Never Too Old for Gold

2017 National Senior Games Brings 10,532 Athletes to Birmingham with Stories to Tell

About the National Senior Games

In 1985 in St. Louis, Missouri, a group of seven men and women formed the original leadership for what was initially known as the National Senior Olympics Organization (NSOO). Their vision was to promote healthy lifestyles for adults through education, fitness and sport. The centerpiece of their efforts would be to host a national competition for senior adults and in 1987 nearly 2,500 athletes gathered in St. Louis for the first event of what is now known as the National Senior Games. Now the National Senior Games Association (NSGA), the group organizes The Games, which has evolved into a 20-sport, biennial competition for men and women 50 and over and is the largest multi-sport event in the world for seniors. The two week competition features sports such as swimming, cycling, track and field, tennis, volleyball, and others. To date, the NSGA has held 17 editions of the National Senior Games including a stop in Birmingham, Alabama June 2-15, 2017.

Prior to the 2017 games in Birmingham, the National Senior Games Association (NSGA) CEO Marc Riker established a local organizing committee (LOC) to support the event. This approach was untraditional for the NSGA as the LOC is typically constructed by the host city, however, with the support of the City of Birmingham and Greater Birmingham Convention and Visitors Bureau, the NSGA formed the event’s LOC for the 2017 event on its own.

A Strong Partner for Birmingham

The 2015 games in Minnesota saw overall athlete registration dip below 10,000 for the first time since 2001, and the NSGA needed a strong local partner in Birmingham to bounce back. The NSGA began working with Knight Eady to not only manage the endless checklists of details required to host 19 sports in 14 different venues across the Birmingham area, but to tell the story of their athletes in a way that hadn’t been done to date. The Knight Eady-based LOC was developed of seven full-time employees to include a LOC Director, Director of Marketing and Communications, Volunteer Services Assistant, Event Operations Assistant, Logistics Assistant, Marketing and Communications Assistant, and a Food and Beverage/Hospitality Manager. 

In collaboration with the NSGA staff, the LOC managed all aspects of the event including volunteer management, results, athlete-check-in, creative concepts, graphic design, event operations and logistics, communications, transportation, medical services, local sponsorship sales and signage among others during the build up and on site at the 2017 Games. In order to meet the needs of the Games, the full-time LOC staff added supplemental Knight Eady staff, venue managers, overall games staff, and LOC internship programs. All of these groups combined to bring the LOC to a total of 47 from the start of the Games to its conclusion. 

Putting a Game Plan into Action

Setting out to give these athletes the same type of promotion and stage as other high visibility sporting events, we needed a stronger library of assets to tell the story across multiple channels. The Knight Eady team arranged a photo-shoot featuring Alabama based athletes and created promotional content for print, digital and more. The high quality camera work combined with an edgy treatment on the graphic design created an opportunity to show these athletes in a new light. This photoshoot and design style established a new visual theme for the 2017 Games that was carried throughout the promotions leading up to, during and after the event.

On Friday June 2, 2017, The Flame Arrival Ceremony marked the official opening of the 2017 National Senior Games presented by Humana. In total, 10,532 registered athletes visited the Magic City to compete and the 2017 crop of athletes represented all 50 states of the United States of America, the District of Columbia, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and eight foreign nations from across the globe. When the Games concluded on Thursday, June 15, many athletes returned home as medal winners or national champions in their respective sports and overall 142 NSGA records were broken, including eight USATF masters track records and four IAAF world track and field records.

Knight Eady’s creative team was there to capture all of the action and the LOC produced ten 30-second daily recap videos highlighting the events of the day along with specific videos dedicated to telling the story of the Flame Arrival Ceremony and Celebration of Athletes. At the conclusion of the event, a full event recap video was produced and amassed over 18,000 views on Facebook to date. However, the highlight of the content strategy came when the 2017 National Senior Games earned a spot on ESPN’s flagship show, SportsCenter, in its “Top 10 Plays” segment on June 9, 2017. The clip was a great example of teamwork between the LOC, NSGA, and Coyne PR working together to highlight and promote the Games. After the event, Knight Eady was able to leave the NSGA with over 4,000 images, 400GB of video footage and countless creative assets for future use which established a digital asset library the organization had never had before.

When we reflect on this event as a company, every department at Knight Eady was integral to the success of the event. We hit never-before-seen operations milestones in handing out 185 cases of bananas, coordinating 1,391 hours of athletic training coverage, and somehow putting 3,437 miles on two box trucks and two cargo vans in two weeks. However, the blend of events, strategy and creative used to support these athletes during the two event weeks and provide a new template for documenting and telling their stories for the future of the NSGA and future host cities is something that we hope has changed their organization for years to come. Building on the successes of 2017, the NSGA hosted a record 13,382 athletes in Albuquerque, New Mexico June 14-25, 2019 and Knight Eady was excited to watch their daily recap videos hoping to witness record breaking performances and be inspired by this amazing group of athletes again.