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What’s In a Bid: How Cities Land and Prepare to Host the College Football Playoff National Championship Game

Years of preparation culminate in a week-long celebration of college football, the fans, and the best teams in the country.

Adam White

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Miami-South Florida will host the 2021 College Football Playoff National Championship (Photo via the CFP)

Hosting the College Football Playoff National Championship takes a coordinated effort across host committees, cities, teams, and organizers, and although the festivities last just over a week, the preparation for the biggest game of the college football season begins years in advance. From Miami-South Florida and Indianapolis to Los Angeles and Houston, host committees for the 2021-2024 national championship games have put months, and sometimes years, into scoring the big game for their community.

How do they do it? What does the process look like? Come with us as we take a look inside what it is like to go from Request For Proposal (RFP) to being awarded a game, and what it means for the city.

The RFP Process

Arguably the most strenuous part of the process is the RFP. From collecting the correct amount of data, to being able to use that data to pitch a city as the best to host the game is a challenging endeavor.

“For a mega event like CFP, there is an extremely comprehensive request for information on just about every facet of the community, from venue information to accommodations to public safety and everything in between,” said Janis Schmees Burke, CEO of the Harris County – Houston Sports Authority. “The challenge comes, not from collecting and articulating that information into a proposal, but rather doing it a way that truly tells the unique story of the community you represent and then matching the region’s attributes to the specific needs of the event.”

Not only does the process require immense amounts of data and sometimes even years of planning, but rallying the support of the city is paramount for the bid to have any chance of success during the RFP process.

“We also try to find ways to connect our community in a tangible way and leave a lasting legacy as a benefit of hosting,” said Burke. “We work years in advance on some bids, while other ones are a quick turnaround.”

Luckily for many of the communities, having previous experiences with big games can pay dividends during the RFP process. Miami-South Florida, the host of the 2021 game, has a long history of hosting Super Bowls, New Year’s Six bowl games, and national championships, something the host committee says played a part in being able to earn the opportunity to host another game.

“With the experience of participating in previous CFPNCG bid efforts, we patiently awaited the next opportunity to submit the bid for this cycle,” said Michael Chavies, Chairman of the 2021 College Football Playoff National Championship Game Bid Committee. “Although we had a shorter period of time (approximately six weeks) to put our response together, our proactive preparation and organization were crucial to our ability to finally succeed.”

During the process, getting feedback from the College Football Playoff is key to the overall success of a bid and the timely nature of a submission. Led by Kathryn Schloessman, President of the Los Angeles Sports & Entertainment Commission, for the team out of LA, it was this kind of feedback that they believe allowed them to submit the best bid possible.

Los Angeles will host the 2023 CFP National Championship (Image via the CFP)

“What was good about this process is that we were getting feedback on what we were doing, what we needed to do, what we needed to change, so we weren’t guessing on what they were looking for, we were getting specific feedback into what they wanted so we could change our bid.”

As tedious as the RFP process can be on host committees, the ability to bring a marquee event to their city is well worth the time. For the selected communities, the work is just beginning.

Being Awarded the Game and Planning for the Future

With the RFP in the past, and host cities now beginning to gear up for games that are only a few years away, the extra lead time can provide major dividends for the committees and their constituents.

“Having five years to prepare is a wonderful advantage, as it will allow us to have discussions with the CFP to determine if there are adjustments or additions they would like to make for the event,” said Susan Baughman, Senior VP of Strategy & Operations at the Indiana Sports Corp. “We believe it also gives us the opportunity to work with the CFP to develop programs with deep ties to the community.”

Indianapolis will host the 2022 CFP National Championship (Photo via the CFP)

Beyond pure logistics, much of the preparation goes into educating communities about the event and what it means for the city, as well as making sure that the city’s constituents are provided with benefits beyond just having the eyes of a country on you.

“Our biggest goal is to educate the marketplace so everybody knows what the College Football Playoff National Championship is, given that it’s only in its fourth year,” said Schloessman.

It is this education that provides the foundation for making sure the best event possible is thrown.

“It is very important. Getting the legs of support and getting support behind how this is good for the city and the financials behind it is key and the lead-time helps,” added Schloessman. “You don’t want to have too much lead time, but for us to get all our ducks in order by 2023 to make sure we are in the best position financially to throw the best CFP event yet is critical.”

Having three to six years of lead time allows the selected cities the ability to continue to build community interest, education, and make the right adjustments so come January of their chosen year, the game can go off without a hitch.

Importance of Local Relationships

While having a compelling storyline and sales pitch for your city is great, as these host committees know, their bids wouldn’t have been selected without the backing of key constituents in each of their cities.

“We were lucky in the fact that we had done all the groundwork when it came to looking at all these ancillary venues and evaluating where the best places to put things would be,” added Schloessman when talking about why the bid process for LA went smoothly. “We had already made our inroads with all the particular people we needed to get in touch with.”

For Miami, a city built on big events, entertainment, and tourism, the backing, while expected given their track record, is still the most important part of the bid.

