Get in the Game of Sports Trade Shows

Get your head in the game at sports trade shows. These events let manufacturers, specialists, athletes and sports professionals display prod...
Andrew Doerfler
March 11, 2019

We’re not playing around: Exhibiting at a sports trade show could be a home run for your business. But if you want to win big at an industry expo, you’ll need to prepare for some stiff competition on the trade show floor.

Sports equipment conventions draw innovative brands, industry leaders and potential customers that can help your business grow.  Don’t get stuck on the bench -- start planning for the sports trade show that will help your company go the distance.

The Best Sports Trade ShowsThe Best Sports Trade Shows

The top sporting goods trade shows are major destinations for the biggest names in the health and fitness field. With thousands of visitors flocking to these events, you don’t want to miss out. Make sure you know the most prominent sports expos so you can determine whether they’re a good fit for your business. Learn how to get the most of your trade show booth

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The Top International Sports Trade Expo

The biggest sports trade show in the world is ISPO Munich, which draws more than 84,000 attendees and more than 2,700 exhibitors to Germany every year. ISPO is short for Internationale Fachmesse für Sportartikel Und Sportmode, which is German for International Sporting Goods and Sportswear Trade Fair.
The products at ISPO Munich include sports apparel, sports technology, training equipment, water sports equipment, indoor and outdoor products, winter sports items and much more. The show has been running for more than 40 years and has become the premier event for leading brands in sports.  
ISPO doesn’t only run one event, however. The organization also mounts two trade shows in China, ISPO Beijing and ISPO Shanghai. The ISPO China events bring the prestigious sports industry platform to a whole new market of eager buyers.
Launched in 2004, ISPO Beijing is Asia’s top market for sporting goods and is centered around Winter Sports. It draws 30,000 visitors and more than 400 exhibitors. ISPO Shanghai, meanwhile, focuses on summer sports and is more catered to the Asian market.
ISPO is also hosting a new top outdoor sports trade show. Its newest concept, OutDoor by ISPO will hold its first edition in Munich and will become Europe’s largest outdoor trade fair.

More Top Health and Fitness Conventions

The acclaimed ISPO trade shows aren’t your only chance to make a play. All over the world, major sporting goods shows are providing platforms to present your sports products and services to new prospective clients.
Each event has its own focus, whether it’s a sports apparel market or trade show, a sports medicine trade show, an extreme sports trade show or a sports memorabilia trade show. Take a look to see if one of these top sports trade fairs is right for you:

  • Outdoor Retailer, the largest recreation expo & conference in the United States. Held at  Colorado Convention Center in Denver, Outdoor Retailers hosts a winter edition in November, a summer edition in June, and the Outdoor Retailer “Snow Show” in January and February.
  • DEMA Show, focused on nautical sports and held in cities like Las Vegas, Orlando and New Orleans
  • NSSF SHOT Show, the largest trade show for shooting sports. It is held in Las Vegas.
  • PGA Merchandise Fair, takes place in Orange County and is a major show for the golf industry, with retailers, tech, equipment and more.
  • IWA Outdoor Classics is a top trade fair for hunting, shooting sports and more, held in Nuremberg, Germany.
  • Outdoor Adventure Show is Canada’s largest outdoor recreation trade show, featuring gear for scuba diving, rock climbing, paddling and more.
  • ConnectSports is a major sports tourism conference
  • ActionExpo draws top action sports and youth culture brands to its yearly trade show in New Jersey
  • USIndoor’s Annual Conference & Expo is a leading trade show for indoor sports
  • Active Collective is a top sports fashion expo held in Anaheim, California
  • New York Boat Show, the world’s longest running boating show
  • TheFitExpo, held in Los Angeles and three other California cities, is the west coast’s largest fitness even
  • Performance Racing Industry Show, an Indianapolis-based motorsports expo
  • Times of India Global Sports Show, now in its fourth year of holding one of the largest sporting fairs in India. It is held in Mumbai. .
  • NSSF SHOT Show is the world’s biggest trade show for shooting sports, held in Las Vegas.

