Transforming event impact evaluations
28 February 2019
Diversifying event impacts measurement and evaluation was the focus of a recent full-day Impact and Engagement workshop hosted by Cardiff University’s School of Geography and Planning and Cardiff Business School (Wednesday 6 February 2019).
Hosted by Dr Andrea Collins and Professor Max Munday (Welsh Economy Research Unit at Cardiff Business School), the event centred on ways to improve and enhance event impact evaluations. While the focus was sporting and cultural events, the discussions and research presented were relevant to all staged events.
While economic impact is often used as a barometer of event success, several key speakers acknowledged a movement towards greater integration of social, environmental and cultural impacts into UK Sport’s eventIMPACTs measurement toolkit.
Attendees, which included event organisers from across Wales, heard from academic, government and practitioner colleagues about the challenges and considerations of current event impacts evaluation practices, and progressive methodologies for improvement.
Kicking off proceedings was Gwilym Evans, Head of the Major Events Unit at the Welsh Government. For Gwilym, a robust evaluation framework was vital in order to provide Ministers with an accurate and comprehensive analysis of the impact of resource-intensive events. It was also key to combating the inflated value of events and to inform future event strategy. He stressed that success involved more than financial return and that events needed to demonstrate that they were aligned with government priorities, represented a geographic spread across Wales and, importantly, were sustainable.
Running with the theme of stronger and multidimensional event impact analysis, Lucy Crickmore, Senior Consultant at UK Sport argued that social and environmental factors, including community physical and mental wellbeing/benefit, were gaining traction. Lucy profiled EventIMPACTS, a free online toolkit which helps organisers assess and evaluate their events using five criteria: economic, social, environmental, attendance and media.
More than money
Cardiff University colleagues, Dr Annette Roberts and Dr Nicole Koenig-Lewis, joined Dr Collins in presenting their recent research into event impacts and value.
Dr Roberts asked why we measure economic impact explaining that it is often borne out of a desire to uncover the benefits of events. As well as justifying that event economic evaluation is often seen as the ‘good story', creating jobs and income streams that would not necessarily exist otherwise.
Dr Roberts presented a case study on the economic impact of Swansea City FC’s promotion to the Premier League which enabled her to illustrate some of the challenges encountered when analysing and estimating economic value and how researchers must scrutinise the variables to avoid skewing final results.
Dr Collins reinforced the views of earlier speakers that event evaluations are expanding beyond the economic and argued that the key question is how do we better understand, calculate and compare the environmental impacts. Using three case studies of major events (FA Cup Final, a Six Nations rugby match, and Tour de France Grande Depart) Dr Collins showed the environmental impact per event and per visitor. To do this, she calculated the Ecological Footprint of the events and compared them to their economic impacts. There was a strong correlation between visitor spending at these events and their environmental impact. Dr Collins urged policymakers, promoters and organisers to consider environmental ‘costs’ and develop effective strategies to reduce the negative impacts and showed how the National Eisteddfod and Cardiff Half Marathon had reduced their travel impacts in 2018.
Dr Koenig-Lewis took a slightly different tack in her presentation and focused on cultural events in Wales, with a deep dive analysis of visitor experience and satisfaction for the 2017 and 2018 National Eisteddfod festivals.
Her study sought to understand the impact of the event in terms of visitor loyalty and legacy and the role of perceived authenticity on the quality of their experiences or desire to return.
She said: “Our research found perceived festival authenticity leads to higher satisfaction and more positive emotions. But while satisfaction and emotions were important for festival loyalty, the primary driver for wider social impact and festival legacy was linked to authenticity.”
Dr Richard Coleman and Dr Girish Ramchandani from Sheffield Hallam University also addressed questions of event attendance and inspiration, in particular participation legacy. In a number of studies, they have looked at attitudinal change based around inspiration sporting events (such as Olympic test events) asking who is inspired, how that inspiration manifests itself in activity and the longevity or sustainability of that activity. The research showed that major sports events can inspire people to be more active but that inspiration varies according to demographics (e.g. age) and by event. While attendance at major sports events can lead to an increase in participating, positive behavioural changes are still strongest amongst existing participants.
Dr Collins and other colleagues at Cardiff University are developing an Impact Case on ‘Transforming event impact evaluations’ based on their research and collaborations with UK Sport, Welsh Government, National Eisteddfod and Run4Wales.