Along the south shores of Lake Michigan and just 30 minutes from downtown Chicago, five counties make up the territory marketed by the South Shore Convention & Visitors Authority. Lake, Porter, LaPorte, Newton and Jasper counties are made up of 20+ sports venues and several bustling towns. “We cover a very broad area of cities and towns. We are unique in the fact that even though we are a mid-sized market, we cover five counties. It helps with the sporting event side because I’m able to utilize each town’s sports venues, so I have a vast area to market and we’re able to hold larger events across towns,” Megan Goodan, Manager of Sports Development at the South Shore CVA shares.
The region’s central location is one of its biggest draws for sports. Just 30 minutes from Chicago Midway International Airport, sporting Event Organizers and athletes can travel in from throughout the Midwest, as well as across the United States. The South Shore region is also home to miles of beaches, hiking trails, restaurants, hotels and lakefront casinos, so the plethora of activities in the area become a major selling point.
Further, the South Shore CVA’s incredible team works hand in hand with Event Organizers, athletes and their families to provide a one-of-a-kind travel experience. The team works closely with their partners at local businesses and attractions to provide discounts for folks to explore the area. “From the Indiana Dunes National Park to the new Hard Rock Casino, we are really booming with attractions here,” Goodan notes.
For the South Shore, growth stems from providing a positive experience for Event Organizers in running their events and the athletes during their stay. In 2021, Visit South Shore brought in the Division II Midwest Region Crossover Volleyball Tournament, the nation’s largest collegiate volleyball tournament, to the Hammond Sportsplex. “That put us on the map and then it boomed. By hosting more NCAA events and getting more events through that, we’ve really taken off from the volleyball perspective. We’re starting to get more Event Organizers coming in for more volleyball tournaments,” Goodan notes. “We do very much focus on marketing. We also want sporting Event Organizers to have a wonderful experience when they are here. I think by doing that, it resonates and starts to spread via word-of-mouth,” she continues.
In early 2021, Goodan stepped on board at South Shore CVA at about the time the Destination was ramping up on Playeasy. Initially, the platform was key in helping organize their venue inventory to best utilize and fill their spaces. From there, Goodan was increasingly using Playeasy to discover new leads and connect with Event Organizers.
“I am on the platform almost every day for Hot Leads, checking out RFPs, and updating our venues. Because I cover such a broad area, it helps me keep my venues and amenities organized. If I am talking to an event owner, I typically just send the Playeasy link so they can discover all the venues we have in specific areas. They can click on them and see which ones are going to fit their needs the best. It is tough to explain without this interactive reference tool because we are so large, so this gives them a chance to explore their perfect fit”-Megan Goodan, Manager of Sports Development, South Shore Convention & Visitors Authority
As new marketing and connection features have been released, South Shore CVA has been taking advantage of marketing and growing their brand on the platform. “The best features for me have been the Hot Leads and messaging. I also love the liking events capability, so I can check back later and reach out to the Event Organizer. I typically get a response within 24 hours,” Goodan says. “I’ve been getting into posting on Playeasy as well. Creating posts and being able to market our events is something I am getting more into. Really utilizing how to market our Destination more on Playeasy will be huge,” she continues.
South Shore CVA has won two huge events specifically through Playeasy in 2022 – D1 Nation’s – All American Games and the Reebok World Championships – both large basketball tournaments in July 2022. “The Reebok event will bring in 100-150 youth basketball teams in July, and the All American Games will be around 70-75 youth basketball teams. Those are 2 huge events for us in the summertime. It was great to be able to break into that market and host some more basketball,” Goodan comments.
Playeasy’s easy-to-navigate RFPs, profiles, messaging, and liking capabilities paired with South Shore’s proactive reach outs made these quick successes. Both the Destination and Event Organizer were able to find what they needed, and these were both brand new connections made that will hopefully last into the future.
“I liked the RFP, messaged the Event Organizer, and had a response right away. We connected via email and phone call, and it just went from there. It was that easy to connect with the Event Organizer and tell them we have everything they need. They were able to see the venue already on Playeasy without me having to sell them. It was great, they were automatically able to access photos of the venues and events we’ve held there. They saw that the dates were open and the amenities they need, and we booked it. It was such an easier process, rather than them having to come do a site visit and inspection. Especially since the pandemic began, those aren’t happening as much as they were in the past.”Megan Goodan, Manager of Sports Development, South Shore Convention & Visitors Authority
For the South Shore, their interest in RFPs piques depending on the time of year and what venues need to be filled. The team works to fill up all their venues, no matter the season. When their outdoor spaces are full for the summer months, it’s the RFPs searching for an indoor space that catch the eye. The Destination is also hoping to create posts regarding venue availability to invite those interested to reach out. “For us, it makes it a lot easier to be able to prospect new events all in one area instead of me having to attend multiple conferences. It’s amazing to be able to check out the new events coming on each day and saying, ‘I didn’t even know that existed, can we bring that here? Why not?’”
Since breaking into the NCAA Division II market, the South Shore is striving to continue in collegiate athletics, as well as winning more larger events in general. Additionally, the Destination is focusing on bringing repeat events back to town by providing a positive, enjoyable experience. Their marketing campaign, ‘Make Waves’, is all about encouraging visitors to ‘make waves’ during their trip by getting out and exploring the fun-filled coastal region.
With Playeasy, Destinations like the South Shore Convention & Visitors Authority will continue expand. “Playeasy has been amazing. I feel like as the platform has evolved, we have evolved with you. It’s been great to see the new features as they have come out. I think as it continues to grow, it’s only going to get better,” Goodan notes.
Thank you to Megan Goodan and the South Shore Convention & Visitors Authority for sharing their Playeasy experience! To discover more about all the South Shore has to offer, or to inquire about hosting a future event with their team, head to their Playeasy profile here.