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Who Exhibits at Sports Trade Shows?Who Exhibits At Sports Trade Shows

Sports trade shows can help you grow your business, but they aren’t necessarily a slam dunk. You need to make sure your business is the right fit for the event.
The sports industry has a wide array of products and services, and each trade show will feature different exhibitors. When considering a trade show, look up its exhibitor list or trade show directory and see if the other vendors are likely to draw the audience you want to target. Here are just some of the major sports, health and fitness fields and categories that exhibit at trade shows:

  • Sports apparel manufacturers and retailers
  • Sports flooring manufacturers
  • Sports venue designers and building construction
  • Sports broadcasting equipment
  • Sports technology providers
  • Mascot costume designers
  • Concessions
  • Sports apparel printers
  • Sports nutritionists
  • Fitness and training equipment providers
  • Sports organizations, associations and youth programs
  • Pro sports leagues
  • Sports camps and tournaments
  • Dasher board makers
  • Sports lighting and utility manufacturers
  • Trophies and awards manufacturers
  • Sports software designers

Likewise, the attendees at sports shows vary drastically from event to event. Some sports trade shows will list out the demographics of their usual attendees, allowing exhibitors to see the anticipated audience at the expo. You should identify whether your products will meet the needs of the attendees. Here are some of the common jobs and fields for sports trade show buyers and attendees.

  • Retailers
  • Dealers
  • Academic sports authorities and sports associations
  • Governments
  • Health and nutrition organizations
  • Coaches
  • Real estate developers
  • Sporting goods trade associations

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The Benefits of Sports and Fitness Trade ShowsThe Benefits Of Sports And Fitness Trade Shows

It’s no wonder that the biggest sports trade shows manage to attract hundreds - or even thousands - of exhibitors. As meeting places for industry leaders and newcomers alike, these expos provide advantages to any type of player in the sports scene.
The trade show industry generates $12.8 billion every year, most of that coming from registration costs. It’s clear that top companies are seeing value in these events, and that value comes in more ways than one.
Ask yourself: What do you hope to achieve from the event? For a successful sports trade show experience, it’s important to set goals. Here are some of the ways a trade show can bolster your business.

See the Latest Sports Innovations

Put your finger on the pulse of the industry. Trade shows offer an unparalleled opportunity to survey the cutting edge in sports. To stay current and relevant to an ever-changing field, it’s essential to be in-the-know about the new technologies, products and trends.
At the top sports trade shows, major established heavy-hitters and exciting new startups will showcase their latest innovations. While manning your own booth should be a priority, don’t hesitate to explore the show floor. See how your business stacks up, and feed off the ingenuity you see on display for new ideas.

Attract New Customers

The attendees at sports trade shows are seeking products that will improve their own businesses and organizations. Otherwise they wouldn’t bother attending. You’ll rarely find a more amenable group of prospective clients -- if you can engage them, that is. Standing out on a sports trade show floor is a challenge, but once you’ve attracted visitors to your exhibit, you have a golden opportunity.
A trade show is an excellent platform to introduce a brand new product or service. According to PGA Merchandise Fair, a major golf show, this is the number one thing attendees hope to find at trade shows. Show them something they haven’t seen before.

Break into a New Market

The global sports industry is worth more than $600 billion. Worldwide events like the Olympics and the World Cup keep competitors looking for a leg up on the international competition. It’s almost certain that untapped opportunities await your business in foreign markets, and a trade show can offer a chance to seize them. You can achieve this in a number of different ways.
One method is to cast a wide net by attending one of the biggest sports trade shows. ISPO Munich, for example, is a true international event, drawing visitors from 120 different countries. This is a chance to potentially stake a claim with customers in several different new markets.
However, most trade shows aren’t like ISPO. Instead, the majority of sports expos will attract visitors from within a few hundred miles of the venue. This provides its own opportunity: If you’ve identified a specific market that you want to break into, find a trade show in or near that region. There, you can then focus intently on building your client base in that area. Some of the most popular locations for sports trade shows include:

  • Orlando, Florida
  • Las Vegas, Nevada
  • Denver, Colorado
  • Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas
  • Los Angeles and Anaheim, California
  • New York City

Network with Potential Partners

More goes on at sports trade shows than just buying, selling and pitching. These conventions are exceptional opportunities for face-to-face time with future partners. In advance, identify potential collaborators who will be attending the convention, and reach out to set up meetings with them. At many trade shows you can even reserve meeting rooms to have a private conversation.
A scheduled meeting will give you more time to prepare your selling points, but don’t be afraid to look into new opportunities as they arise. Over the course of the event, you and your staff will likely encounter plenty of intriguing businesses. Don’t leave a lucrative partnership on the table, but be discerning, too. Research the companies that approach you and determine if a relationship would be mutually beneficial.