“When preparing a bid response for College Football Playoff National Championship, relationships with local officials and constituents are tremendously important and absolutely key to a successful result,” added Chavies. “In a monumental effort such as this, everyone has to be fully dedicated and on the same page in order to succeed.”

Houston will host the 2024 CFP National Championship (Photo via the CFP)

Even though getting the backing of key stakeholders is key, for cities like Houston, the support of the community and the residents living there is just as important.

“So much of the success that Houston has experienced in hosting sporting events is a true testament to the comprehensive support that our community provides,” said Burke. “It includes every resident of the Greater Houston Area which flows down from the immense level of support that our elected officials have provided over the years, as well as the local citizens that volunteer and show up in a big way.”

From volunteers all the way up to elected officials, events like the College Football Playoff National Championship wouldn’t go on without an immense amount of backing, and it is this support that can make or break a city’s bid for a marquee event or game.

What Being Awarded the Game Means for the Cities

When it all comes down to it, being awarded an event like the College Football Playoff National Championship comes with great responsibility, but also the opportunity to showcase your city and the best it has to offer to the thousands of people who make the journey and the millions watching on TV.

“The College Football Playoff National Championship will have a significant positive impact to residents and businesses while putting Indianapolis on a national stage as a great place to live, work and visit,” said Baughman. “National events like the CFP provide unique experiences through volunteer opportunities or once-in-a-lifetime experiences as a fan in your hometown, as well as building great civic pride as we entertain a nation of college football fans.”

Outside of the opportunity to showcase the city on a national scale, the economic impact for an event like the College Football Playoff National Championship extends far beyond just game day.

“An event of this magnitude and prestige provides our community with not only a great sense of civic pride, but also a tremendous economic boon to the area,” added Chavies. “Tourism is vital to our economy, and this provides an incredible opportunity to showcase our region and attract visitors from all over the country and provide them with every reason to return.”

Hosting the game also allows football-crazed areas like Houston to be the pinnacle of the season, something that community leaders believe is one of the greatest benefits.

“Houston is football crazy, whether it’s our professional team or the multiple universities in town, we live and breathe football,” explained Burke. “Having an entire college football season culminate in its pinnacle event right here in our own backyard is a powerful experience that our community has embraced with arms wide open.”

And for areas like LA that typically see a slowdown in traffic during the winter months, hosting the national championship game gives the city a chance to throw its collective weight at an event of this stature.

“It is a great opportunity for us to bring a massive audience to the area at a time of year that it is so slow because of the fact it is so close to the holiday season, so this is one of the windows of the year where we want events like this,” said Schloessman.

Although it only lasts close to 4 hours, preparation for the College Football Playoff National Championship begins months, if not years, in advance to accommodate the thousands of fans and hundreds of media members that descend upon the cities of choice.

It is this preparation, along with the coordinated support of the CFP, its partners, and the community partners of the event that have allowed the game to grow in stature and prestige.

So to Miami-South Florida, Houston, Indy, and LA, the floor is yours. Let’s see what you got.

Adam is the Founder and CEO of Front Office Sports. A University of Miami Alum, Adam has worked for opendorse, the Fiesta Bowl, and the University of Miami Athletic Department. He can be reached at adam@frntofficesport.com.

College Athletics

Michigan Athletics Turns to Facebook to Drive New Donations

The University of Michigan athletic department has found a great return on investment by reaching donors through paid Facebook advertising.

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The University of Michigan recently tapped into a fundraising reservoir using Facebook.

Last December, Brian Wagner was given a list of 20,000 emails of University of Michigan alumni who had the means to give, but hadn’t previously donated to the athletic department. As the department’s digital strategy and creative lead, Wagner decided to turn to a modern solution: social media.

Uploading the list into Facebook, Wagner found 15,000 of those emails on the website and from there the department created a “basic ad campaign” with former quarterback Denard Robinson.

“We were trying to grab some emotional strings there,” Wagner said.

SEE MORE: VERT Looks to Real-Time Data to Provide More Engaging Fan Experience

Spending $500 in the final week of December, the University of Michigan athletic department reached 9,029 of the 15,000 targeted users. Intrigued by the ad, 199 people clicked the link and eventually 40 donated a whopping $17,392. The 56-percent result rate and $2.51 cost per result were well worth the initial $500 investment, Wagner said.

The money went to the Michigan Athletics Scholarship Fund.

“Our development team was very pleased with the results,” Wagner said. “We do so much of our interactions with our season-ticket holders, and unless you’re a big donor, there’s not a lot of touch, and in the last week of the year we wanted to amp that up.”

The campaign was the only one that resulted in monetary donations, but Wagner said the athletic department regularly uses targeted Facebook campaigns, including letting the 25,000 season-ticket members know that there would be a “maize out” for a football game.

Early on in the football season, Wagner said they spent a few hundred dollars for a “thank-you” message to their season-ticket holders and will likely do another one later in the season, near Senior Day.

