicians with other politicians. Chose the right people and the voters will be more likely to choose your city.