Inaugural Game Changers Summit looks at intersection of sports and business

Hundreds gathered at Footprint Center in downtown Phoenix on Tuesday for the inaugural Game Changers Summit to hear from Arizona sports business leaders and legends about how the evolving sports marketplace is affecting the broader business environment. 

Panels examined a wide range of topics, from sports’ positive effect on the Arizona economy, to leadership strategies, to health care innovation, venture capital, and sustainability. 

In a panel moderated by Arizona Commerce Authority President and CEO Sandra Watson, panelists Bridget Binsbacher, the executive director of the Cactus League, and Jay Parry, the CEO of the NCAA Men’s Final Four Organizing Committee, discussed how their events can drive not only positive private sector economic activity, but philanthropic and charitable ventures. 

Binsbacher said the Cactus League has longstanding relationships with five nonprofit partners and that there is a charitable component at all the Cactus League facilities, directing $2.6 million to charities across the Valley each season. 

“It’s part of our responsibility,” Binsbacher said. 

Parry discussed Read to the Final Four, a reading competition for Arizona third-graders that will culminate in a bracket-style tournament next spring, with winners being recognized at the Final Four in Glendale in April. 

Parry, who also oversaw the organizing committee for last February’s Super Bowl at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, said her philosophy behind these big events is to “Leave Arizona in a better place” than before the event took place. 

Economic wins 

Economist Jim Rounds discussed his recent paper that analyzed how the sports market is positively affecting the Arizona economy. 

Rounds says the Cactus League, Phoenix Open, and past Super Bowls have generated between $180 million and $1.3 billion in economic impact per event. Medium-scale events, like the NCAA Championship and the MLB All-Star game, generated between $67 and $324.5 billion in economic impact each. “While larger scale sports events like the Super Bowl provide substantial economic benefits to the state, the sum of the mid-tier and smaller annual sports events will also display very large economic impacts,” the report says. 

The ACA’s Watson said she’s seen how sporting events can serve as a convener for business leaders who want to learn more about what Arizona’s business environment has to offer. “We’re seeing the results,” she said, pointing to investments that have led to new Arizona jobs after a company executive originally came to the state to attend a big event. 

A conversation with a legend, and more 

In addition to the panels on sports business, the day also featured a conversation between Arizona Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Danny Seiden and Suns broadcasting legend Al McCoy, who retired at the end of last season following 51 years on the air. 

McCoy shared his reflections on how basketball changed over the course of his career and where sports are heading today. 

Asked which Suns player he’d want to take a last shot with the game on the line, McCoy said Devin Booker would be his choice. 

Additional discussions centered on leadership, health care technologies, venture capital & entrepreneurism, and sustainability. 

The inaugural summit was produced by the Arizona Chamber of Commerce & Industry, public affairs company Horizon Strategies, the Arizona Commerce Authority, and the ASU Global Sport Institute. 

Former 12 News sports broadcaster Bruce Cooper served as the day’s master of ceremonies.

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