Tourism

July 26, 2014

Social media opens door for potential sports tourism growth along the Grand Strand

Social media and live-streaming baseball and softball games have taken their positions on the sports tourism field along the Grand Strand, and area officials see its potential of becoming a home run for players, event organizers and an added tool for marketing the area.

Social media and live-streaming baseball and softball games have taken their positions on the sports tourism field along the Grand Strand, and area officials see its potential of becoming a home run for players, event organizers and an added tool for marketing the area.

The Ripken Experience Myrtle Beach was a pioneer in the area late last year when it installed the ability to live stream baseball games on its website, said Bobby Holland, general manager of the facility.

“I’d say 75 to 85 percent of our marketing plan for the year revolves around social media and Internet marketing,” Holland said. “We are 110 percent focused this year on trying to get better with our marketing on social media.”

The Ripken Experience has quadrupled the number of fans on its Facebook page, Facebook.com/RipkenExperienceMyrtleBeach, and Holland said the organization has an intern in charge of posting player profiles and interviews with coaches and Major League Baseball notables like Al Leiter, Reggie Sanders and Phil Niekro on social media pages like Twitter and Instagram.

Players come from as far as Australia and Hawaii to play ball at Ripken, so the cameras are handy for family members who can’t make the trip.

“When it comes down to it, it’s all about the kids,” Holland said.

The city of Myrtle Beach has also gotten into the live-streaming business at Grand Park near The Market Common. The city has been streaming video on its website, GrandParkLive.com, for about a month, said Tim Huber of the city’s sports tourism division.

“The primary market is the friends and family who were unable to make it to the Grand Strand for the actual event,” Huber said. “But there are a couple of secondary things we are already seeing. Certainly for the older age groups, it’s the ability for the college coaches and scouts to be able to have access to the games from their offices. Also, after the event, there’s also the ability for the parents and the kids to go in and download the game so they have it. They can then, in turn, take that and use that for their own social media.”

Huber said the city is anticipating an uptick in page views when more tournament organizers catch wind of the new cameras and pass the information along to its participants.

“We haven’t identified a downside at this point. Everybody loves it,” Huber said. “So now the next step is working with the tournament owners that we have coming in the next several months so we could get ahead of the curve and have them start promoting it to the teams.”

The games are available on a subscription basis, and average out to about $6 per game, which helps pay for technical support, server space and even some revenue goes to tournament owners.

“It strengthens Myrtle Beach’s position as a destination,” Huber said. “It’s another revenue stream for event owners to come here because they know they have that opportunity here.”

Huber said the city plans on cashing in on the broadcast games by plugging tourism along the Grand Strand, as well.

“There’s definitely the [public relations] value to having it as well,” he said. “I would anticipate by next summer we’ll be able to insert Myrtle Beach messages in between innings and all of that production value.”

North Myrtle Beach is looking into installing cameras at its new sports complex, said Matt Gibbons, superintendent of sports tourism and recreation for North Myrtle Beach. He said his staff has met with Myrtle Beach officials responsible for installing the cameras at Grand Park.

“We have met with them to kind of get the particulars,” Gibbons said. “I think it’s a great addition. I can definitely see the benefit of it.

“If it works out here for us, that will be great too.”

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