SEE MORE: Paws & Claws Club Provides Auburn Pets to Be Fans 

More were used to target the geographic area for ticket sales. The best performing campaigns are those emails they have from previous ticket purchasers, so they’re not just sounding off with a “megaphone.”

The success of the campaign also has resulted in Facebook receiving budgetary allocations in the annual budget. Wagner said the department will likely do another donor push in the near future.

“A lot still goes toward more traditional marketing, but we were able to add more dollars in this year for the paid social, where we hadn’t budgeted in previous years,” Wagner said. “We’d have to allocate from other areas, so it’s not an overnight shift, but we were able to siphon off more money directed to paid social and most of it is geared toward more revenue generation.”

The process sounds more sophisticated, Wagner said, but is fairly easy once the ad buyer dives in. He also said social media paid ad targeting isn’t something talked about much in his world, but it can be a useful tool.

SEE MORE: ‘Climb With Us’ Moniker Leads Marketing Efforts for Penn State 

A worry is all the controversy brought up surrounding Facebook and other social media business models, Wagner said. So far, however, the University of Michigan Athletic Department hasn’t had negative feedback.

“I’ve even thought about that myself,” he said. “But we’ve not received any emails or calls. The way I see it, and others might, I would much rather see an ad like this than one that doesn’t relate to me.”

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The Importance of Useable Data for Colorado State Athletics

Colorado State Athletics is doubling down on data to help drive revenue and spot trends in ways it hasn’t been able to before.

Adam White

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Colorado State - Football - Data

Photo courtesy of Colorado State Athletics

(*Old Hat is a proud Partner of Front Office Sports)

Is it data or is it intelligence?

If you were to ask Chris Ferris, senior associate athletic director for sales, marketing, and communications at Colorado State, he would most likely tell you that it’s actually “strategic intelligence.”

As data and its impact has permeated sports of all levels, there has never been a better time to be able to make decisions based on what the numbers suggest. But, with all of the numbers floating around, and all of the potential data points to be collected, what should be focused on first?

While Ferris may not point to a specific data point that everyone should look for, seeing as all athletic departments have different goals, he did mention that the most important fact beyond acquiring data is being able to use it to implement new initiatives.

Hence, the “strategic intelligence” idea.

“At the end of the day, we have a finite amount of resources, people, and time. Finding out how to direct and utilize resources, people, and time is critical. Strategic intelligence that helps us do that is very powerful.”

READ MORE: The Boom of Implementing Esports Classes in College Has Begun

It’s great to have data, but it’s even better to have data and a context that makes what the spreadsheets are telling you useable.

“To me, it’s about data and information that you can use to plot out specific initiatives that you can mobilize resources against,” mentioned Ferris. “There’s a lot of data out there that we all like to look at and think is interesting, but the question would be, ‘How are you going to use that data and what category of use does it fit in?’”

Opening in 2017, Canvas Stadium brought football back to the CSU campus for the first time in 49 years. Not only did the move provide students and fans with a better experience, it also gave Ferris and his team the opportunity to review a few areas in which they wanted to improve.

Teaming up with Old Hat, building a use case with its data was focused around three areas: retention, engagement, and communications.

“I think what Old Hat really did well for us is they not only presented data, they presented data with a plan of how to use it. It was data with a to-do list, which has been extremely helpful.” – Chris Ferris, Senior Associate Athletic Director for Sales, Marketing, and Communications at Colorado State

Colorado State wanted to know whether or not stakeholders were happy with their investments in the program “monetarily or time-driven” and what areas the department needs to focus on with existing and/or additional resources.

When it came to retention, Ferris was looking for a better way to connect with specific industries — both local and regional — that were relatable in impact in the community as well as an opportunity to provide value from a partnership perspective.

“What are those industries, and where are those opportunities from a corporate perspective that lend themselves to integration and partnership? I thought that was very helpful because if we can connect with those industries that resonate our current stakeholders, that helps us with retention and growth, which is a double positive.”

To drive engagement, the team narrowed in on making sure the department’s messaging was being received correctly. What they found was that while a large part of their alumni base is in Denver, the messaging could be too focused and alumni and fans in cities like Parker, Greeley and Loveland may not be receiving it as well.

Instead of approaching these areas as just a department, the shift has been focused on approaching them more as a team — involving not only the individual athletic programs, but the academic programs like the school’s renowned agriculture department when appropriate.  

Although Ferris and the team can’t solve all the problems at once, their newly found “strategic intelligence” enables them to be more prepared and confident in the initiatives they execute.

“We’re confident that the efforts we’re going to make will have positive results because we’ve done our homework, right? It is good to go into projects with a level of preparedness and confidence like this.”

(*Old Hat is a proud Partner of Front Office Sports)

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College Athletics

Beyond the Ticket: Executing Effective Pricing Strategies

In this webinar, presented by Old Hat, you will learn about the different pricing strategies used across the country, what teams are having success, and what is driving that success.

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