(The National Sports Forum is a proud partner of Front Office Sports)
A rising tide lifts all ships.
Now in its 25th year of operation, this is the basic philosophy behind the National Sports Forum. Hundreds of professionals of every level attend the three-day conference every year to share ideas and best practices as well as create new connections and friendships in an effort to move the sports industry forward.
This year, the event returns to the East Coast for the first time since 2013 with an agenda spanning February 9th, 10th, and 11th in Atlanta, Georgia. Attendees will have the opportunity to attend a number of educational sessions pertaining to sponsorship, marketing, ticket sales, business development, and much, much more. This includes a keynote from AMB Sports & Entertainment chairman Arthur Blank.
“Part of our mission is to help tell the story of Atlanta sports,” says National Sports Forum founder and president Ron Seaver. “When you get on the airplane on Wednesday and you’re heading home, our hope is that you think to yourself ‘now that’s a sports town.’ We’re looking forward to being able to tell the story. Who better to tell the story of the emergence of Atlanta as a major sports market than the forefather of that emergence in Arthur Blank? We’re looking forward to a very fun filled and active three days in a terrific sports town.”
While the National Sports Forum is now one of the most recognizable conferences in the space, the event came from humble beginnings.
Seaver worked in sponsorship and promotion for the San Diego Padres during the 1980s and early 1990s. Major League Baseball’s fall business meetings would bring marketing, promotions, and sponsorship professionals from each team together in Scottsdale, Arizona for a few days of conversation and education. It was these meetings that would eventually inspire Seaver to get the National Sports Forum off of the ground.
“I loved it because I was around people who understood what it was that I did,” Seaver remembers of the Fall business meetings. “I very quickly learned that while we may compete on the field, we certainly don’t compete in the front office. You can share openly with each other and help each other out. We would all come away from this three days later with a notebook full of interesting ideas. I also made friends at those meetings that I have to this day.”
These meetings began to grow rapidly and eventually expanded to include business departments outside of marketing and promotions. As this happened, Seaver began to find those meetings less impactful. Seaver then realized he could take inspiration from other sports as well as expand his personal and professional network.
“I thought ‘Wouldn’t it be cool if I could go to the NBA meetings or the NFL meetings, or the NASCAR meetings?’ When you get down to it, we’re all in the same business no matter what sport or property it is that you’re working with. We just do it with a different ball,” Seaver states. “Sports needed a way to bring everybody together regardless of what their shield says or what sport they’re in and build this fraternity that we have today.”
Seaver left the Padres in the early 1990s to work on the agency side for three years. Working on behalf of corporate sponsors, putting deals together with different professional teams across the country, Seaver further realized just how big the sports industry was. In 1994, he founded Seaver Marketing Group in San Diego and set out to create his own conference.=
What would have been called the Western Sports Forum was set for March of 1995. But despite a strong lineup of 10 speakers, including multiple presidents and owners of NHL, NBA, and MLB teams, it was not meant to be.
“I worked countless hours trying to get the word out to people about the forum,” Seaver remembers. “But despite my best efforts, we had 10 speakers and only three people had signed up to come. So with a week to go I had to pull the plug on what would have been the first forum. So that was the sad birth of the sports forum.”
Seaver’s persistence ended up paying off the following year with the first Western Sports Forum featuring 10 speakers with 32 attendees in Colorado Springs. The community that this first conference began building remains strong to this day.
“Over time and over 25 years, it really has grown primarily through word of mouth,” Seaver says. “We do a lot of direct marketing to our audiences that we’ve built over the years, a really loyal following. Last year we had just over a thousand people registered for our 24th anniversary.”
According to Seaver, the reputation the forum has garnered over the past two decades, as well as advancements in technology, have made operating and marketing the forum easier.
“The forum itself has become a lot more recognizable and established,” Seaver remarks. “I think technology also makes it so much easier for us. Our industry changes rapidly and frequently. So being able to stay on top of what’s happening and what the trends are and what the forum needs to be covering is critical. Technology really helps with that.”
That research goes into creating the agenda for each event. At this year’s forum, for example, attendees can look forward to sessions and workshops dedicated to topics like esports, social media strategy, concessions, and non-traditional revenue. As the industry continues to change, the agenda will change year-to-year, but the staff of the National Sports Forum look forward to educating and connecting industry professionals for years to come.
The 2020 National Sports Forum is set for February 9th, 10th, and 11th There’s still time to register! Register yourself or register your whole team for a discounted rate.