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Celebration Provides $38 Million Economic Impact



Calsonic Arena Events Push Total Impact Over $50-Million

SHELBYVILLE, Tenn. – The Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration provides an estimated $38-million economic impact to the regional economy, according to a newly-released study commissioned by the world championship event and conducted by Sport Insight Group, a sport marketing consulting firm based in Murfreesboro, Tenn.

The results of the study show the event has a similar impact as events such as NASCAR races and puts it well ahead of the estimated economic impact of many of Tennessee’s high-profile sporting events, such as The Music City Bowl, Country Music Marathon, and professional golf events.

"This study affirms what we already believed," said Celebration Chairman John T Bobo. "When you sell nearly a quarter-million tickets and people are coming in from over 40 states, you are going to have a major effect on the economy."

Tennessee’s longest continuously-running event has been a staple in the small Middle Tennessee community since 1939 when the Tennessee Walking Horse industry, along with pencil manufacturing, were the driving forces for the local economy.

The $38-million figure was derived from responses to two questions in the study’s survey, which asked Celebration patrons to report the number of nights they spent in lodging other than their own homes and approximate amounts of money spent during their attendance, including expenses for tickets, transportation, food, lodging, souvenirs, and any other attendance-related expenditure.

Formulas applied to estimate the economic impact of both participants and non-participant Celebration attendees included a formula developed by the Oklahoma City (Okla.) Chamber of Commerce and a similar formula developed for other horse show properties.

SIG officials point to the size of the sample and the rate of returned surveys as key indicators to the validity of the report.

A sample of 1,000 Celebration customers was randomly drawn and invited to participate in the study. A total of 456 usable responses were collected during the period of March 15-April 15, 2005, representing a response rate of 45.6%, which was considered to be quite healthy, according to Don Roy, SIG’s director of marketing research.

"Compared to the typical mail survey response rate, which is generally between 15 and 20 percent, the response by Celebration customers was very strong and provided a sound set of data to measure and analyze," Roy said.

The $38-million estimated economic impact comes strictly from the two-week period at the end of August when the show is underway. That amount, combined with an estimated $12-14-million impact of other year-round events that come to Calsonic Arena each year, puts the year-round impact of the event and 106-acre facility north of $50-million annually.

"We feel these numbers will open the eyes of a lot of people," Bobo continued. "Sometimes, because we’re tucked away in Shelbyville, people simply don’t realize or can’t quite grasp just how big The Celebration really is."

SIG reports that the economic impact estimates can be viewed as conservative because it does not take into account indirect spending on wages and benefits, known as a "multiplier effect."

CUSTOMER PROFILE

In highlighting characteristics of Celebration customers, the study found that Celebration customers surveyed tended to represent relatively older age demographic groups, with 83% age 50 or older, and that half (50.6%) of the respondents were married with no children living at home, far outnumbering the second-largest group of respondents, who were married with children living at home (16.7%). Approximately 11% of respondents own a second home in Bedford County.

Celebration respondents were also found to be fairly well educated, with more than 75% having at least some college education and over 50% holding a college degree.

Most Celebration respondents were either employed full-time (39.9%) or retired (34.2%). In conjunction, Celebration respondents’ annual household incomes proved to be ample, with approximately two-thirds at or above $60,000/year and approximately 40% at or above $100,000/year.

Survey respondents were nearly evenly divided between residents of the state of Tennessee (48.7%) and residents of other states (51.3%), with 29.7% of Tennessee residents hailing from Bedford and Rutherford counties. Approximately 38% of Tennessee residents were from Middle Tennessee counties.

Respondents to the survey were found to be quite loyal in their attendance. More than 90% of respondents have attended the Celebration for more than 10 years, and more than 75% of respondents have attended the Celebration for more than 20 years.

While attending the Celebration, more than 60% of respondents spent at least one night in lodging while attending the Celebration, with approximately 25% of them spending 10 nights or more in lodging.

In expressing their satisfaction with their experiences of attending the Celebration, nearly 82% of respondents rated their overall Celebration experience as either "Very Good" (43%) or "Excellent" (38.6%).

"By all indications, Celebration patrons appear to be a very devoted, unwavering customer base, especially compared to similar events," said Colby Jubenville, SIG’s director of professional services.

SPONSORSHIP AWARENESS

Respondents indicated a very strong affinity for Celebration sponsors across seven of eight measures of sponsorship-related beliefs and behaviors. When rating their beliefs and behaviors on a scale from 1 ("Strongly Disagree") to 5 ("Strongly Agree"), all response averages but one were above 3.0. Three measures ("Sponsors Important to Event," "Sponsors Add Quality," and "Effective Communication") were above 3.5.

According to Roy, these measures indicate that Celebration customers understand and accept the important role that sponsorships play in the Celebration and have a favorable outlook on Celebration sponsors.

"Respondents’ reported behaviors indicate that they support Celebration sponsors by purchasing their products or by telling others about them, which is a positive indication for both the Celebration and the sponsors, too," Roy said.

The suggested strong affinity for Celebration sponsors was underscored by respondents’ very keen capabilities to distinguish Celebration sponsors from non-sponsors on the survey.

When asked to identify whether certain brands actually were or were not Celebration sponsors, respondents correctly identified four of six Celebration-sponsoring brands as actual sponsors at percentages higher than 60%.

When commenting on the importance of this finding, Jubenville indicated that finding such an affinity between its customers and sponsors was a highly desirable discovery for event properties like the Celebration.

"Such a loyal, stable fan base that perceives sponsors in such a positive light makes the Celebration an attractive property for sponsors to utilize to reach customers effectively," Jubenville said.

"The numbers from this study are a vote of confidence not only for our event, but for the direction of our entire industry," related Celebration CEO Ron Thomas. "Our board and staff work extremely hard to put on an event that our fans want to see. While we will always try to improve, it at least tells us we’re on the right path."

The 67th Annual Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration will take place August 24-September 3, 2005 at the Historic Celebration Grounds in Shelbyville, TN.

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