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Recruit New Talent

Don’t limit your pitch to potential customers and partners. Trade shows can be an ideal place to attract new people to your staff. Sports conventions are crawling with talented, knowledgeable workers eager to stand out. Hiring these forward-thinking upstarts is essential to growing your business long-term.
Put your best foot forward: An appealing exhibit with an enthusiastic team and interesting products and services can catch the eyes of talented individuals looking for the next step in their careers. Even if you don’t have an open position immediately, connecting with ambitious talent can pay off down the line. Use a trade show to plant the seeds for a future relationship.

Reconnect with Current Clients

Attending a sports trade show can be a great opportunity to check in with long-time customers and partners. You want to make sure these relationships aren’t taken for granted. If your business is exhibiting at a trade show, you should already have prepared a pitch emphasizing the advantages of your latest offerings.
Don’t miss out on the chance to remind your current clients why your services are so valuable -- and potentially expand your business with them. It’s easier to convince a current client to invest in more of your products and services than to convince a brand new customer to sign a contract.

Raise Brand Awareness

A sports trade show appearance is as much about laying the groundwork for future success as it is about closing deals. Whether you’re a new brand or a mainstay of the industry, it’s always worthwhile to get your name in front of a relevant audience.
A major sports expo can provide the perfect platform for introducing your brand to customers, and to associate your business with the buzz and excitement of an event. An eye-catching booth design, bold marketing materials, and appealing giveaway promotional items will help your branding reach new eyeballs. This added visibility can go a long way in increasing your market share.

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The Biggest Global Sports Industry TrendsThe Biggest Global Sports Industry

One of the most useful perks of attending a top sports trade show is learning about the latest industry trends first-hand. But even before you go, you should familiarize yourself with the ways the industry is changing. Then, you can evaluate how different brands are seizing these business opportunities. Below are some of the hottest trends to track in the global sports industry, according to experts from Deloitte, Nielsen and ISPO:

The eSports Boom

The audience for eSports and gaming competition is exploding, with the fanbase growing by about 30 percent annually. The live streaming platform Twitch continues to attract young consumers who want to watch top gamers play in real time.
While traditional sporting goods and equipment companies might not consider eSports to be relevant to them, it’s important not to be dismissive. Try to brainstorm ways your brand can connect with this fast-growing sector. Brand partnerships and opportunities abound, whether in sponsorship of competitors or adding your products into the games themselves. Keep an open mind.

Wearable Sports Tech

Athletes today are obsessed with accumulating data about their activities, workouts and training. Wearable self-tracking devices like FitBits are no longer the hot new thing, but the trend that they launched continues apace. Smartwatches have become more and more common,  monitoring heart rate, calorie burning, steps and much more. GPS trackers for cyclists and runners are also major products in this sector. No matter what type of sporting goods you specialize in, the data from wearable tech is relevant to your consumers.

Sports Gambling Spreads

A landmark Supreme Court ruling has opened the door to sports gambling across the country. Individual states have been left to make their own rules when it comes to this field, and tech startups are wasting no time in getting in on the action.
Far from the niche interest it once was, sports gambling is making its way into mainstream media coverage of sports of all kinds. Get in on the ground floor by finding ways to incorporate your brand into this booming area.

Athletes Creating Content

The internet and social media have emboldened athletes to tell their own stories rather than relying on intermediaries in the press. Fans, too, appreciate the chance to engage directly with the stars they follow.
As Deloitte points out, platforms specifically catered to hosting content from athletes such as the Players Tribune are gaining a reputation for exclusive information. Partnerships with athletes on these platforms or social media can bolster your brand awareness far beyond typical advertising.

Opening Up about Mental Health

Related to athletes creating content, sports stars are also sharing more about their personal lives than they have previously. Deloitte notes that in particular, athletes have shown a newfound willingness to tackle mental health with personal testimony about depression, anxiety, and more. NBA stars like DeMar Derozan and Kevin Love have opened up about their own mental health struggles, with hopes of destigmatizing these battle among their fan bases.

