Sports Marketing

Goals surpassed

Exceeded the Greater Raleigh Sports Alliance (GRSA) annual sales goals, finishing the fiscal year with 93 assisted definite bookings. In total, the 93 bookings represent a projected 125,000+ hotel room-nights and more than $80 million projected in direct visitor spending in Wake County.

Events in Greater Raleigh

Worked with local partners in hosting, supporting and servicing several major events held throughout the year. Some of the highlights include:

  • Showcase Series
  • NCAA Division I Men’s Soccer College Cup
  • City of Oaks Volleyball Challenge
  • MAPL Raleigh Volleyball
  • Great American Cross Country Festival
  • Raleigh LaxFest
  • USA Swimming Southern Zone Age Group Championships & ESSZ Senior Sectionals
  • Women’s International Champions Cup (ICC) – North Carolina Courage
  • Six Major Raleigh (Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six esports)
  • SAS Championship
  • USTA Tennis on Campus Fall Invitational
  • U.S. Basketball Association Boys and Girls National Championship
  • OneHockey Raleigh
  • USA Cycling BMX Freestyle National Championships
  • Multiple N.C. High School Athletic Association state championships
  • A variety of events hosted at USA Baseball’s National Training Complex

Key assisted bookings

In partnership with local organizations and venues, GRSA helped secure key events, including:

  • 2020 United Futsal Eastern Regional Championships
  • 2020 Major League Fishing (MLF) Bass Pro Tour*
  • 2020 Triangle Collegiate Classic (volleyball)*
  • 2020 NSCRO Women's 7s National Championship (rugby)*
  • 2020 Premier Lacrosse League (PLL) Tour Stop*
  • 2021 NHL Stadium Series
  • 2021 N.C. USA Gymnastics XCEL State Championships
  • 2021 USA Swimming ESSZ Senior Sectionals
  • 2021 USA Swimming Futures Championship

*postponed or canceled due to COVID-19

NCAA bids developed

Greater Raleigh partners submitted 55 bids in the NCAA’s site-selection process for future championship events. The latest NCAA bid cycle covers four academic years, 2022-23 through 2025-26, and sites will be announced in Oct. 2020. Greater Raleigh’s overall bid strategy covers 15 separate championship events in nine different sports. Area partners submitting bids include: North Carolina State University (24), the Town of Cary (23), the Town of Holly Springs (4) and the Triangle Aquatic Center (4). Official host institutions include: North Carolina State University, William Peace University, the University of Mount Olive, the University of North Carolina and the North Carolina State University Water Polo Club.

GRSA realignment and new hire

GRSA underwent a significant staff realignment in 2020. Tori Collins was promoted to the position of director and Jason Philbeck was promoted to the position of associate director. Scott Dupree continues to lead the department and serve as executive director. Collins now oversees administration of the GRSA including strategic sales initiatives across all markets. Philbeck continues to focus on sales efforts in key vertical markets, but in his new role now oversees event hosting and servicing and serves as the GRSA’s lead for marketing, advertising and public relations initiatives. Dupree’s focus has shifted to long-range planning and strategy for the GRSA, including overseeing the implementation of sports initiatives and sports facility development within the Destination Strategic Plan (DSP) for Wake County.

GRSA was thrilled to announce the hiring of Jocelyn O’Sullivan as GRSA’s sports sales manager. O’Sullivan’s primary focus is on sales and identifying new business. Theresa Tyler, CGSP®, assistant director for services, continues to direct the event servicing process for GRSA and oversees the ambassador program and Ashlee Kirk, sports coordinator, continues to oversee the GRSA social media accounts and assists the GRSA staff in various capacities, including the areas of administration, sales, services, marketing, PR and research.


The Greater Raleigh Esports Local Organizing Committee (GRELOC) continues to grow the area’s reputation around esports, including hosting major gaming events—a key recommendation of the Greater Raleigh Convention and Visitors Bureau's (CVB's) DSP. Six Major Raleigh, the sold-out, international event held in Aug. 2019 at the Raleigh Convention Center, generated $1.45 million in direct visitor economic impact and included a local Esports Summit. In June 2019, GRELOC announced a partnership with esports advisory firm Subnation and Carolina Family Practice and Sports Medicine to offer the first-of-its-kind medical concierge services to visiting esports professionals, competing online with other international players in the PUBG MOBILE™ Pro League.

Key community partnerships

GRSA and NCFC Youth began the process to extend the annual naming rights and marketing partnership for future years of the Showcase Series, which historically has drawn more than 1,300 boys and girls soccer teams to the Greater Raleigh area each Nov. and Dec. and generates more than 30,000 hotel room-nights for the region. The City of Raleigh, GRSA and the North Carolina High School Athletic Association also began the process to extend the annual agreement for Raleigh to serve as the host community for numerous high school state championships for 2020-21 and beyond. The City of Raleigh typically hosts 12 state championships each academic year, the most of any destination in the state. GRSA and USA Baseball continue to partner on a variety of programs and events held at the USA Baseball National Training Complex in Cary throughout the spring and summer. USA Baseball has contributed major hotel room-nights and visitor spending in Wake County behind the creation of numerous premier events held in Cary, in addition to the annual training of its national teams and hosting of its national team development programs.

Tradeshows and conferences attended

Represented Raleigh and Wake County at the following tradeshows and conferences:

  • TEAMS Conference and Expo
  • Connect Sports Marketplace
  • Sports ETA Chief Executive Summit
  • Sports ETA 4S Summit
  • U.S. Olympic Committee SportsLink
  • American Baseball Coaches Association Convention
  • United Soccer Coaches Convention/US Youth Soccer Workshop
  • US Lacrosse National Convention
  • US Aquatic Sports Convention
  • ESPA Conference
  • NCAA Convention
  • NCAA Championships Hosting Symposium
  • US Sports Congress
  • Sports ETA Virtual Women’s Summit

Outreach and industry involvement

GRSA worked closely with the CVB's Marketing and Communications Department to increase brand awareness both digitally and through tradeshow activations. Sports-specific blogs and leisure tourism-related content promoting the overall attendee experience enhanced the messaging for Greater Raleigh being the premier location for sporting events. The Sports Watch e-newsletter was also improved, including more leisure tourism-related content, further enticing planners to choose Greater Raleigh. For the 2019 TEAMS Conference, GRSA branding at the host hotel was well-received. The “Greater Raleigh Sports Spotlight” editorial series continued to provide an inside look into the sports event industry in Greater Raleigh, focusing on a myriad of topics. Emphasis continues to be placed on social media platforms (Twitter and Instagram) as a service to event organizers as well as sharing information with the local community. GRSA remained heavily involved with the N.C. Sports Association as associate director Jason Philbeck, CSEE, continues his term as immediate past chair.

Sports industry comes to a halt; GRSA adapts and plans for recovery

Spring of 2020 will be long remembered for the most significant interruption to the sports tourism industry in modern history, caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The sports event industry literally came to a screeching halt and every sporting event with GRSA involvement between mid-March and July was canceled. This included more than 50 sporting events which were expected to generate more than 60,000 hotel room-nights and more than $35 million in direct visitor spending. It became clear that the Greater Raleigh CVB and GRSA’s internal and external strategies needed to shift in order to adapt as the COVID-19 pandemic continues, impacting sales, services, marketing and communications. GRSA staff remains engaged with event organizers and the industry through virtual conferences and programming to stay connected with best practices.