Sports Business Journal: Best Sports Business Cities

Sports Business Journal ranked the top 50 cities in the U.S. for the best opportunity and environment to conduct sports business. Feedback from industry insiders about stability, market size, fandom, impact and culture also informed our report. As its reputation as a sports destination continues to grow, Birmingham, Ala. is proud to be #42 on the list of the country's best cities for sports business. 


It came up in a conversation among Sports Business Journal editors one day last summer: “What’s the best city for sports business? Can we measure that somehow? What does that even mean? How would you even do that?”

The research team jumped into action: “Hold my (craft) beer.”

We crunched the numbers for seven months, analyzing nearly half a million bits of data across 377 markets that are the home of at least one professional or Division I college athletic program, or a permanent event. We created an algorithm that took into account quantitative and qualitative data, as well as interviews and sentiment analysis from nearly 100 industry veterans. We learned a lot about what makes a city a great (and not so great) place for sports business.

We produced a list of the top 50 Best Sports Business Cities™. They are home to multiple tenured franchises, events, modern venues, sponsors, agencies, media partners and other critical vendors, located within reasonable proximity of each other so they can visit and knock out meetings with multiple organizations without overspending on hotel and meals. (“The more compact the zone, generally the better,” summed up a longtime marketing executive.). They also foster a climate of support from their residents, businesses and local governments (22 states now have a fund or grant program designed to lure and/or help pay for recruited events).

They have to be affordable to visit and/or live in (“You have to factor in labor costs, per diems and insurance, tax rebates and logistics for your clients and attendees,” said a league executive who has overseen many major events). And they need to offer intangibles that are intrinsic to doing business, such as personal safety, quality hospitality and entertainment options. Click to read the full story