Gravel Biking Hits the Ground Running

A new trend in cycling hopes to find the best of both worlds. Growing in popularity, gravel biking is a hybrid between road and mountain biking.
These bikes are designed for riding on relatively easy terrain and unpaved roads. ISPO says that common features include a longer wheelbase, disc brakes, a lower bottom bracket, and racing bike handlebars. The most popular gravel biking event (or “gravel grinder”) is Dirty Kanza in Emporia, Kansas.

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Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality Open New Worlds

New technologies are bringing together sports and virtual world together like never before. Augmented and virtual reality are bringing live sports experiences to people’s homes through their immersive potential. With virtual reality, fans can watch a game as if they are right on the sidelines, while augmented reality brings virtual objects into the world around you using smartphone apps or other displays.
Oculus, for example, offers the Fox Sports VR, which allows users to “teleport” to different positions around the court or field to see the game from any perspective. No additional expensive hardware or equipment is required -- users can just insert your regular smartphone into a cardboard VR viewer and feel like they’re at the game. However, higher-end technology like the Oculus Rift offers a far more immersive experience.

Impacting On and Off the Court

Star athletes, sports leagues and prominent companies are embracing social causes and campaigns like never before. Fans increasingly expect their favorite personalities and brands to take stands on important issues of the day. Younger consumers care deeply about issues of equality and want to see that value reflected in what they consume, Nielsen points out.
This can sometimes be rocky territory -- you don’t want to alienate a segment of fans with a strident stand on a contentious issue. But remember that you can build deeper brand loyalty by showing your audience that your business cares about the social causes relevant to them. When fans feel like they’re doing good by supporting a brand, they'll keep coming back.

How to Score Big at a Sports Trade ShowHow To Score Big At A Sports Trade Show

Now that you’ve set your goals, it’s time to strategize. Maximizing your return on investment at a trade show requires planning and commitment. There are several aspects of a trade show that require your time and effort to see your desired results.

Designing an Appealing Sports Trade Show Booth

Your booth will be one of your biggest assets in engaging prospective clients, so it's important to learn how to plan a successful exhibition. It’s not enough to simply highlight your products and services -- your exhibit needs to stand out on a crowded trade show floor. Attendees at the expo will have likely hundreds of booths to choose from, so your business only has a few seconds to capture their attention. These are some of the most important factors to consider when designing a sports convention booth:

  • Think big. Large products and equipment will make an immediate impact on the trade show floor. They will help you get noticed on a crowded expo floor. You should have full-sized examples of your sporting goods that customers can see and touch for themselves.
  • Don’t overcomplicate. A simple, clean design will keep your exhibit’s message direct and clear. Think of a few main attributes of your offerings, and develop the design from there. At a sports convention, a design that conveys speed, strength, energy and stamina will make a big impact.
  • Get hands-on. You don’t just want guests to stop at your booth -- you want them to stick around for a while. Think of ways to incorporate interactive elements into your booth, such as touch screen displays, demos, games and raffles. Especially at a sports trade show, you want to show off the performance of your items.
  • Details matter. An exhibit should create a defined, consistent environment that stands out from adjacent booths. Don’t underestimate the value of seemingly small decisions like lighting fixtures and flooring - these elements can have a huge impact on the look and feel of your booth. Learn the dos and don'ts of trade show booth staff etiquette
  • Follow your branding. Unless you’re using the trade show to introduce a completely new rebrand, your booth design should be in line with your company’s established branding. Use familiar color schemes, fonts and tone - you want your booth to be easily associated with your business outside of the trade show.

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Assemble Your Sports Trade Show TeamAssemble Your Sports Trade Show Team

Sports are about people - and your people will make a difference for your sports trade show display. Assembling and training a top-notch booth staff is key to drawing visitors to your exhibit and engaging them. Here’s how to get it done.

Start with a Solid Foundation

Make preparation easier on yourself by enlisting a team that’s already knowledgeable about your products and services. Employees with a good sense of the competitive landscape, industry leaders and common business needs will be the most effective at making an impact on the trade show floor.
A strong foundation of information to build upon means fewer resources dedicated to readying the team for the event. When each booth staff member already has a firm grasp on your company’s advantages, a little preparation will go much further.

