Recently, The Baltimore Sun published my commentary on the Baltimore Grand Prix. You can see it below.
The Sun also published another point of view, different from mine. It was authored by Marta Mossburg, she is senior fellow at the Maryland Public Policy Institute. In her well written commentary, Ms. Mossburg central theme is that while the event was a flashy and exotic moment in the sun for the city of Baltimore there was rather little lasting benefit to the city, it's residents or the surrounding communities, as a result of the 3 day event. Ms. Mossburg calls upon a sports economists early measurements of the event to help support her position.
The key different between Ms. Mossburg and I are related to the propensity for local officials to want to rush to judgement on the relative success, or not, of the event with their voluminous "economic impact studies". While these studies do have a place in the debate, and they are relied upon heavily by politicians and their staff's, they are subject to the kinds of manipulation and impulse-related responses that are full of fallacy and have truth measurements. This is why when we see one study, we are bound to see many, many more. Once we have 3 or 4 studies, which one do we rely upon?
On the other hand, my view is that you believe what you see. If there are throngs of people in the stands, you see them, people in the hotels, you see them, people in local establishments, you see them. But more importantly, what is the big picture, the one that you see on television, in print or in photo's all over the internet? These are images that travel far and wide. We live in society now where the "network effect" matters most. For sporting events and activities it is no longer a question of "how many", rather it's "who" attends or watches. In a world where consumers have much more choice than ever before, and a whole lot less time than ever before, getting the "right" audience to turn their head, or tune in to your event, will determine your ultimate success.
Economic impact studies do not measure a fans "satisfaction" or their intent to return, or even to tell someone else about their experience. This is why when I see these kinds of studies used to measure whether someone thinks the event was a success, or whether the community spent their money wisely to bring these events to their city, I am reminded that it's important to measure what you see, before you attempt to measure what you can not.
Baltimore Sun columnist Marta Mossburg commentary