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Friday, Jun 21, 2024

Building Up Sports Tourism in OC

The Orange County Sports Commission (OCSC) aims to market OC as a destination not only for tourists, but for the sports world as well.

The Anaheim-based organization, founded in 2019 and currently led by Senior Director Anthony Brenneman, has been focused on booking and promoting sporting events and attracting more sporting organizations to the region in the last few years.

OCSC won the rights to host the NCAA championships for beach volleyball in 2025 and 2026, which will be the event’s first time on the West Coast. The Honda Center in Anaheim is set to host indoor men’s and women’s volleyball in the 2028 Olympics.

Last year, the OCSC helped bring the international Men’s Volleyball Nations League to the Anaheim Convention Center’s arena for a week of preliminary matches. The five-day event sold over 30,000 tickets and grossed around $1 million in revenue.

Olympics, Soccer, Surf

With the Los Angeles Olympics coming up in 2028, Brenneman sees these next few years as an opportunity to build OC into a region known for its sports ecosystem.

Brenneman believes OCSC can help modernize OC’s infrastructure leading up to the 2028 Olympics, and other important events.

He pointed to the FIFA World Cup in 2026 that is expected to have some matches in Southern California, which has already led to conversations for OC to become a training site or base for some of the national teams set to participate.

The commission has its eyes on a handful of sports that have the potential to showcase OC as a destination for sports tourism.

Brenneman and his team also helped the World Surf League with a marketing campaign in partnership with the Amtrak Surfliner train for a San Clemente event in Sept.

The Anaheim Convention Center most recently held the National Women’s Soccer League 2024 Draft on Jan. 12.

The organization is also looking to elevate sports related to aquatics, such as swimming, water polo and diving in OC.

“We’re dancing as fast as we can,” Brenneman said.

Corporate Links

Brenneman and his team last year completed a strategic plan that will guide the commission through booking new sports organizations and games, growing community involvement, and building awareness of OC as a venue for the future over the next four years.

One of OCSC’s immediate strategies is bolstering its corporate partnerships.

Currently, the commission has support from hospitality and entertainment groups such as local hotels, the OC Fair & Events Center, Knott’s Berry Farm, and other tourism entities.

“We’re looking at Fortune 500 and 1,000 companies with roots here in OC,” Brenneman told the Business Journal.

“Sports is the best way to express an agenda in a nonthreatening manner,” he said.

The executive said he was looking to play on the business sector’s sense of corporate social responsibility, which can evolve into community giveback programs and scholarships with the company’s name attached, or employee events.

OCSC aims to mirror a recent program in partnership with Volleyball World where the events organization donated $1,500 worth of volleyballs to Anaheim High School. The connection came from a previous men’s volleyball event Volleyball World hosted in Anaheim last year.

“We have all the right resources here in OC,” Brenneman said.

Another goal is to add more local executives to its advisory board to create a mix of both sports advocates and business leaders.

“They will be an extra layer of people with more connections,” he added. “We’re looking for ambitious companies who understand the role sports can play in their business agenda.”
OCSC sees potential in partnering with businesses in the banking and financial industry, as well as the healthcare sector in OC.

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