Personality Matters

All that knowledge won’t go far if your team can’t communicate it in an enthusiastic and engaging way. For your booth staff, pick team members with proven verbal communication skills, who you know can keep up a naturally flowing conversation with prospective customers.
A track record of giving effective presentations or of closing sales can be a few indicators that a colleague is a good fit for manning the booth staff. People who stop at your booth should feel like they’re being engaged with on a human level.

Prepare a Script

Every member of your booth staff should be working off a prepared list of key talking points that emphasize the benefits of your products and services. Don’t think of these as a monologue to read to visitors verbatim -- rather, treat them as a guide. Approach conversations naturally, but ask questions that steer customers toward your selling points when it makes sense. The staff should keep their eyes on the prize, but a stiff, over-prepared pitch is a turn-off for visitors.

Personal Experience Speaks Volumes

A collection of data points about your products can make a great point, but don’t underestimate the value of a good anecdote. Your best asset will be team members who have firsthand experience using your sporting goods. Coupled with hard information about materials, costs, or customer services, a personal testimony can punctuate those points, showing how they matter in the real world.
If your services are more geared toward companies than individuals, you can still use anecdotes from clients that emphasize how your product improved their businesses.

Brush Up on Your Manners

Etiquette is an underrated element of the trade show experience. Expo attendees want to feel respected by the vendors, and an easy way to send a message that you appreciate your visitors is to treat them politely. Here are a few of the keys tips for booth staff etiquette:

  • Greet passersby with enthusiasm and warmth.
  • Stand up straight, and don’t cross your arms or put hands in pockets
  • Don’t turn your back to a prospective customer
  • Listen actively and respond to what your visitor is saying. Don’t just wait for your turn to talk.
  • Ask open-ended questions, not yes-or-no ones
  • Don’t eat or drink at the booth
  • Don’t stare at your phone

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What to Wear at a Sports Trade ShowWhat To Wear At A Sports Trade Show

Time to suit up. Don’t forget to direct your team on how they should dress during the event. It’s a bit of a balancing act -- your booth staff needs to reflect your branding while still remaining professional.
Choosing your team’s sports trade show attire depends on a number of factors. For many types of sporting goods companies, branded polos or t-shirts can just fine -- just keep them clean and unwrinkled.  If you’re a sports apparel company, having your staff wear some of your actual products can show off the different ways that the items can be styled and paired with different items. No matter your area of expertise, remember this: Sports are all about activity, so stay away from anything too formal or stuffy. Remember to wear comfortable clothes and shoes. Your staff will be standing for long periods, and discomfort will make them less effective on the trade show floor.

Navigating a Sporting Goods Trade Show

A major sports trade show can be overwhelming. So can shipping to a sports expo. Remember these tips when you’re on the trade show floor.

  • Rent a badge scanner. A badge scanner will allow you to easily collect contact information from the leads, customers and potential partners that you encounter throughout the show.
  • Quality over quantity. When you’re exploring the trade show floor, don’t attempt to see everything. You’ll end up learning a little about a lot, instead of useful insights. Instead, when a booth truly catches your attention, engage with it fully, taking informational material and participating in any demos that are offered.
  • Set up meetings. Encounters on the trade show floor can offer opportunities, but in the hustle and bustle of the event, it’s difficult to make meaningful connections. Reach out to the brands and industry leaders you’re targeting and set up meetings in advance whenever possible. At many trade shows, you can even book private meeting space.

Shipping to Sports Trade Shows

In the frenzy of preparing for a sports trade show, there’s one thing you shouldn’t have to worry about: Your materials arriving to the venue safely and on time. Thankfully, R+L Global Logistics can help with everything you need to know about USA trade show shipping.
Whether you need advance warehouse shipping or direct to site shipping, R+L Global will keep track of your products, booth and whatever else through every step of the process. Services include USA trade show shipping, packaging, warehousing, transit and more. Call 866-415-8986 or use the live chat to see how R+L’s trade show team can help you.

Need help shipping your trade show booth and materials? Fill out a short form or give us a call and one of our trade show specialists will answer your questions.

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